AN INTERVIEW WITH ANDREW POMMIER

What was the first thing you made that you remember being proud of?
Wow, holy shit, coming out of the gate hard. I think it was probably a painting in my last year of high school. I bought oil paints on my visit to an open house at the art school in Toronto. I figured a painter paints with oil paints. I’d never heard of acrylic before. So I sat down and made an oil painting. It was really bad, but that was my intro to oil painting, or to painting at all. Before that, I just used to draw.




You really hadn’t even used acrylic paints before that?
Never; not until art school.

Did you attend high school art classes?
I did. I had a series of terrible art teachers in high school. My last year of school though, I did an art intensive year at the performance art school in Sudbury. I mostly used ink and watercolours there. Never acrylic.

So during your last year of school you just decided to buy oil paints and go for it?
Yeah. I didn’t start using acrylic in any serious way until about seven years ago.

What was growing up in Sudbury like?
It’s a culturally void, Northern Ontario mining city. Hockey, donuts, and mining. We had a valley though. When I got into skateboarding I thought, “Oh yeah, we have a valley too, like LA!”

Were you a valley local?
No, no, I lived in the city.

Were you always an artistic-skater-type? Did you have a lot of like-minded friends growing up?
No, I probably didn’t start taking on the artistic stuff until I was around 13. You know, when you really start figuring out who you are as a person and start defining yourself. At 13, I found skateboarding, and through that, music, and punk rock. I had punk rock friends in high school. That was sort of my milieu. Not a lot of art-y friends though. I didn’t really have a concept of what art was until probably my third year of art school. I had no idea until art school that there were people out there still making art today that didn’t involve skateboards or comic books; that there is a career as an artist for the sake of art. I had no idea that there were contemporary commercial galleries. My concept of art was museum-based: large galleries like the AGO or the National Gallery. That was where my idea of artists came from—old, white dead people.

Was your family involved in the arts?
No, not really. My dad is a really good draftsman. He likes very representational art.

Is this by career?
No, my dad is a doctor; he was an emergency doctor growing up. My mom was a housewife, a mother. She did cross-stitch and sewing, the craft world. She entertained art stuff but wasn’t that engaged with it. Still not really, other than her son’s…

Her son’s little doodles.
Yeah, yeah.

So you started skating at 13. Did you develop an interest in the art involved in skateboarding right away?
Yeah, pretty much right away. Skateboard graphics; ads in the back of Transworld; and as I went along, just seeing articles about artists in skateboarding, like Chris Miller and Tod Swank. Creative people. The Gonz too, but that’s taken as a given, right? The Gonz and art in skateboarding.

Did being a skateboard artist seem like a reasonable thing to pursue?
Definitely, when I realized professional skateboarders could make their graphics too, like Neil Blender, and again, Chris Miller, it’s like, “Oh, that’s something I can do,” short of being a professional skateboarder. Which was never really in the cards for me, but we all dream, right? When I played hockey, I wanted to be a professional goalie. We always dream big.

What prompted you to go to art school?
I needed to get out of Sudbury.

Did you go there with any goal in mind?
I thought I would go and take commercial art. Your first year is a foundational year, so you take a broad spectrum of classes. The second year, you start to specialize. I totally went in to school expecting to follow a commercial art track, but then I realized quickly that there is so much more to it than that. So I decided not to do that. The commercial art course required you to apply with a portfolio, which is fine, but I wanted to explore other things. At that time, you were allowed to take a double major. I had discovered printmaking, so I was a printmaker/drawing and painting major, but when I graduated, I was only a painting major, which is fine—because it’s kind of irrelevant anyway. I spent most of my time in the print workshop, which was amazing.

At any point did you start to get a glimpse of what your future might look like?
Well, through the printing, I learned to silkscreen, which at that time was how skateboard graphics were made. So it was sort of in collaboration, and focusing on skateboarding. Even though I saw the broadness of art, it never stopped me from wanting to make a living in skateboarding. Everything was built around that. Being introduced to a fine art world was pretty great, so I knew there were things I could do outside of the commercial art world, where I would have a job that I would have to go to every day.

I spent my final year of art school in Florence, Italy. We had an off campus program that you could apply for with a portfolio. I luckily scraped in with the teacher that was set to guide it. What they do is take a teacher from OCAD and have him direct the program for the year. Apparently this one they chose was really disliked, so nobody wanted to spend nine months with him. I had spent very little time paying attention to art school at that time, just because I was involved in my own life, going skateboarding everywhere. I would leave school to skate all the time.

Whereas for most people, art school sort of takes over their life.
Yeah, exactly. So I wasn’t involved in the politics of art school. Apparently, this teacher wasn’t much lauded, so nobody really applied that year. I was one of the 30 that applied, and they picked 24 of us. I wasn’t terrible enough not to pick. So I went, and thank god, that really saved my art school career. Again, I had no idea about the art world. I was all about the skateboard world.

How did this trip change it for you?
I got immersed in art. One of the other students, Alex Morrison, was well versed in the art world. I hung out with him and started to get a lot of awareness about the art world, because of his history. It was learning by immersion, rather than learning as a companion or as an aside to your regular life.

Did you develop a new appreciation and new goals in Florence?
Totally. We had our own studio space in Florence, in this crazy, two-level building. There wasn’t much going on in Florence, so we would just go into the studio everyday. That became our clubhouse. And strangely, nobody else was really there besides 4 or 5 of us, in this huge place.

Even though there was space for all 24 of you?
Yeah, people were like out doing side trips. There was no teacher or attendance.

So the other students were actually doing what you were doing back in Toronto. You didn’t go out and skate; you just stayed in the studio.
Exactly! There’s not really anywhere to skate in Florence anyway. Alex didn’t bring a skateboard, and I brought a bunch of boards. So there was a little park by the soccer stadium that was terrible, and we’d go to that. We’d go skate in front of this train station with smooth marble sidewalks. Everything else was cobblestone. We skated like you do when your 13, just sharing a skateboard.

When you came back to Toronto, did you get a studio right away?
I moved into a house with my girlfriend in Parkdale. It was a two-bedroom place so I just used one of the bedrooms as a studio. After I moved out of there, I got a studio, eventually. Not right away, but as I moved, apartments kept getting smaller, and it got to a point where I needed some space to make work.

What did you do after graduating?
I had started to get a better idea of what I was focusing on at that point. Skateboarding wasn’t the only thing I was doing anymore. I was in my early 20s and had just come out of nine months of immersive art training. So I hung out with a bunch of artist people. My group had all graduated and wanted to do stuff, so we’d put on our own shows in Parkdale. Rent a space for a month, or other friends of mine had gallery spaces for rent. So I started to pursue it in a more serious way.
What was the first paid commercial work you can remember doing?
It was supposed to be a board, but it ended up being just a t-shirt graphic for Bill Weiss. I got $50. It was back when he was riding for Balance. It’s hard to think back about what started landing. It was never very much. I sold a couple of small paintings. It was sort of the beginning of the Internet in one sense, so I got involved in that and started showing there.

When did your big break happen?
In ’99, my brother Scott was pursuing skateboarding pretty heavily. He went to the DC Nationals. He was doing the regional part of the competition down at the docks in Toronto during the Vans Warped Tour. They had a little fair or booths around it. One of the booths was this group called Modart, which was Shaney Jo Darden and Mona Mukherjea-Gehrig from San Diego. They had this art organization, and they did a tent of all these artists, like Andy Howell, Ed Templeton, Chris Johanson, Barry McGee—kind of the core of what came out of Aaron Rose’s Alleged Gallery stuff. So I just knew I had to go down and see that art and talk to those people. Scott was able to get me in, so I went down and talked to Mona and Shaney Jo about me being an artist. It just happened that I had a profile as an artist in one of the first SBC Skateboard magazines, so I gave them that. As a result, they brought my down to be involved in their show at ASR, where they had a gallery just offsite. I did paintings for it, and then I went down there for the show. That was what started it for me. I met Andy Jenkins and Ed Templeton, and got a little more familiar. Meeting someone in person is a million times better than any other way to contact them.

Did things happen pretty quickly after that?
Yeah, things started happening, connections were made. I did some boards for Toy Machine, and then got involved with RVCA in 2002 through Yogi Proctor. Again thanks to Modart. They did a series of shows as part of the ISPO tradeshow in Munich, and then I met Yogi, Jeremy Fish, and a bunch of other people.

It’s interesting that after your immersion in art and having your eyes opened to so much outside of just skateboarding, you came back to working in skateboarding.
It always goes like that. It’s this weird in and out. I’m always trying to get out, but you have to follow what the options are. Nobody was asking to show my art in Toronto. Or very few people were. Galleries are trepidatious. My art moves very incrementally. What I had to learn is that showing at a gallery and selling at a gallery doesn’t mean you are going to be represented by that gallery, but they’ll keep watching you. So you’re responsible for your own output and integration in the scene. Skateboarding is easy for me at this point. It’s familiar and it’s a place I’ve always wanted to be. So I don’t begrudge it.

Someone like Ed, he shows at Roberts and Tilton in LA. He has huge shows at museums in Europe. But he’s still involved in skateboarding. He will still acknowledge skateboard fans that come to his shows. You always get the crazy kid that brings the Toy Machine board and shows Ed his tattoo. You have to acknowledge what brought you to where you are. I’m never going to disavow skateboarding, but I’m also not going to rely on it as my complete output at this point. It’s a finite world; it has a ceiling. You have to know that if you focus on it completely. Someone like FOS—who’s a fantastic person and a really good artist—he inhabits skateboarding completely. And he’s totally comfortable there. That’s great, and I don’t mean to sound dismissive at all. That’s where he finds his expression and where he’s happy being. Someone like Todd Bratrud does the same thing. They are skateboard artists and they do other things, but it always comes back to skateboarding. I want to broaden my borders.

And with those guys as examples, they also made their way through running a brand around their art. If running a brand isn’t something you want to do, you will have a hard time relying on skateboarding as your sole artistic outlet.
Yeah, because it’s compressing. Things are getting smaller in one way.
Was the move to Vancouver more personal or professional?
It was more personal. I knew there was more of a skateboard world out here than there was in Toronto. The girl I was dating at the time and I were just tired of Toronto. She had family out here, and Scott was living here, along with other friends.

How did it affect your work, in terms of output and opportunities?
I don’t think it had a direct influence on what I was making—no more than anything else. It did remove me a bit from the art community, because I started re-establishing what I am. I didn’t really know any artists out here. I guess in some way it did change or solidify me more. My work isn’t Vancouver work. There were times where I was a little anxious here, because my work feels really far from Vancouver.

How so?
The scene here is very high concept, abstract, sort of a lot of art about art. I just make paintings. I mean I don’t just make paintings, but I like to make figurative work of a certain type. When I moved here, there were a lot more people doing that. Like Jason MacLean, Jeff Ladouceur, and Shayne Ehman. They were all people who drew figures in a more illustrated way. I’m not saying that in a dismissive way, they’re recognizable, and now it’s not really happening. People like Andy Dixon will make figurative work, but he’s leaving. So it seems that figurative work doesn’t have a big place in contemporary art in Vancouver.

Has that been a big hindrance for you?
It does cause some anxiety. It has you looking introspectively about what you are making and why you are making it. So there are moments of doubt, because if you don’t fit within the culture then you have to think about whether you are comfortable with that or not. There are moments when I haven’t been comfortable, but I’m pretty comfortable with it now.

Have you always been mainly interested in drawing characters, animals and people?
Yeah, from the beginning. I can explore the world of abstract, but I don’t find any satisfaction in it. I like to make work that I get some sort of return on. Like the satisfaction of making something to the most of my ability. I learned a couple of years ago though, or came to the conclusion, that it’s not about execution, so I backed off of that a bit. It’s the evolution of someone painting or creating.

How have you changed?
It’s about getting out of my own way. Not overthinking it. Being confident in the idea that I know what I’m doing. So something that takes me an evening to do isn’t any better or any less than something that takes me two weeks to do. I can find fulfillment in the quick as well as in the methodical.
You worked with Adidas early on in their return to skateboarding. How did that come about?
That came about through having a show at Antisocial, in their older gallery space. It was all these paintings of people in animal costumes wearing Shelltoes.

What was the reason for the Shelltoes?
At that time, I’d been really concerned about paintings sharing the same elements. There’s this art duo from the UK called the Chapman Brothers and they did these large groups of mannequins in erotic and exotic poses. They would have really uncomfortable things happening with the mannequins. But all the mannequins were wearing the exact same Nike shoe. The Shelltoe is pretty iconic in skateboarding, for a certain time period, and it fits aesthetically with the characters, so I figured I would just save one decision and have them all wearing the same shoes. I did that, and I had a show of the paintings. The guys from Adidas in Portland were in Vancouver, just doing a fact-finding thing, and they went by Antisocial. Michelle [Pezel, owner] was like, “You should give Andrew a shoe!” I guess they thought about it and decided to do it.

Did that end up being a lot of work?
Not really. They gave me three silhouettes to do. At that time, they couldn’t be skateboarding, because skateboarding was different than they were doing. So I couldn’t mention skateboarding at all within the graphics. So we just figured out a unifying thread through the shoes.

Can you elaborate on how your relationship with RVCA started and what it is today?
I was aware of the brand when they came out, because at that time they were doing the Chevron t-shirts, where artists were remixing that graphic. Part of it was a charity sales thing. So they were working with Ed Templeton and Barry McGee, two artists that I looked up to and was inspired by. Like I said, when I was in Munich, I was sharing a room with Yogi Proctor, and he said something like, “Oh your stuff would really work with RVCA.” Yogi being as deep as he is in skateboarding—at the time he was the art director for Sole Tech—he was also doing stuff with RVCA. Just before the stuff he did with Popwar. So he connected with me the art director at RVCA, and then we just started working. It’s been through many evolutions of the brand.

Are you more involved at all now?
It’s been about the same. For a while they had a manager for the artistic wing of it. They had team managers for their various outlets, like skateboarding and art. So I dealt with Liz Rice, and we got along really well. I’d go down there to hang out in the office. She kept me involved. The current art director is similar to Liz, but he’s a lot busier. As people leave, they don’t put someone else in that position, they just mash it into someone else’s existing job.

What do you submit to them?
Mostly original work, and some logo work, and it’s all done on spec. They have rarely asked me for a specific thing. Not to say they haven’t. I did a t-shirt for Broken Social Scene, for a show they played on Toronto Island. They took one of my graphics and used it for Coachella one year. They took one of my graphics for an ad too back when Keegan [Sauder] was still riding for them.

Do you draw things often specifically with RVCA in mind?
I don’t draw things in my day to day for RVCA—no, that’s not true. It’s only after the fact though, when I draw something in my sketchbook and think maybe it could be a t-shirt.

So you just send new drawings from time to time?
In bursts. Sometimes I’m just in the studio painting and not thinking about anything else. If I’m just drawing though, sometimes I’ll go through my sketchbook and pick some things to work on that may be a good fit for RVCA. I’ll make some logo stuff as well, or stuff a little more focused on them.

Is it hard to find a workable balance between your personal work and then commercial work, which maybe offers a more consistent pay cycle? Maybe it doesn’t even anymore…
It used to be, back when I would do stuff for Momentum. That was sort of a monthly concern. Doing a line of wheels or ads for Momentum was no different than working on a painting or some watercolours for an art show. It all dovetails together nicely. If one were worse than the other, I wouldn’t do it. If they both become a labour of hate, then I might as well just go get a regular job.

In more recent years, your personal work has started to differentiate more from your commercial work, right?
Yeah, it was a conscious decision. They used to be very blended. When I talked about that show I did at Antisocial, those pieces could be either. Anything can be anything, but I do try to keep the identities separate, to make one stand more strongly on it’s own legs—to not confuse the issue.

A few years ago, your paintings seemed to get darker in tone and subject matter. Was that part of separating the commercial from the personal, or was it just a reaction to everything you do being called “cute” one to many times?
Art is influenced by what is going on around you, and your state of mind. I definitely was in a darker moment. Art, at the end of the day, is about releasing something like emotions out. Externalizing instead of internalizing. I wasn’t feeling great at the time, and that will add a darkness to it.

It seems like your colour is back now.
Yeah, it is.

Around this time too, you started painting less full bodies, and then you also took to obscuring faces. Why?
That was a push to separate commercial and personal. I was doing all my work in acrylic, and I realized I was making really illustrative work. I wanted to reengage with a more historical note with my contemporary work. Obviously I’m not trying to make Picassos or Rembrandts. But the history of the material was important to me at that point. I was spending a lot of time trying to make acrylic perform like oil, when the easier solution was to just paint in oil again. People always have this assumption that oil takes forever to dry, but it doesn’t when you handle it properly. I mean, I can make an oil painting that’ll be dry as I’m finishing it. I wanted to return to that, but the portrait stuff was also a way to get away from the full-bodied figure stuff, which also allowed me to remove some of the cultural touchstones that I’ve been using as an element.

When you do a full figure, like I was for a long time, it felt like it had to be something people could recognize. I don’t want to do that anymore. The portrait stuff, the mask stuff, and the obscure faces, I get to explore more of a minimal element. If you just boil it down to it’s essentials, it’s an abstract minimalist form, and I’m playing within that. The work that I made in 2010 for the shows I did in France, I wanted them all to resonate with each other. So I picked a form and stuck with it. I wouldn’t do it if I wasn’t interested in it. That’s what was happening with the figurative stuff before. It was in acrylic, and I wasn’t thinking about making an image anymore, I was just making what people expected from me. I don’t want to do that anymore. I don’t want to figure out what costume to put someone in. That’s not art making to me. It was, and it still exists in my output, and I do have that costume-y part of me, but I don’t want it to be part of my greater persona outside of certain worlds.

Is there the potential that this portrait work goes commercial and then you start pursuing something else in your contemporary work?
For sure. I mean the work with birds could very much be that. I’ve made about a dozen or so paintings like that now. So people could be like, “Oh, you’re that guy.”

In the bird paintings, while the background portraits are very recognizable as yours, the birds obscuring the faces look textbook. Why don’t they look like “Andrew Pommier birds”?
I wanted to access variety, and there are only so many birds in my head. When you reference, it’s different, because I wouldn’t even think to put that colour there or that bunch of feathers there. The realism of the birds cements it to something more recognizable and familiar. I’m also using them as an obscuring element and an abstract element. It was also a division of what my output looks like and what someone else’s looks like. Those birds are lifted from somewhere, but that’s what I wanted. When I paint using a reference image, there are things in there that I wouldn’t consider on my own. I only have so many tools and images available to make up in my head. There needs to be an outward force pushing the execution in a different direction. I’ve come to really like the look of referenced materials for those reasons.

Was it hard to put the birds over what was basically a completed painting the first time? You were literally defacing your work.
It didn’t start with the birds actually, that element started when I was completing a huge collection for the shows in France in 2010. It was being held at a chain of galleries called Spacejunk, which is run by an ex-pro snowboarder, in the south of France. The galleries were all such different sizes that I had to make work fill a 2,000 square foot gallery space for the first one, and then after that the shows were smaller and differently arranged, as you would imagine they would be. But I needed to make sure I had enough work for the first huge one. So through consistent work I made 24 paintings. I wanted to bring as much as I could, with the idea that I could edit them as I went. It’s better to show up with too much than not enough. 

I had one painting that I had done that looked complete but unresolved. I was looking through the stacks of paintings I had, and that one didn’t look quite done. It had all the elements I was working with, like a mask, and it was rendered recognizably, all in pink, with a bunny t-shirt. I just thought, “Who cares?” So I was biking home near the end of it, and just thinking that something had to happen to it. I thought about maybe painting something overtop of it, not related to the original so much. I went back to the studio the next day, looked at it for a second, and thought, “It doesn’t matter, fuck it,” and just started painting bunnies over it. I did that for the day and at the end I was just really happy with how it looked. After that I thought, what if I did a painting with the express purpose of painting something else over it, and that’s where this first bird one came from.

So you didn’t go all in and do it to all 24?
No, I think that might have been a little much.

Did you include those two in the shows in France?
Yeah, I was actually the happiest with those two paintings. Nobody else was at those shows though.

I guess it was a departure from what they expected.
Yeah, and it was just a very confused audience. I showed some of them in Berlin after, to really good response. People actually got it in Berlin. I knew I was on the right track, but it definitely encouraged me. I kept going with it to see what else could happen with it. It might be coming close to an end. I don’t know. I do think about it. One, I don’t want to be that guy, but at a certain point, do you keep sabotaging yourself when people are responding to your paintings? A friend of my said, “You know, you can have it both ways. You can have paintings that people expect, and you can have paintings that explore something else.” You can show them in tandem, and that’s what I’m coming around to as well.

Well that’s what you started to do in France at Spacejunk.
I thought I did, but I really did not.

Nobody responded to it, but you still did it, and it worked. It’s just a little leap of faith.
Yeah, and that’s what those paintings that are done quickly, aggressively, and loosely are all about, as opposed to things I would take a lot of time with. They are the same in that I made them both. I’m worried less about having connecting elements, like the shoes or portrait styles. I’ve broken that up a bit. Now I want a show to look more like a group show, made by me, rather than a concise and consistent show. At this point I’m not as interested in that.
I noticed on your website that you haven’t had any solo exhibitions in Canada since 1998. Is that true? You mentioned Antisocial but I don’t think that was listed.
I actually don’t think that one was a solo show. Not really I guess. I’ve shown things in a coffee shop, but is a coffee shop really a solo show?

So why haven’t you had any in Canada? Why are they always in Japan and Europe?
Those are just the people that are open to showing my work. I’m not not showing in Vancouver through spite or anything; it’s just that the options haven’t been there. Vancouver doesn’t have a huge art scene, and doesn’t have a lot of galleries that show what I show.

You still don’t fit in, eh?
Which is fine though, because I do show other places and have other outlets. If I was banging my head against the door of the Vancouver art scene then I would be frustrated. I don’t worry about it. I have my life here. The art would be a nice bonus, but not the reason to be or not be here.

Do you think you’ll ever come to a point later in life where your work from today is totally unrecognizable from your work in your early 20s?
Let me show you some sketches from my art school days…

Maybe your work from the early 2000s, when you started to find your style.
I don’t think so. I don’t think I’ll do a drastic change. But who knows what’ll happen tomorrow. I could turn into an abstract artist in a year.

—and finally get that Vancouver solo show!
There is this artist named Philip Guston, who came from representational art, highly rendered political stuff, and then he moved to being a really respected abstract painter, and then he just said, “screw it,” and started making what some would consider cartoon-y work. Drawing these funny little Ku Klux Klan guys. It’s not juvenile, but just really irreverent work about the art practice. So he’s had three very separate divisions in his art.

When do you paint?
I’m usually a mid-afternoon guy. I’ll get rolling around 2 and then work until 8 or 9.

Are you usually consistent in that routine, or what you work on?
Yeah, I think if I have something on the horizon or something pressing, then I’m pretty consistent. I get a little squirrelly when I don’t have something to do. It’s hard to reel it in. I’ve started working in film a little bit again, which I used to do in Toronto, and that’s pulled me out of being able to work, so then not being able to do it at all gets me wound up to spring into release when I can work. The nice thing about film is that it’s always different. It challenges you, so you don’t have that humdrum of a 9 to 5 at an office, which I’ve only had little glimpses of. The way people who do freelance sometimes romanticize the regular life, and then when you see it, you go, “Oh, I don’t know about that. Or actually, I do know, and that’s not for me.”

I know you draw in a sketchbook all the time, but in that 2 to 8 or 9 at the studio time, what do you do?
I just get a coffee and figure out what I have to do or could do. Sometimes it is just sitting here putting away at nothing of any consequence. For me, I have to keep making stuff. There are times when I do convince myself that I am doing something productive, but realistically, I am just doodling. At the end of the day, it could be something in retrospect that’s positive. The things you are making without any impetus or end are sometimes the things that you can launch into a new direction off of.

It’s where the pure ideas might come out.
There have been a couple of things that I’ve just done in a sketchbook as a time-killer that I’ve ended up sending to RVCA and they’ve used a lot. It seems like a good response, because why else would they use something continuously in the line unless it has a good response? That’s good, that something that took me two minutes can have a life of it’s own. I really liked it, and that’s what made me think, maybe sometimes if you spend too long on something you can just end up squeezing the life out of it. Something you made quickly, with vibrancy, and without too much consideration can live.

Do you follow current affairs?
I try to. I grew up listening to the CBC. That’s always on. I’ll wake up, go to my kitchen, and turn on the radio without even thinking about it. I have started to find though that those voices can knock out any thoughts you might have. They knock out the chatter you have in your brain. It’s hard to turn it off though because it’s a lifetime of habit, and I also get anxious because I don’t know what’s going on in the world.

Does it affect your mood though, especially when it’s all bad things happening?
Yeah it can, but if you want to know what’s going on, you’ve got to listen to the 8-minute blocks of news every hour, or seek out the news to read articles, and that also interferes with productivity. I don’t have a television at home, but I was watching the news at the Laundromat yesterday, and it was local news. That made me angrier than anything I hear on CBC that’s going on around the world. Because it was very personal, because I know where the street is they are talking about. There are people that moved into condos down here, and they are complaining about all the needles around underneath the viaduct. This woman was saying she walks through every day with her kid, and it’s hard to not let her kid go in the grass because of needles. It’s like, yes, I get it, but at the same time, it’s not about you. You moved here. You knew what you were getting into. The story was about the skatepark and how people hang out there, sleep there, and shoot drugs there. And you want to get rid of the skatepark because of that? Are you serious? Do you know how much of a benefit that is to the community to have that park there? That made me mad. What they are doing in Alberta with the tar sands, or what presidents are doing in different countries, that doesn’t affect my mood so much.
Are you an art collector or trader? What’s hanging on your walls at home?
I do try to buy stuff that’s in my range. If I like something, if I’m responding to it, and it’s not thousands of dollars, it’s hundreds of dollars, then I’ll buy it at this point. I’ve missed so many great pieces of art that were very affordable at the time, and I missed them just because I wasn’t thinking properly at the time. I went to Charlie Roberts’ first show at Blanket, and he had these watercolour paintings. He’s a Vancouver artist. The paintings were $250. And I didn’t buy them. I think possibly because there were so many of them. But I really liked them. He doesn’t make that work anymore, and as if you could afford it anyway. They have vaulted. He has shown at the VAG. I can’t afford those paintings anymore, but I could have. There was a Barry McGee I could have bought for $700. A little out of my range at the time, but I could have bought it, and it would be worth tens of thousands at this point, and probably would have travelled to other art shows. It would have been on loan from my collection.

Do you have things now that’ll be on loan in 20 years?
Maybe. I have a pretty sweet Bradley Phillips that could be out on loan one day. I try to buy work when I can, when it makes sense. I have a few pieces from friends that I really like.

What’s the most important thing you have learned from dealing with the business side of the art world?
Making paintings and being able to show them somewhere is a reward. All the bullshit that happens around it with galleries, I don’t really pay attention to. I’m a little too lackadaisical about my paintings. I’ve lost paintings. They haven’t come back and I’ve lost track of them. It’s not a big deal though; they aren’t my defining paintings. They are just part of my evolution. I try not to get screwed, but in the art game, someone is going to screw you. It’s not a personal thing. It’s their shortcoming, not yours.

Are you skilled in the business of all this? It seems to be people go to art school and a huge part of what they learn is how to sell their work and services.
I’m not at all. I wish I had business savvy all over the place. I’m still that 13 year old kid that is happy someone is paying attention to what I am doing. Maybe not 13, maybe 20. People think I made a shitload of money with Adidas. I did not. I got a little bit, enough to pay rent for a couple of months, but that’s not easy street. I haven’t really set foot on easy street that much. Little bits, but not much. And there are so many people clamouring for it. The only thing I know to do to set myself apart from the fray is to keep making work, and to be friendly, and not be a petulant asshole, which I can be sometimes. More petulant than asshole. I can definitely be a pill, to my own detriment.

How do you deal with people haggling with you over prices for your contemporary work?
Back to the petulant comment. I get a little bit of a snit about it. I had an email from a guy the other day saying he liked my work, and he was asking if he could just get a sketch or something, just a drawing I wasn’t going to use. I wrote him back saying, “If I made it, and I’m happy with it, then it’s not a throwaway. And if I made it and then threw it away, I threw it away because I don’t want anyone to see it.” They aren’t devalued because they are a throwaway; they are devalued because I don’t think they represent me very well. It’s not something I want out in the world. For me, it’s all in how you ask. I told him that, and then said where my prices start. I said if you are interested, what are you interested in? He asked how much a small thing was. It’s not size dependent! Luckily with the joy of email I can just stop responding and I don’t have to try to convince him that I’m right.

For Chinese New Year, year of the goat or ram or whatever it is, I did these little cut outs and gave those and some chocolates to my studio mates. I posted one on Instagram, as you do, and one guy was like, “Hey, can I get one of those?” In a way that I interpreted as, “Give me one.” And another guy was like, “Hey, if those ever become available, let me know.” His tone was very conciliatory, and I was like, “Dude, I’ll just send you one. Send me your address and you can just have one.” It just depends on how you ask. You can’t ask nicely for a painting, but if it’s something I just did as a mellow thing, and he wants them, that’s neat. But don’t demand them.

The people that haggle the most are the ones with the money to spend anyway. It’s a game for them.
Another guy wanted one of my paintings, and he has money, and he wanted it for half price. Well, no. I need money, but not like that.

Where is the most amazing or unlikely place you’ve seen one of your paintings hanging?
There is a couple in Australia that are designers and they have a beautiful house and art collection. They really like my work and so that it’s hanging there is really nice, knowing it’s being appreciated. There are some guys in Berlin too that really like my work. They buy work because they like it, not because they are investors. They aren’t looking for the $150 million Rothko. I gave a piece to Andy Jenkins too, a little bunny rabbit painting that’s hanging in his office, which sometimes gets BGPs in videos and photos.

What do you think or hope your life will look like when you’re 60?
That I’m comfortable enough to keep making art.

Do you want to have a studio in your house or anything else?

I don’t have any idea of grandeur that things are going to drastically change. I’m not looking for that Bugatti-in-the-driveway lifestyle. As long as I can keep making work and people are responding to it, then that would be perfect. Everything else is just extra.
Interview and photos by Jeff Thorburn

Dig Andrew's work here: www.andrewpommier.com