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Oct 26

Andy Council

The reptilian crazed artist discusses everything from portfolios to pooing under scaffolding…

As a Bristolian of almost three years, it would be impossible not to have been wowed by Andy Council’s intricate and prehistoric art works. I first spotted his ‘Brisuanadon’ collaboration sculpture in with the dinosaur fossil exhibit at Bristol Museum. Its crafty intimacy and novel juxtaposition really made me chuckle. The work has since moved to Bristol’s new Mshed, where he also has a large mural with Acerone. Andy’s work can be seen all over Bristol such as in the PRSC (People’s Republic of Stoke’s Croft) gallery where he has posters depicting his ‘Visit Stokes Croft’ Dinosaur, and in Jamaica Street where a massive piece spans two stories. It has now even spread its scaly wings overseas.

Your style is very unique. How would you describe it?

It’s an amalgamation of architecture, structure and character, rendering intricately detailed compositions of imagined creatures composed of iconic objects. These creatures are mostly dinosaurs.

And how would you describe yourself in three words?

Big, old… dinosaur.

You obviously like dinosaurs a hell of a lot. Why?

The dinosaur thing kind of happened by accident. I was commissioned to do a poster campaign to promote recycling in Bristol. The posters featured a monster made up of rubbish called ‘Scrapzilla’. I did a few of them and people looking through my portfolio would always comment on them. I decided to do more that were made up of other stuff, like Bristol landmarks and the rest is, as they say, history. Or pre-history perhaps? I’ve started studying them more since drawing them. I like basing my recent ones on types of dinosaurs that are lesser known. New types are discovered all the time, so I may never run out of inspiration.

Did you go to university/college? If so, where?

I went to Art College in Bournemouth where I studied Animation. It was all hand drawn on cells with no computers back then. I didn’t go
into the animation industry, but the courses emphasis on drawing helped me get illustration work. I think some of my work has a kind of animation cell look to it that probably comes from college days. I enjoyed my time in Bournemouth; it was nice living near the sea, going out on my BMX, listening to Jungle and getting wrecked.

If you have an off day or a mental block, what do you like to do to get inspired, as there are no seas in Bristol?

My two main influences in my work are Natural History and Architecture. I enjoy going to museums and looking at animal
specimens or wandering around Bristol looking for unusual buildings I haven’t noticed before. In this way I find visiting London and other major cities especially exciting. The buildings, landmarks and layout of places are what makes somewhere different. Its life and energy. Places have character and I try to reflect that in the animals that I make out of cities. This usually works out quite well, although
recently I agreed to do a dinosaur mural of an area of London and then found out there wasn’t much there of interest landmark wise. That one was a bit of a challenge. Turned out looking more like a dog too…

Where do you draw your influences from?

Well, as mentioned, the natural world and architecture, but generally things that surround me on a daily basis. I try to twist the mundane
into something fantastic if I can – dinosaurs made out of the contents of my living room for example. I have been very lucky that one of the things that surround me in my daily life here in Bristol is the graffiti and street art. I find it a constant source of inspiration the letter forms, shapes, characters and colours. It has come to a point where my work is more street art/graffiti than illustration.

What have you been working on recently, I hear that you have broken the LA scene?

I painted a piece for a group show in LA that had old school computer games as the theme. It was based on Sonic the Hedgehog and the Shoot ‘Em Up R Type. It was pretty weird and I doubt it will sell! I also did an illustration for a Russian magazine that was a mountain of
parcels with trees growing out of the top. Other than that, I’ve been designing Dinosaur Graff pieces…

And how does it feel to have two pieces in the new Mshed?

It’s an honour to have my work in a museum and was great to collaborate with Acerone on the mural. My parents are really proud I don’t know what the general public make of my stuff in there though,  weird dinosaurs made out of Bristol and that… I do wonder if it is too bugged out for some folk. It is funny in a way having my work in there, it’s like, where do I go now with my work? Perhaps that’s why I
am doing mostly street work right now.

So, what is the Bristol art community like?

It’s massive. There seems to be so many artists and people working in creative industries here, that in itself can be quite daunting but also very inspiring. Within the scene as a whole there are sub groups which are all doing their own thing, but with a feeling ofconnectivity.

What do you like about it?

I like how within my sub group of graffiti/street art it is pretty friendly and supportive. I can turn to lots of artists within tha group for advice and inspiration.

Do you have any advice for students wanting to break into the Bristol art scene?

That’s quite a tricky question to answer. I suppose just maintaining your own unique style is important. Getting work seen by the public
on a regular basis, which could be in lots of ways – in galleries, on walls and windows. I guess joining the various collectives here and
taking part in group shows is a good start. Meet up with artists who are already established here. It’s a good way of getting advice.
Perhaps one last thing I would say is not to base your art career solely on prehistoric animals!

Where is your favourite place to spray?

The places I paint vary quite a bit and have their own unique charms I suppose! I like keeping it different and engaging with the public in
different places. I have painted down by the M32 in Bristol a fair bit. There’s a legal spot there that is easy to get to, but I wouldn’t say it’s my favourite place to be. I recently painted down a storm drain by ASDA in Frome. This was a lot nicer than it sounds, as it  is on a nature reserve with lots of wildlife. It was really peaceful there and I had Herons, the local youth and my friends keeping me company.

What is your favourite picture that you have created and where is it?

I get tired of my pieces pretty quickly and tend to just move on to the next as a development from the last. There are a few that I think
really stand out though. Currently, the piece I am most pleased with is on Jamaica Street in the Stokes Croft area of Bristol. I like it
as it is several floors high, big and gold. It is a really bold piece that stands out and it is near the Bell which is one of my favourite pubs.
The piece was a real achievement for me as it took a lot of Masonry paint to do and needed a scaffolding tower and team of people to help create it. It was a tough job at times as it was raining, Casualty was being filmed in the street, there were lots of passing drunk people being shouty, someone did a poo under the tower and I am scared of heights too!

What other artists do you like and why?

I like work by a mixture of illustrators and street artists. I like Will Sweeney’s work as it is detailed, has nice colour combinations and is pretty trippy. Nicholas Di Genova has a love for detailed, strange twisted beasties like me also. Drew Millward’s work has a nice style to it, it’s dark and fun. Will Barras’ work is amazing and it seems to just flow from him without even trying. Street artists I like include Nychos, Roa and Aryz. Their work is pretty much creature based and on a big scale. I like Solo One’s pieces; I can look at them for ages, looking at all the energy and life in them. I’m lucky to count lots of Bristol’s top street artists as friends and workmates. Their work constantly inspires me.

Is there anything else you would like to add?

The lime and the coconut and mix it all up If you don’t fancy taking a walk around Bristol to find some of Andy’s work for yourself, he can also be found at www.andycouncil.co.uk

By Jenny Pearce

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