Next in our Prints & Inks artist profile series is Drew Mosley, a self-taught illustrator, painter and heritage carpenter. Drew’s work reflects his passion for and wonderment with the natural world, from creating fantastical creatures to large-scale woodworking buildings and projects. His inital interest in illustration was sparked through skateboarding and street art as a teenager; it was in his early twenties when he began to foster his art practice. Since then, Drew’s work has been shown in Montreal, Vancouver, Greece and his hometown of Ottawa, where he actively contributes to shaping the local creative scene, including hosting drawing nights, and creating commissioned installations and pieces for local businesses and initiatives, combining both illustration and woodworking practices.
Here’s what he had to say about his work:
1. Describe your path to becoming a self-taught painter and illustrator.
“Art” for me at an early age seemed far to regimented. At least it was in the Catholic school setting where I was first exposed to it. I actually had a teacher who tried to get me expelled from the school because she thought my work was satanic.
I was rebellious to that and found a creative spark through skateboarding when I was really young. Through skateboarding I was introduced to graffitti and street art in my early teens. I was never a “graff” artist, but I dabbled and loved the freedom and subculture of it.
This led me to a quick obsession and eventually a very short stint in art school. There I audited a studio painting class which was taught by an abstract expressionist. You had to paint big and it had to be abstract. Other than that their were no rules and I loved it, but that didn’t last long because of the critiques. I dropped out and moved to Vancouver.
2. What are some of your influences? Where do you draw your inspiration from?
Any and all influences surely come from my childhood and upbringing. We spent every and all vacations, weekends and holidays either at our family’s log cabin or on canoe trips. At the time, I’m sure my sister and I thought it was torture but it forced us to amuse ourselves and let our imaginations be our entertainment. Many hours were logged in those woods surrounding the Ottawa Valley building tree forts, catching frogs and dreaming up all manners of fantastical situations.
I still draw inspiration from the natural world and all its wonder. And I was always taken by the books and movies which took place in these settings: Lord of the Rings; The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe; The Shannara series; Labyrinth. And Jim Henson movies, especially with his costumes and limitless imagination.
3. Describe your creative process. What techniques/tools/materials do you use to translate your ideas into your work?
I never do much sketching. If I do, they are very rough and only for composition. I’m far too impatient and want to go directly to painting.
As far as materials go, acrylic inks and paints. Some day I will get back to oils but they are far too hazardous for me in my little home studio. Everything starts with a day dream and then builds from there.
4. As a self-taught artist, how have you seen your work evolve? Where do you see your creative path going in the next five years?
I think I’m always evolving. At least I try and stay open to the possibility of change. I also get very bored doing the same thing over and over, so naturally I’m constantly thinking how I can get better, or what new materials I can use.
Recently I have been experimenting a lot with resins and layering paintings to get more depth and atmosphere in my work. I can see myself exploring that for a while longer. Although its expensive to use and I’m sure its not good for me to be around it so much.
All I hope to achieve in the next 5 years is to be painting more than working. My body is sore from years of abuse in construction/skateboarding and general neglect.
5. Woodworking and skateboarding are two other areas you pursue. How do these intersect with your visual practice?
Skateboarding is a very creative activity, there are no rules, and aside from being physical, it can be meditative. It can be a release and help you to work things out from different areas of your life.
Carpentry, building, furniture making are all just very tangible creative pursuits for me, much like sculpture is for some artists. Its just my sculptural work happens to be “practical sculptures” i.e. houses, cabins and tables etc.
All together they contribute to my work in some way.
6. Currently you’re based in Ottawa after spending some time on Vancouver Island. What compelled you to move to the west coast and then back out east? How’s it like living in Ottawa for artists or for those in creative fields? Plusses and minuses?
I’ve moved out west and back again a couple times. There is a much larger skateboard and arts community out there. As well as lots of cheap studio space on the Vancouver East Side – at least there used to be.
I went to [the west coast] to be inspired, but found that what inspires me the most is my home, my friends and the surrounding greenbelt and Ottawa/Gatineau. I love living here and don’t think I will be going any where soon.
Anyone who says this town is boring is probably just a boring person, ha! First of all just go outside! We live in a forest within a city, go to the hills, jump in the lake, go for a bike ride! There is so much happening here, shows, great collaborations between restaurants, local businesses, local artists. Super talented folks working hard and making it amazing!
7. What’s next for you in terms of creative projects?
I’ve got a number of large building projects coming up that will take up most of my time. I have a solo show coming up next year that I want to put a lot of energy and focus into it. I have a habit of spreading myself too thin by taking on too many projects.
Looking forward, I’m trying to be more focused and intentional with the projects that I take on. It would be nice to take most of the winter off from work to just paint. Winter is my most productive time for making work.
8. Top 3 artists/illustrators/
- Aron Wiesenfeld: A painter that stops my in my tracks. He really makes you feel like you are also in the painting, kind of like a voyeur. So much atmosphere.
- Etam: For their ability to paint entire building facades.
- George Nakashima: For his reverence.
9. Bonus question: Your favourite music artist/band/album?