Fans of this site definitely know the work of Andrew Kolb. We here at PixArt haven’t exactly been shy about our love for his fantastic illustrations. He is always such a great sport when it comes to our little section of The Pixar Times – contributing original pieces of fan art to almost all of our call-to-artists. His Cars 2 submission was highlight – combining the worlds of Cars, Back to The Future and Ghostbusters. And of course, who can forget the amazing Pixar pet shop piece he did. Like all of his work, the images were thoughtful, clever and fun. His work truly elevates the concept of fan art. Using his distinct style, he brings an energy to these existing properties and really makes them his own. A quick look through his body of work and it’s evident how much effort and heart he puts into each image. His epic “Picture Book Set In Space” is a marvel and shows just how skilled a visual storyteller he has become.
Now, Andrew is back with a really fantastic piece of Pixar fan art, which was recently featured for an art show. Featuring a whole host of Pixar characters, his Learning Opposites piece is a wonderful display of his distinct style. Utilizing the simple style of a children’s learning book, Andrew has crafted a beautifully designed tribute to opposites. Visually contrasting simple words, he carefully selected the appropriate Pixar personalities to illustrate their meaning. Translating it into different languages was genius and really adds a whole different level of engagement to the piece. Make sure to check out the complete poster below and get an up-close look at a few of the panels.
We had a chance to ask Andrew a few questions about his work and life as an artist. We’re so grateful for his time and for this opportunity to learn more about one of our favorite artists.
Where were you born and where do you currently live?
Oh they’re actually one in the same! I was born and raised in Kitchener, Ontario. It’s about an hour west of Toronto and is a pretty cool spot to grow up. A large segment of my friends (both professional and personal) have made their way to the city but I’m really lucky that I can work pretty much anywhere with an internet connection and a power source. I suppose an apocalyptic event would render most of what I do rather difficult.
Growing up, did you always want to be an artist?
For sure! I think I went through a progression that is fairly typical in that I spent most of my childhood wanting to be a Disney animator. As the years went by it progressed into graphic design and then more closely to the commercial world of illustration. However, there’s definitely still a part of me that would love to contribute to a Disney feature.
Did you attend art school? How was your college art experience?
Yup – I went to school for graphic design; first in Ontario for a diploma and then for my degree in Brisbane. I loved studying design and the two institutions were wildly different. I was in the (almost) only art-based program in my college and because of that I think the level of distraction was very low. It allowed me to closely bond with my cohort and focus on my studies. I worked for my degree in a hardcore art school and the environment was practically the opposite. I was inundated with all disciplines of art and the level of inspiration was fantastic! While it was thoroughly inspiring it could also become an easy distraction when one was needed. I was really lucky to be able to experience both and each complimented the other.
Did you have other art related jobs before freelancing?
Studying graphic design lead to a handful of studio positions early on in my professional career. Though I don’t think there was ever a time when I wasn’t freelancing in some capacity, the shift to it being a full-time gig happened after my time in the design industry.
What was your inspiration for the PIXAR LEARNING OPPOSITES poster?
It was originally created for The Movie Show that was curated by Seb Mesnard. The theme was so open that I wanted to focus on more than one film. This lead to the idea of a sort of teaching poster using film characters. It originated as having less focus (teaching shapes, numbers, time, etc.) but I found that the small “opposites” component was snowballing into something much larger. THAT then became the sole focus and eventually evolved into the finished piece you see now (above).
What made you decide to sell this print for charity and why did you pick UNICEF?
Well what first happened was the evolution of the poster into different languages. The show was in France so I thought it should probably appear in French. The translation then lead to the thought that maybe the visuals could work in a few languages and I wanted to open it up to be bigger than English and French. I asked my awesome Tumblr crew for help and a plethora of really great people rose to the request so it became an international level of text. Sorry, I’m rambling. Anyways! With all these different languages circling around and a great love for Mary Blair and It’s a Small World, UNICEF was the most sensible way to give back! Plus I’m too old for Halloween trick-or-treating (by society’s standards, not by mine) so I don’t get to use those sweet boxes any longer; this was the best alternative.
A lot of your work is based on pop culture. How do you feel about doing illustrations based on pop culture subject matters as opposed to illustrations using your own personal creations? Do you prefer one over the other?
It’s funny that you’d ask this as I’ve been giving a lot of thought to it lately. While updating my website I’ve tried to keep a balance of work interpreting others’ creations as well as original material. I love both aspects of illustration but find I need balance. Working with existing characters and environments that I love is a wonderful treat, but offers very different challenges than working from scratch. I suppose it’s like a balanced diet in that too much candy leads to a stomach ache but if I don’t eat ANY dessert then after a while I binge and feel equally as bad. In this simile the candy equates to pop culture and imagery inspired by it.
How has teaching affected you as an artist?
Oh it’s the best! The interactive and social side of teaching – what with lectures and critiques and so on – balances my solitary life of an illustrator remarkably well. The two really compliment each other as I take what I’ve learned as a freelance illustrator into the classroom and the students’ energy and creativity is infectious and can’t help but inspire me in my own work. And I definitely think that teaching has made me a stronger illustrator – and hopefully becoming a stronger illustrator has made me a better teacher. I’m really lucky that the students I’ve met have created a classroom environment that’s full of questions. I don’t always have the answers but they push me in a fantastic way. I’m often brought questions or concerns that I’d never address in my own process but I love it! Not only does working through the problem benefit them and move them forward, but sometimes those solutions bleed over into my own work. The symbiotic nature of the dynamic is one that I wasn’t expecting but thoroughly embrace.
What do you have coming up?
The SPACE! show curated by Mike Mitchell is on right now! But coming up….well there’s Station Zero hosted by Light Grey Art Lab as well as the Role Models show in October. Aside from all the gallery shows I suppose most of it is under wraps. I know that’s lame but getting sued is even lamer. But I’m keeping a weekly illustration blog that’s kinda fun. At Spacey Life Is Neat you’ll find random character designs that I do in the time that I should be sleeping. Aside from that, my blog is usually a good spot to keep up to date with me and I’m occasionally on Twitter too, so be sure to say hi!
Our thanks to Andrew for taking the time to answer our questions. His Learning Opposites image is available for sale here. Proceeds from the sales will benefit UNICEF.
NOTE: The yellow poster in the chalkboard photo of Andrew above is by Christopher David Ryan.