“Artists are people driven by the tension between the desire to communicate and the desire to hide.” ― D.W. Winnicott
Juxtaposed between the persona and the person, Andrew Jones seems to be thriving within the tension he has created. At the end of an old shale riddled path, hidden by brambles and overgrown hedges lay at the bottom of the hill a modern Shangri-La. Within this rural oasis, sits a barn accentuated by equal parts electric-art and rusting metal.
As I walked up to the barn, an overall-clad man came out and shook my hand, introducing himself as Andrew immediately asking if I’d like a tour of the grounds. Andrew had spent his life on the farm and showed me everything from the small apple orchard on the north side of the property to his dimly lit studio, completely canvased with knick-knacks, on the lower level inside the barn.
Andrew was as kind and meek as the farm itself, and shared his love of the simplicity of life on the farm. Although I was there to shoot publicity shots of the enigma “Android Jones”, we never really spoke about his art, aside from the occasional story of a recent art installation. After the tour I knew I had to tailor my photo-session with him giving a voice to the man behind the machine.
I aimed to capture that same simple, down-to-earth style I had just witnessed. I told him my plan and he was more than happy to oblige. In retrospect I had expected Android, but what I got was Andrew, plus the healthy realization that in order to make the level of artwork and impact a man like that does, both personas had to learn to co-exist harmoniously.
–Steve Stanton, photographer for WITNESS THIS
“This can’t be human. How can somebody do this?”
I’m sure I’m not the only one who has had these thoughts when listening to a Beethoven overture or staring at a hyper-realistic renaissance painting in awe. In my personal belief system god lives and speaks through each and every one of us. I believe the divine shows in the genius of the human race, and that art and creativity is one of the energies through which it manifests.
Even if you don’t share this belief you’ll find it hard to understand how Andrew ‘Android’ Jones’ work can be of this earth. Just look at the time lapse videos of his digital paintings, the unbelievable color-scapes or the sophisticated projection mapping he creates, and you will understand what I am talking about.
His art seems to come from a realm of the subconscious – mystic messages about love and connection, hope and humanity, the universe and its infinite possibilities available to us. He unfolds a magical world before our senses, an outburst of colors and creativity channeled through modern computer technology.
The recording of the ‘Racing Extinction’ projection on the Empire State Building, Aug 1st 2015, artworks by Android Jones.
Being often referred to as a visionary or digital artist, Android likes to avoid these labels by calling himself an „electro-mineralist“ or „digital alchemist“, thereby paying tribute to his tools and the interface of mind and machine that is his workspace.
Born in 1977, Andrew Jones’ artistic career began with a big reference after graduating from art school at the Ringling College of Art & Design. He started out as a concept artist for George Lucas’ famous company ILM that is responsible for the special effects work in countless Hollywood movies, such as the Star Wars saga. After taking on another role at gaming legend Nintendo and the co-founding of a concept art company, Android finally began his career as an independent artist in 2005.
Andrew’s work typically starts with a traditional sketch on paper before enlisting a variety of computer programs to create and sometimes animate his artwork. He also does live performances, in which he would paint on site using a digital drawing pad. These performances are often commissioned by musicians who would like to see their music accompanied by Android’s visions.
Andrew has a special philosophy when it comes to the distribution of his art. Because of his messages and intent to awaken people towards a more community-oriented way of thinking, he wants people to access his art freely. That’s why you will find all of his digital artworks as free downloads on his website in high resolution quality. (In case you’re in desperate need of an Android Jones coffee mug or alike, of course, his works are also obtainable in other forms through his webshop.) [UPDATE June 2016: it seems free downloads were taken off the site. Please inquire with the artist directly in case you’d still like to obtain wallpapers.]
Andrew is a frequently seen regular at festivals such as Burning Man, where his work is projected onto interior and exterior of domes and art cars. Outside of festival season, Andrew regularly holds artist workshops in which he shares knowledge about creative processes.
We are humbled to have been granted access to the orchard farm that resides out of Denver, Colorado, where Android lives with his partner, Martha. There we would find him surrounded by a team of friendly ‘Droids’, creating art in a repurposed barn. Steve took some photos and I had the possibility to ask the master some questions. Enjoy the interview and witness the art of one of the most influential digital artists walking this planet.
“When I stare into the blank canvas of the monitor, the most challenging part is not the void of empty stillness, it’s an awareness that I’m staring at an infinite number of possibilities.”
WT: Your art displays an enormous amount of detail. Are you a perfectionist? If yes, how do you relate to that?
Android Jones: I can see how an overwhelming amount of detail could be perceived as perfection, however many of the images I create are in actuality a long, ongoing struggle where I create and fight back the chaos. I don’t think I’ve ever done anything that felt perfect. An image is finished when I’m either tired of fighting the chaos or I feel compelled to pick a new fight.
WT: Your work looks highly creative yet conceptual at the same time. How do creative chaos and clarity of thought go together for you? What do you do in your daily routine to channel both perfectly?
Android Jones: When I stare into the blank canvas of the monitor, the most challenging part is not the void of empty stillness, it’s an awareness that I’m staring at an infinite number of possibilities. The hardest part is knowing that my imagination can go in any direction and yet I must choose one. By choosing one course of action, I instantly eliminate every other possibility that was available to me in that moment.
At the onset of an image, I’ve been known to consciously lash out a flurried cacophony of lines, shapes, and patterns. My initial choices of tools and brushes and patterns are often haphazardly chosen, frantically switching between brushes faster than my conscious mind has the ability to comprehend any semblance of meaning. My only instinct is to create a combination of shapes, colors, and patterns that defy any semblance of reason in the hope of uncovering a combination with some sense of novelty to it.
A time lapse recording of an Android Jones artwork in the making.
This reckless dance of pixels becomes like a meditation and it’s the one aspect of the creative process where I feel truly free. Sometimes it goes on for minutes or hours. The challenge during this part of the process is intentionally avoiding any objective or representational results, but eventually my eye catches something unusual or interesting.
As soon as this happens, my mind lapses from it’s meditation when it finds an aspect of the painting valuable or precious and the next stage, the fight revolves around protecting and exploring this new focal point of the image.
WT: Your art is visionary. How do the visions find you? Is there a certain time, trigger, mental state… that brings them to you?
Android Jones: I’d say visionary is an ambiguous adjective. The process that I invoke more closely resembles an exploration of my intuition and a battle against futility. The visions come when I have the discipline to focus my mind and disconnect with the outside world in order to reveal a deeper inner knowing.
WT: What role have hallucinogenics played in your creative process?
Android Jones: Our conscious mind is a meaning-making machine. It strives to conquer chaos by reasoning with an infinite void of nothingness. The neo-cortex is primarily responsible for these revelations. Hallucinogenics, when applied with discipline, practice, and most importantly, respect, add fuel to the fire of the creative impulse. They can enhance the clarity of the interpretation of the chaos. Sometimes they give the chaos a story and sometimes they spin you back deeper into the void.
“I don’t think I’ve ever done anything that felt perfect. An image is finished when I’m either tired of fighting the chaos or I feel compelled to pick a new fight.”
WT: Which technological development do you find most promising as an artistic medium for the near future?
Android Jones: I think that in the near future, virtual reality will not only present an amazing creative opportunity and challenge, it will challenge how we define what “being” is, and give a new sense of value to the nature of experience.
WT: Your art is mainly digital. Can you let us in on some of the tools and techniques you are using?
Android Jones: The hardware I use is a 18 x 22” Intos Wacom tablet and I employ an assortment of software to meet my creative ends, namely Painter 2015, Adobe Photoshop, Z-Brush, and Google Sketch Up to name a few.
WT: What’s your turnaround time on projects, do you give yourself strict timelines on your projects?
Android Jones: I have some images that I finish in a single sitting, I have others that stretch on for months or years. I find that I am the most prolific when fabricating deadlines. Over the past few months, I had two different projects that involve delivering a final canvas print in person to my clients and I found that I was working until the last possible moment; to the point where I risked missing my flight because the printer was still finishing the image.
WT: One of our editors read about a self portrait you did every day for 1000 days…what was that all about? Was it about detachment from your work or just about producing as much content as possible?
Android Jones: I was trying to prove that I still had a soul. At the time I was working for Nintendo and it felt like a very soulless experience. The portraits kept a record of reminding myself that I was still in there. It started as an experiment, it turned into an obsession. When I finished the 1,000th portrait, I still questioned whether it was a victory or a defeat.
“I believe that the underlying dynamics of consciousness and what we refer to as ‘reality’ is far beyond the capacity of human understanding. I can’t say I really know what’s going on but I do respect it.”
WT: Do you have any memories of super-natural encounters in your life – in a sober state of mind? A haunting, a synchronicity… any occurrence that lies beyond our five senses? If yes, please share the story with us!
Android Jones: In a sober state of mind? One of my first memories when I was 5 or 6 years old was a lucid dream of an alien encounter. Though the walls inside my home melted away and I was standing in the snow, 20 feet away from a small, blue being. I was terrified and I was literally paralyzed as I locked eye contact with this creature.
Decades later while looking through a collection of old drawings, I discovered a series of images that documented this encounter and even illustrated a journey inside a triangular craft hovering above my house. It’s funny that I remember this dream but I have no memory of ever making these drawings, until I found them.
WT: Are you religious or spiritual? If yes, what are your beliefs?
Android Jones: I was raised with religion and then revolted against it. The word “spiritual” is similar to the description of “visionary”; it seems to lack any real definition or meaning because it’s so over-used. I believe that the underlying dynamics of consciousness and what we refer to as “reality” is far beyond the capacity of human understanding. I can’t say I really know what’s going on but I do respect it.
WT: What is your moral compass in life?
Android Jones: I don’t believe in right and wrong, but I do believe that in every moment we have a choice to create harm or not to create harm. Everyone suffers from a wound and we have the choice to help heal these wounds, exploit them, or ignore them. I believe in the non-aggressive principal, that violence upon another human being is never condoned. And the only situations where force is acceptable is within the defense of one’s own life.
WT: Would you like to be reborn? If yes, where and who would you like to be?
Android Jones: Be careful what you wish for because you just might get it.
“I have learned that if one wishes to support oneself with the fruits of their creative process, then they must sow seeds that are rooted within a fundamental service to humanity.”
WT: What’s your view on the dichotomy of art and commerce? How do they tie together?
Android Jones: It’s tragic that we live on a planet where you have to pay to be alive. The commodification of creativity is something I struggle with on a day to day basis. But I have learned that if one wishes to support oneself with the fruits of their creative process, then they must sow seeds that are rooted within a fundamental service to humanity. One must create as much value as possible and only harvest a fraction of the value that they reap.
WT: What advice would you give to young guns that want to pursue a similar professional path as you? The essential Android Jones takeaway.
Android Jones: Don’t follow my path at all. Let the art you create come from the unfolding of someone following their own path, following their own heart. You have to be willing to give it everything you have. Many great artists are completely unreasonable people. Don’t listen to me or anyone else.
“The shadow counterpoint of creativity is self destruction. If left to my own devices, I would draw myself to death. I take moments to disconnect from the outlet and plug into nature.”
WT: What do you incorporate in your daily routines to stay healthy in your mental and physical state?
Android Jones: The shadow counterpoint of creativity is self destruction. If left to my own devices, I would draw myself to death. It’s important to introduce rituals that promote the nourishment of your mind, body, and soul. I go through serial bouts of healthy binges, though I am an avid juicer and the advent of spirulina in my diet changed my life.
I take moments to disconnect from the outlet and plug into nature. Raising a flock of chickens, caring for them and watching them develop and grow over time, has been humbling and rejuvenating.
WT: What music do you listen to? And do you regularly use music to infuse your art or do you work in silence?
Android Jones: I employ a variety of different music and curate specific playlists of music oriented towards coaxing out the muse of the creative spirit. Ultimately, I want art to elicit and be inspired by an emotional connection with another person. Depending upon which emotion that is, the music I listen to changes. My music library is dominated by down to mid tempo music.
The majority is devoid of any language or lyrics. I select the music in order to create a safe container that I trust enough to let go. Ultimately, my desire is to dissolve into the landscape of sound and it’s my hope that I can encounter something novel and interesting that wishes to be brought forth from the primordial vastness of vibration. I have an opportunity to translate the infinite abstract into subjective shape, color, lines, and form.
WT: What’s your favorite street artist?
Android Jones: There are many street artists I really admire. Some of my favorites are El Mac and Coro 360. Both of these artists have an inartistic understanding of the academic fundamentals of image making and they will both leverage the principals and traditions that allows them to make unconventional decisions in order to break the rules in the right places, to create contemporary and compelling modern imagery.
I also like Xavi. He employs a natural understanding of design and an energetic pallet of colors that has a way of connecting and speaking very deeply to the spirit of all things. And my friend Shrine On has created many murals and installations around the world taking the discarded trash and refuse of civilization and, through a creative metamorphosis, recombines this discarded and abandoned garbage into an organized collage and patterned mosaics of beautiful shapes.
WT: What’s the last book you read you can recommend from the bottom of your heart?
Android Jones: The Dao de Qing. While reading its profound wisdom, I was constantly confounded by how it had taken so many years for me to cross paths with a wisdom whose conclusions seemed so inevitable. And upon finishing the book, I was left with the Daoist understanding that it wasn’t about how long it had taken for the book to cross my path, but with the more accurate conclusion that it taken me 37 years to prepare myself to fully encounter it.
WT: Thank you so much for your time Android.