About the artist
This week we discover the dreamlike surrealist imagery of digital artist and Photoshop tutor, Andrew Kavanagh. Andrew has loved creating art since he was a child. He initially studied drawing, painting and printmaking at SUNY Purchase in upstate New York. Years later, he transferred to the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston and also attended classes at Massachusetts College of Art.
In the early 90s, Andrew studied computer graphics at the School of Visual Arts in New York City and fell in love with Photoshop. He built up a portfolio and worked in advertising agencies in New York as a retoucher and photo compositor through the 90s. Since moving to San Francisco in 2000, he balances his time between Photoshop tutoring and freelance photo editing.
Aside from his day to day work, he is the founder and head organiser of the popular Photoshop and Lightroom Group on Facebook, now with almost 110,000 members. He also runs the Photoshop and Photography Advice Facebook Group.
How did you first get into digital art?
Being a fine artist who got into Photoshop editing for work, it seemed natural to start using Photoshop for my art.
Why did you choose digital art as your medium?
I practised traditional art for years – drawing, painting and printmaking, yet creating digital art in Photoshop felt more fluid and mysterious. I love digital more than conventional ways of creating as I can lose myself in the process more; it feels less physical and somewhat unreal.
What artistic styles are you particularly drawn to?
I adore Surrealism, Modern Art, and I especially love the German Expressionists.
Tell us about the process you use to make your art.
I start with a general idea or theme; I’ll then sift through my photographs in Lightroom to find which would work best and then do a search for royalty free images on sites like Pexels and Unsplash. Once I have my source images, I bring them into Photoshop and begin to compose my art using a variety of layer blending modes and layer masks. I always strive to make my art feel painterly.
What inspires you?
Despite being a visual artist, music inspires me most; I am a big fan of the ambient music of Brian Eno and love alternative and electronic music like Gary Numan, Kraftwerk, Ultravox, Future Sound of London, etc. With visual art, I like to find inspiration in work that takes me somewhere I have never been to before; something that transcends the medium and evokes a feeling in me, beyond being impressed with just the skill involved.
What is your artistic motivation?
When life gets too busy, and I can’t create, I feel empty. The ritual of creating makes me feel like I am dancing more with life and death. There is a beauty in death – like when you finish creating, that is a form of death, yet when you release it to the world to be seen, you could say that is a form of birth as well. Wanting to dance with life and death through creating – that motivates me.
Of all your images to date, which is your favourite, and why?
I don’t think like that; my images express a feeling that intrigues me. Like life, I have so many experiences that I could never choose just one.
Which three words or phrases would you use to describe your work?
Otherworldly, Surreal, Dreamlike
What interesting responses to your artwork have you had?
Recently one friend liked one of my latest photo montages so much she said it should be the opening screen image when you launch Photoshop CC. That was nice to see.
Name three artists who inspire you.
How do you think you’ve improved as an artist compared to when you first started?
I would say my work was flat and had less dimension in the beginning. Now I strive to create more depth to my images.
What advice would you give yourself if you could go back to when you started making art?
Do more! Don’t let concerns about survival and money derail you.
What devices/equipment do you use to create your art?
I am a Mac fan and have had various generations of the 27″ iMac. I have also had a variety of medium and small Wacom Intous Pro tablets.
Which apps/programs do you use to create your art and which are your favourites?
I use the latest Adobe Lightroom Classic and Photoshop CC. I also like to add a bit of punch to my images with Luminar and Aurora HDR sometimes.
Do you use images from stock sites as well as your own photos and if so, which are your favourites and why?
I use Pexels and Unsplash mainly and look for stock image sites that have different kinds of photos; I try to avoid cliché types of images.
And finally, do you find that people dismiss digital art as a valid art form?
Sometimes, yes. I have been told digital art is not art. Funny though, it is always those who do not create much that criticise others! Keep on creating!
Thank you for sharing your thoughts and insights into you work, Andrew!