Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Interview with Andrea Courchene

I am please to introduce Andrea Lauren Courchene of Paper Sparrow for today's interview. I first "discovered" Andrea's work while shopping for fabric on Spoonflower. I decided to impulse buy some gnomes that were super cute and in the process, looked for more of her work.  Andrea has a very unique style that combines whimsical imagery with a touch of humor.

You grew up in England. How has that impacted you as an artist?

My fondest memories from my childhood are of walks in the New Forest with my grandparents. My sister and I spent several weeks at their house throughout the year, and as avid bird-watchers, they took us on many hikes, picnics and adventures in different parts of the forest. The New Forest is the largest unpopulated area in South-East England and dates back to the Bronze Age. It's mostly rivers and trails and walks but there are a few towns and historic sites too. My Grandfather told wonderful stories which let our imaginations run wild. I have the most vivid memories of picnics on tree logs, seeing deer, birds and other wildlife, building little dams in rivers and hopping on stones across streams. These memories have a huge impact on my art today.

You currently live in Florida, a place that is magical to me because of the amazing state parks and wildlife opportunities there. Do you see the Florida landscape in your backgrounds? A manatee perhaps?

Absolutely! Florida has some fantastic parks. I've lived in a few different areas of Florida, the panhandle has beautiful beaches with white sand and emerald waters, as well as those most picturesque old oak trees with spanish moss. I was fortunate to live in a house that was a short walk to Pensacola Bay in one direction and to a state park in the other. At the moment, I live in Central Florida which boasts beautiful springs and I get to visit my mum who lives on the Banana River on the Space Coast. You've reminded me of a Manatee series I did in High School, perhaps it is time to re-invent those pieces!

I read that you play cello. Does music influence your work at all?

I started playing cello when I was three and actually went to college for a performance degree. It has influenced my life in so many ways and given me many opportunities to travel and connect with people who have made who I am today. I've been lucky to spend a summer in Maine, a summer in North Carolina, as well as in Texas attending music festivals, which has given me a chance to see different parts of the States as well as some great road trips along the way. And I got to live in Chicago for two years during grad school which was one of the best cities to live in! A lot of my paintings feature animals playing music. Collaborating with musicians is a wonderfully creative experience, and something I've been doing all my life, so I like to imagine a world in which animals would do this too!

Your work reminds me of Wes Anderson’s films. Are you a fan?

Of course! Several of his films would make my top ten. Royal Tenenbaums is one of my favorite films and my boyfriend Paul loves Bottle Rocket. Most recently I've been hugely influenced by Fantastic Mr. Fox. My "Fox Jam" painting was directly inspired by this movie. Being from England, I grew up reading Roald Dahl's books, The Witches, Matilda and the BFG were some of my favorites books as a child so I was particularly drawn to Fantastic Mr. Fox. In addition to Wes Anderson films I love stop-motion animation like Fantastic Mr. Fox, the British series Wallace and Gromit as well as Tim Burton's classics The Nightmare before Christmas and Corpse Bride.

So you’ve recently quit your day job. What does that mean for Paper Sparrow?

It's funny - I ask myself this same question all the time. A couple of years ago, I would never have imagined that Paper Sparrow would be a real business or that anybody would even like or buy my work, so Paper Sparrow has been a complete dream for me so far. I'm leaving my options open and seeing where the road takes me, I'm hopeful that I'll be lucky enough to continue doing Paper Sparrow full-time in ten years time.

A million thanks to Andrea for the interview! She has some awesome Christmas fabric on Spoonflower right now that you should check out. I bought a nice little series to hoard for future projects (I'm thinking stockings for next year!). If you follow the main link to her blog, you'll find links to all of the places where you can buy her stuff. She has set it up so that you can buy her images on iPhone sleeves, pillows, and even shoes. Very cool. But you won't be able to buy the original painting of Pandas in Canoes 'cause that's mine (well, on Christmas it will be mine).

All photos courtesy of Andrea Lauren Courchene.

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