We find ourselves strangely drawn to Louisiana-based artist Amy Guidry‘s work – at first glance, her subjects seem nearly tangible. As we reach out to stroke the fur on her grizzly bear’s head, or catch a butterfly with our bare hands, we’re reminded of the boundaries of the canvas in front of us.
Photographic realism meets surrealism in Amy’s series, In Our Veins. In a Dali-esque manner, animal figures and skeletal fragments combine over scenic natural backdrops, in some ways exploring the connection between life and death, and the definition of ‘alive’. Much of Amy’s work explores these connections between various life forms and the life cycle as a whole.
Read on for our Q&A with Amy as we discuss her wild imagination and inspiration – including how her work has evolved since her first piece (a charcoal drawing of Christian Slater), and check out more of her work here.
CULT: Tell us about yourself – when and how did you learn to paint?
Amy: I’ve been drawing and painting since I was a small child. My mom, my brother, my great aunt are all artistic as well, so it’s just something we always did. I recently found out we are related to the late artist Eleanor Norcross, so apparently art is well-rooted in our family. By the time I started school, I was involved in art classes, and I enrolled in the Talented Art Program. All I did was draw or paint. I probably spent thousands upon thousands of hours on my art. To this day, I am always looking for ways to improve and to challenge myself.
CULT: Do you remember the first piece that you ever sold?
Amy: When I was a kid, I used to give away drawings to friends, so it’s hard to recall when I actually sold my first one. I believe it was a large charcoal drawing of Christian Slater that I sold to my friend around freshman year of high school.
CULT: What is your process like, from conception to completion?
Amy: I start off with small thumbnail sketches. Any idea that comes to mind, I make a quick, small, extremely basic sketch of it in my sketchbook and maybe write down a few notes about it. I keep a few sketchbooks full of thumbnails and sort through those to find the ideas I like best at that particular moment in time and work together as a cohesive body of work. From there I usually make a larger sketch to work out other details – size, color, changes to subject matter, etc. Sometimes I make multiple versions of the larger sketch so that I can compare alterations and decide on the “best” one. Then I take it to canvas as a rough sketch before adding multiple layers of paint, building upon each layer, one at a time, and adding fine detail during the last phase of painting.
CULT: Natural landscapes and the cycle of life appear to be large influences in your work, particularly the In Our Veins series – what draws you to this subject matter?
Amy: I’ve always been influenced by the natural world since a very young age. With my In Our Veins series, my style was becoming progressively more surreal, and I was looking to challenge myself technically and conceptually. One of the themes explored with this series is animal welfare. It’s an important issue for me on a personal level, but I also feel that it is a significant part of the future of our environment. They go hand-in-hand. In Our Veins explores the connections between all life forms and the process of the life cycle. This includes the interdependence of the human race to each other and to the rest of the animal kingdom, as well as the planet itself. One cannot exist without the other, therefore it is of the utmost importance that we care for each and every living thing.
CULT: Are your paintings reflections of places that you’ve been or memories, or are they completely imagined?
Amy: My paintings are completely imagined, though they are inspired by nature and animals.
CULT: If you could make any painting from any artist come alive, what painting would you choose and why?
Amy: Hmm, I automatically thought of Salvador Dali’s work, but that could be chaotic depending on the piece. That said, his painting “Sleep” looks fairly innocuous, so I’ll go with that one. I’d love to see one of his dream worlds in the flesh.
CULT: Three things on your bucket list:
Amy: Take a much-needed vacation, possibly to Asheville, NC; finish remodeling the bathroom; and revisit the Spanish language because I’m getting a little rusty
CULT: The one artist’s tool that you can’t live without:
Amy: I absolutely cannot live without tiny paintbrushes. I sometimes go through one a day after all the work I put those little bristles through.
CULT: In the last 24 hours, what has inspired you?
Amy: Fabric patterns! I was just looking at some different interior design and shopping websites and have been entranced with geometric patterns and colors. Not sure if that will lead to a direct influence, but it’s definitely on my mind at the moment.
CULT: Words to live by:
Amy: I have a worn, not-so-sticky-anymore Post-it on my easel with a quote by Ralph Waldo Emerson- “Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm.”