Andy Firth is a self-taught Australian artist of the social generation, known for his signature canvas: the human skull. Capturing the gentle intricacies of lives once lived, Firth’s work has captivated an engaged audience of over 2.5 million people Worldwide! His clientele includes Joe Rogan, Slash, Jason Momoa, Chris Brown and Nikkie Tutorials. This is Part 2 of our Exclusive Interview with Andy.
Can you tell our readers about your childhood, family, and the environment you grew up in? Were you an artistic child?
I was born in New Zealand and moved to Australia when I was 4 years old. I spent my childhood growing up in Canberra in a middle-class family. As a kid, I really enjoyed arts & crafts, playing with Lego and working with timber in my dad’s garage. At around 10 years old I developed a hobby painting Warhammer figures which I really enjoyed. For the uninitiated, Warhammer are small scale figures of armies (Orks, Space Marines and my personal favourite “Chaos”). They’re generally on the darker side of the spectrum, like monsters, creatures and marines that have more demonic flavours. They’re about 2 inches tall each, which makes painting them extremely challenging. To achieve a good result, you need to slow down with a steady hand. As a kid, you can imagine that this was very hard, but it helped me develop a very high level of focus and attention to detail, which I still carry with me now. Warhammer is something that I go back and forth with even today. I could go five or so years not touching it, and all of a sudden, I get the urge to paint something Warhammer-esque.
During school, I always gravitated towards manual arts, which generally included making things out of timber, metal and fiberglass. When it came to working with my hands, I was an A class student. As for anything else, I was luckily to get a C or D which meant I barely passed everything else. The general feedback from teachers was that I was “really good” when I chose to focus. But when the focus wasn’t there, neither were the grades.
As a child, I personally found it extremely hard to focus on things I didn’t enjoy. I guess that’s why after leaving school, I stepped straight into a marine craft construction apprenticeship, building multi-million dollar boats. It was tough work and as a first-year apprentice I was on about $6 / hour Australian, which is about $4 US / hour. It honestly didn’t bother me and taught me the value of giving more than you receive. Overall, I was pretty happy! I was working with my hands, learning something new and being a part of something bigger than myself.
Boat building was a part of my life for about 12 years, I worked on carbonfibre racing yachts, super yachts, sailing yachts and everything in-between. I enjoyed the first 10 years of my life outside of school, but after a little self-reflection, I decided that I didn’t want the next 10 years to be the same as the last. I set out to tick the first thing off my bucket list – don’t laugh – working at a video shop! I would spend 40 hours a week building boats, and in the afternoons, I spent another 15 hours working as a night shift manager at my local video shop. Also known as living my dream. This meant working days were 6am until 10pm. They were long days, but there was variety, so I loved it. This also helped me save up to work on some personal projects. I had lots of little things I was working on, and one of them was – skulls!
What inspired you to become an artist?
What started this path is actually pretty funny. My roommates at the time bought me a house-warming present, which was a cheap little Dollarshop ceramic skull with a dragon on the top of it. I wasn’t a huge fan! It looked terrible, but with my background in boat building – bringing ideas to life – I did see potential to make it look a little cooler. I cut off the dragon on the top of the skull, went to my local hardware store and bought some matte black and gold paint. I sprayed the skull black and hand painted gold teeth! After this little freshen up, I really, really liked it! So much so that it became my favourite piece of décor in my house. I enjoyed the process so much that I decided to make an upgraded version of it. I purchased a medical grade human anatomy skull and gave it the same paint job using some slightly higher quality materials. A cornerstone of my personality is progression. I couldn’t help but think about what my next skull was going to look like! This little random series of events lead to what you see today with my work. It’s almost been 10 years now, and I’m still so in love with what I do, and dreaming up how my next skull will look.
How would you describe your art style and how long did it take you to master it?
I describe my style as surprise and delight. With every new piece, I try to create something new that people haven’t seen before! I’ve been a dedicated artist for about 10 years now, and I still don’t believe I have mastered it. There’s still a lot for me to explore within the art world.
Was it difficult to become a fulltime artist and what risks, challenges, or setbacks did you have to face in your art career?
It was difficult, really difficult. And it didn’t happen overnight, that’s for sure! When I first pursued creating art, I was also working 40-hour weeks as a boat builder and another 15 hours a week as a video shop clerk. I worked these three jobs for 2 years before I left that video shop job, so I could use that afternoon time to take my artworks down to the post office.
Fast-forward another year and I finally left my day job as a boat builder since I couldn’t keep up with the demand and was turning down commission work. I worked from my garage for another two years, then bit the bullet, got a loan and bought a factory space. It was an old gym stripped back to a blank slate with a tiny kitchen and bathroom. I lived there for two cramped years.
When I made the jump to go all in on full-time, I had an extremely healthy and consistent amount of work coming in which minimized the amount of risk I was taking. This enviably led to being able to be an artist for the last 10 years. The biggest mistake I see people make is that they just randomly choose to drop everything in their life and do art full time. I see this as a huge mistake.
Were there any significant events during your art career that influenced your artistic development?
I wouldn’t say there was anything specific. The biggest driving factor for my development is consistent growth. For me, it doesn’t matter where I am in the journey, just as long as I am moving forward in a positive direction.
How long did it take you to achieve financial success as an artist and what lessons did you learn along the way?
I view financial success as the ability to be able to solely operate as an artist full-time without needing to work anywhere else. In saying that, it took me about 3 years. The biggest thing I learnt is that sacrifice is a huge part of that early journey. I feel grateful for my team of 15 people, but it took a lot of sacrifice to get here. A lesson I learnt is that if you’re not willing to sacrifice anything, you probably won’t get too far.
Part 3 is Coming Soon!
Interview organized by Maximus Communications. The World Art News (WAN) is not liable for the content of this publication. All statements and views expressed herein are only an opinion. Act at your own risk. No part of this publication may be reproduced without written permission. © The World Art News