Illustrator David D’Andrea‘s work is iconic, dark, intricate, and beautiful. His illustrations seethe with sinuous, accomplished line work and intentional rough edges. He draws from a variety of themes – the shelves of his small studio are crammed with dusty books: almanacs, type specimens, crumbling encyclopedias, and other esoteric visual references, all looking as if they had been rescued from a medieval basement. The eclectic influences show in the work: archaic lettering, obsessively detailed renderings of animals, and elements from numerous religions and cultures.
Written by Ian Lynam & Selena Hoy
D’Andrea has illustrated and created design work for a wide variety of projects, including gallery shows, tattoo designs, and most prominently, music packaging and band art. Bands he’s done work for read like a Who’s Who list of the most popular and challenging underground metal groups today, including High on Fire, Ulver, Asunder, Graves at Sea, and Japanese bands Coffins and Mind of Asian.
Soft-spoken, funny, and kind, D’Andrea has constantly been driven by visual and cultural research. Some of David’s “other interests include cryptozoology, flea markets, pseudepigrapha, vintage electronics, and parapsychology,” according to his website. In a collaborative zine he created in 1994, SuperBlackBlack (named for the gum), David’s picture is aptly captioned: “Looks scary, but isn’t.” Though containing a lot of dark imagery, D’Andrea’s work draws you in – it is seductive, engaging, and meticulously crafted.
When did you first start drawing?
Early gradeschool. Mad and Cracked Magazines and daily cartoons started it all. Later, by 6th and 7th grade, I devoured every Pushead drawing, VCJ graphic, skate logo and album cover in Thrasher. I quickly started a zine and connected with hundreds of small town kids like myself. Looked at Club Homeboy, Bend, Swank, and so many others. This created a certain aesthetic that I think has stuck with me to this day.
Who and what were some early influences?
The graphics of punk and metal were prevalent, but once I was turned onto all the standard dark-sider fine artists, my tastes developed further. Schiele, Warhol, Beskinski… pretty standard “gateway” artists.
What does your current practice consist of?
My current practice consists of about 80 percent band merchandise, some private commissions, and random design works. I also have one foot in the gallery world, which is fun, but not my focus. I am first and foremost an illustrator. I enjoy the fact that illustration is very much a trade.
Where do you draw the line between illustration and fine art, both generally and in your own practice?
I really went up against this debate while in school, and until then, I never even considered a difference. I don’t see a definable line. An illustration should be able to stand on its own, and in turn be viewed as a piece of fine art. I am most attracted to “illustrative” work on a wall, but it can be a Rauschenberg or an architectural drawing… I really have no preconceptions.
In my own work, I usually try to create a strong piece that can be shown (or developed further) later in a gallery. The piece is usually only worked on in its final stages via photoshop. This process enables me to have a foot in both worlds. Blurs the lines, I hope, and makes the argument irrelevant.
Is there a preferred medium that you utilize?
Mixed… pen and ink with low key color usually. The method of reproduction, if I know that beforehand, tends to determine the medium. Sometimes I utilize bits of collage and paper ephemera.
What is your favorite project that you have worked on so far?
Asunder “Works Will Come Undone”. I had free reign over the artwork and I am very into their ideas conceptually… plus it’s a crushing album. I have known them personally for quite a few years and have been honored to be a big part of their visual aesthetic. The album is being released on vinyl soon and I am very excited about that. Also, the shows with Stephen Kasner have been an ongoing favorite project.
What path have you followed to become a full-time illustrator?
About 5 years ago I decided that I’d go to art school. At that point I had done a lot of zeroxed flyers and a few shirts. I was largely encouraged by my friends and family to take it all a step further. I received my BFA in Illustration last year.
Was there a certain impetus or instance that kick-started you into making the jump?
I simply felt that it was time to try formal schooling. I put it off for many years. I was on tour with High On Fire, a particularly cathartic period of my life. I had been selling my t-shirt design at their shows all across Europe and the US. Once home, I felt that I should stop traveling and concentrate on developing my skills.
What are some contemporary influences?
What are some projects that you are currently working on?
I am currently working on an album for Winters on Rise Above Records, a Coffins (Japan) album on 20buckspin, a shirt design for Portland punk band Warcry), a design for Ulver (Norway), a private commission, a series of hand painted denim jackets, and a few other secrets….
What is your dream project?
I really enjoy putting together the split shows with Kasner. We’ve been approaching each opening as an event with a musical performer and total environment. I’d love to expand it by organizing a tour of the world (especially EU) with our work accompanied by a few select performers.
What is the setting like around your studio?
I recently relocated to Portland, Oregon. The setting around my studio has gone from the inner city of Oakland to the green rivers and train tracks of Portland. I am noticing a direct influence on my work, which has always been rooted in nature, but is becoming more so. Also, Portland has allowed me to turn inside out a bit without having to keep up my psychic self-defense. The inner city also has its crucial influence. I am swimming in both waters at the moment, traveling back and forth – which is perfect.
If you were to make a mixtape for PingMag readers, what would the tracklist be?
The Northwest has rekindled my love for black metal lately… Xasthur, the Ulver trilogy, Immortal. I would also include sombre funerial doom à la Skepticism), Thergothon, and My Shameful. Katatonia, Nick Cave, mid 80′s Sonic Youth, Leonard Cohen… and I am also fond of more minimalist, environmental and organic sounds such as Thomas Koner and Ruhr Hunter.
Thanks to Davey to taking the time out to give us a studio tour on our recent trip to Portland and to share his extensive body of work with us!