Colourful and joyous, Andres Garzon’s illustrations speak to the power of love, friendship, and community.

His whimsical characters spread joy and justice, whether linking arms to support women’s rights in merch he designed for Kingston’s Ban Righ Women’s Centre, or celebrating the healing power of nature in his free printable colouring pages.

A young man sits on a stool in an art studio.
Andres Garzon in Good Sport. Photo provided by Andres Garzon.

Currently, he is an artist-in-residence at the Good Sport gallery and studio where Londoners can see his work and speak with him directly. His first solo show opens at Good Sport in January. Working in both traditional and digital media, he has created a variety of promotional materials – theatre posters, album covers, magazine covers, business cards, new LondonFuse merchandise – as well as multi-media drawings that explore nature and relationships – both with oneself and others. One of the most striking themes in Garzon’s work is the experience of solitude and of being with oneself as a relational experience.

In this LondonFuse interview, Andres opens up about the importance of community and the value of honouring one’s unique creative process.

What is something you do regularly that you consider essential to your creative process?

It’s often small things that keep me fresh and coming up with new ideas. Sunny walks with good music, walking through neighborhoods and noticing small details, looking at gardens, appreciating signs of life or family. I try to value my time alone as much as I value my time with others, which means I make both a priority. Making art with others always feels like an essential part of my life in general; it’s special and unique and always has a huge influence on how I work on my own.

An art piece featuring a person sitting inside a glass bottle.
A self-portrait by Andres Garzon.

When alone, I try to read or find new artists online, and I try to write often – mostly just about how I’m feeling, what I’m going through, or what’s happening in my world. I read old journals often; I can see how I overcame certain obstacles or in what way I’m still feeling the same, and I like the idea of documenting my life in this way as a sort of project too.

How has your work changed over the years since you began creating? Is there a key moment when your style changed, became your own, or when you knew you had something to share with the world?

It’s definitely been in constant change, sometimes I feel like it’s just become hard for me to choose in which direction I want my work to go. So I keep switching lanes to see what clicks. Sometimes this is as simple as trying an unfamiliar medium or dramatically increasing or decreasing the size of my work. It has its bumps in the road, but ultimately, it’s worth using your mind in a new way, working a new muscle, or meeting someone who could change your whole perspective towards artmaking.

An art piece that reads "No Justice No Peace All Eyes on Mi'kma'ki"
An art piece Andres produced for See Collective, in support of Mi’kmaq fishermen. Provided by Andres Garzon.

I studied design in school and pursued art after graduation. I try to trust the change as it comes – it means growth and new challenges and ultimately work that feels more true to me. I make work based on personal experiences, and I try and find purpose in telling my story within the bigger story of queer art. So I hope I continue having more to say.

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What is your favorite place in or around London that has been a source of creative inspiration or support?

Public parks mostly. I love to people-watch and sit in the sunny grass, usually with friends. Sitting at different parts of the Antler River along the many trails in the city. Any forest I haven’t walked through already. In July 2020 I became a member of Good Sport Gallery and Studio when we moved into our new spot at 402.5 Richmond Street.

Prior to this, I’ve worked in studios alone, and I definitely missed working around others. There are 9 artist studios in our shared space, as well as a gallery space within Good Sport, and the atmosphere there is so warm and welcoming. It’s made all the difference to be working alongside other very talented people. We have an option for shared members to use our space too, so it feels like there are new faces around often!

Have you ever felt a loss of inspiration that made you question your work or life path, or just made you want to start over?

Definitely— it happens all the time. The last two years of the pandemic have made it harder to maintain focus while navigating a new way of living. I find that every time I question my work or life path, it usually means I’m about to outgrow an aspect of what I’m doing now. I don’t enjoy being in transition much. I am such a destination-based kind of person, so it can be hard to practice patience in the times when it’s most valuable. It can be tough, but in those times, I try to remember what is at the core of the work I make. Re-evaluating that can be a very grounding experience and helps me draw a road map of where I want to go next. I’ve started over many times, and each time has led me to learn something new about myself.

What advice do you have for young artists just starting out? What advice do you wish someone had given you?

The advice I give is the kind I try and follow everyday: perseverance, patience, and trust in yourself. I think those are the hardest to maintain but become the foundation upon which to build a long-lasting arts practice. If you are planning on selling your work, figure out who the audience you want to appeal to is. Be organized from the beginning – clean out your email or set up a new one, have a spot in your workspace that’s dedicated to anything to do with the business side of your practice.

Learning to communicate clearly and professionally will help out in the long run. Understand your value and how to communicate it – ask yourself: what is your skill level? Where do you excel? How much is your time and effort worth? Recently, I’ve been learning to preserve and store my work better, and the value of buying better materials too.

Your LondonFuse merch designs – “London is Home” – express a cozy, loveable image of the city. What aspect of this city make it feel like “home” for you, and how do you think London could change to become, or continue to move towards becoming, a better “home” in the future?

I’d be interested to hear how all London residents would answer this question, honestly! For me, London has felt most at home when I’ve been surrounded by a community of people who understand me, accept me, and celebrate me for everything that I am. I’ve been fortunate to find these people in so many circles, and tying them to certain parts of the city has made it feel my own, after so many years. Home is familiarity to me – my best friend’s apartment, my favourite park to sit in, the people I walk by every morning, that kind of stuff. Anyone can find that in their life, if they look close enough.

An art piece featuring hills with flowers and trees growing from them.
“The Promised Land” by Andres Garzon.

I still wish for more safe spaces for queer and non-binary people. I wish for affordable housing and broader support for houseless folk. Despite its drawbacks, I’ve still witnessed so much sense of solidarity and community in London that many have said to not find anywhere else. I think highlighting the work of many volunteer and BIPOC-led initiatives would be a great way to see it become a welcoming and safe place to many others. The city listening to Indigenous voices advocating for truth and reconciliation, and then supporting these groups properly would be a great place to start. Oh, and more parks!

One thing I love about your website is that you show some of your process, such as preliminary sketches and drafts. What would you say are some common misconceptions about the creative process that you’ve encountered?

Probably that [the creative process is] quick and easy from the get-go. The truth is, the process is rewarding, but rarely is it as glamorous as the end product. Sometimes it’s not even immediately rewarding. I’ve struggled most with self-doubt and procrastination within the process of artmaking, and both rob the experience of joy and freedom. It’s different for everyone, and it should be that way. Sure, there is power in routine and rule, but I find I’ve felt the happiest with my work when I’ve tried to break free of my own limitations or the ones taught to me. It’s also never been easy for me on my own, and I take pride in saying I work better with and around others, needing and welcoming their perspectives, critiques, and accountability.

You are also a writer. Can you say a little bit about the ways that your art and writing work together or feed each other?

There are things that I find easier to say or write down over visualizing and materializing. For others, it’s the other way around. I found that the easiest way to build confidence in my voice and story was to document it in a way that felt more concrete or tangible. I have been consistently writing for myself since I was 15: journals, small poems, monologues, speeches, prose. I never took it seriously because I thought writing wasn’t my strongest suit and focused my effort elsewhere.

A collage featuring an open book and family photos.
Andres’ work for H.E.R.D. Photo provided by Andres Garzon.

It felt kind of natural to return to it these past two years with a new attitude and intention. I’ve been trying to diversify the mediums and methods I use to communicate the central parts of my practice – history, family, love and identity. Doing so in writing has allowed me to document them and share them in a new and challenging way. The written work and visual work inform each other simultaneously, helping me connect themes and ideas I might not have otherwise.

When you think about your recent creations, which piece or project (personal or professional) stands out in your mind as particularly meaningful for you and why?

The London community has embraced me many times. This past year I was able to collaborate on two fundraising initiatives using my artwork, and it felt good to put the work into helping others experiencing hardship and injustice. I published Pan doblado, con mantequilla (“Buttered bread, folded”) a short essay in the 2020 edition of HERD (Huron and Erie Regional Digest) and got to write about family and immigration specific to my experience growing up in London.

Two people are sitting in the grass, holding hands, facing away from the camera.
Part of Andres’ Pride Collection for Peace Collective. Photo by Rima Sater.

This past summer I launched my first Pride collection with Peace Collective. I’ve been lucky to have opportunities that have pushed my practice in many new directions.


You can follow Andres’ work on his website and Instagram. Andres also has work for sale through his own shop and through Good Sport.

 

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