Andy Sewell’s work evokes a sense of familiarity, capturing scenes from everyday life in the outdoors.
The Viola artist paints landscapes of the Northwest, with plenty of trucks, barns and trout thrown in for good measure. His work is on exhibit now through February at Artisans at the Dahmen Barn. Sewell paints, and relates to others, with a casual charm. He shared some details about his artistic career with Inland 360:
Artistic media: Watercolor and oils
Art beginnings: Sewell drew a bit as a child, but spent his teen years “recreating hard” in the mountains and rivers near Ketchum, Idaho, where he grew up. He wanted to take a watercolor elective class when he was a freshman at Boise State University, but his dad wouldn’t let him because “it wasn’t the responsible thing to do.”
Education: After a couple years of indecision and play at college, Sewell decided to get serious and enrolled in architecture at the University of Idaho. Art classes were required, and he finally got to take his watercolor class. “I loved it, it was so cool,” Sewell said. “Me and watercolor became great friends.” After that, he switched career paths, graduating in 1989 with a degree in graphic design.
Dabbling in painting: Sewell worked in graphic design and did watercolor paintings for family and friends. In 1999 he applied to an art show in Ketchum and was accepted. He made $11,000 that first show, selling originals and prints. It was years before he had that kind of success at an art show again, but it was all he needed to pursue painting more seriously.
On going pro: Eventually Sewell’s art shows brought in about as much as his salary. But making the leap to full-time career artist was tough — there’s something nice about a regular paycheck. Sewell remembers telling a friend that he’d rather try and fail to be a professional artist than never have the guts to try. He finally made the jump in 2003. Those first couple years were scary and hard, Sewell said.
On selling art: Sewell loves to paint, but he says the reality is that he’s “an art salesman and a painter on the side.” He loves talking with people at art shows, though it’s usually the talkers who walk away empty-handed, he said. He’s learned a few tricks of the trade, including adding bonus art for those who are on the fence about buying a piece — “People always love to have a deal,” Sewell said.
Inspiration: The rivers and mountains of his hometown have influenced his art, along with the watercolor paintings of Sun Valley artist, Nancy Taylor Stonington. He paints what he knows will sell — or what he wants hanging on his own wall, in the event that it doesn’t sell.
Process: Sewell paints from reference photos, sometimes combining them into one composition. “I use Photoshop a lot, it’s pretty cool. I’m sure daVinci would’ve thought so too,” he said. For example, he was photographing eagles at Lake Coeur d’Alene recently and captured an eagle backlit by the setting sun. He’ll likely combine this with a scene of the lake to give it regional context.
Familiar landscapes: “Wherever I do show, I have to paint their scenery,” Sewell said. Coastal landscapes sell on the Oregon Coast, Palouse hills sell on the Palouse and the Sawtooth mountains sell in southern Idaho.
On following your dreams: “I am blown away by how many people have their job because of fear,” Sewell said. He had the same fears but found they’re not worth listening to. “I just believe there’s a God in heaven who wants us to be who we are, to come into what we’re designed to do. He’s good. He can be trusted to take care of us.”
IF YOU GO:
WHAT: “Intermingling,” an exhibit of work by Andy Sewell
WHEN: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Thursday through Sunday, through Feb. 25
WHERE: Artisans at the Dahmen Barn, 419 N. Parkway, Uniontown