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Five Minutes With | Andrew J. Steel

By Marilynn McLachlan
4th Apr 2017

Five Minutes With | Andrew J. Steel

People used to call the police on Andrew. Now, those same people are buying his art and commissioning him to do one-off works on walls their homes. Easily recognisable in Auckland, his cartoon-like figures pop up unexpectedly on walls around the city. And, with Air Max celebrating its whopping 30th anniversary, Andrew created a one-off piece of art based on the past, present and future of the shoe. 

We sat down with him to get the low down on his latest project, where he gets his inspo and his favourite local venues. 

Thanks so much for chatting with us! Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

I’m a creative; I make all forms of art but widely known for my street work. I’ve created some of the largest scale public artworks in the country and work with some of our countries most forward-thinking people. I spread myself far and wide. I travel a lot, run and train, sail, lip-sync to rap. Being a creative is about doing a bunch of diverse things and translating that into an art form.

And what about your latest project with Nike?

I’ve teamed up with Nike to celebrate Air Max Day 2017. I’ve worked closely with them to share my story, learn about theirs, and I’ve done a series of artworks for them to celebrate one of the world's most iconic shoes.

How did you first get started creating street art?

I’ve always seen the world as a playground—something you can add to, change, have fun with. Painting in public is as old as cavemen—it's just a contemporary take on a natural, human thing. I like the ability to interact with the environment I live in and the people in that area.

Where do you get your inspo from?

I look far and wide. You are your environment so I try to do a variety of things and hang out with a variety of people. I learn a lot from athletes: they're a dedicated and hard-working bunch. The business world: they get shit done. The artists: they see things differently and know how to have fun. I’m a hybrid.

What’s the best thing about being an artist?

Total freedom. You get to do whatever you want, whenever you want. No fate but what you make.

And the worst?

No security. You got to be pretty emotionally strong to pave your own path and build a career out of nothing.

If you weren’t an artist what would you be?

I got post-grad science under my belt so I guess in another life I’d be a lab rat?

What does an average day look like for you?

Wake up, exercise, smash shit, put out fires, celebrate existence, sleep and repeat. Chaos, mental breakdowns with dashes of calmness.

What would people be most surprised to learn about you?

What the J. stands for.

What is your life mantra?

Wake up, go to bed, do whatever you want in between those things. Life's short—so are cliches—but I think it's crucial to live the life you want because you only get one shot.

What do you love most about Auckland?

It’s got an incredible cultural scene: amazing art galleries, musicians, food, tattoos. But it's also incredibly naturally beautiful—some of the most amazing beaches, landscapes, islands our country has to offer. I get out exploring most weeks and never get disappointed.

What one piece of advice would you give to someone who wants to become an artist?

I’m still a work in progress and learning as I go, but everywhere I look I notice there’s a strong correlation between persistence and excellence. Whatever you do, work at it, stay hungry, be passionate and you’ll live the life you want.

Fave local spots:

For a drink? Pocket Bar.

For breakfast? L’ouef & Midnight Baker.

For dinner? Woodpecker Hill if I'm feeling Gucci. Merc’s Plaza if I'm feeling street.

For shopping? Any plant or book store.

For exercise? Nike+ Run Club—not even a plug. I genuinely love linking up with the variety of homies down there and kicking it.

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