Andrew Pommier likes to draw bunnies, sparrows, and people wearing animal heads. And more often than not, they're smoking. Seems pretty weird for someone whose favorite saying is "never smoke," but this Canadian is a study in contradictions. He and his younger brother–skate photographer Scott Pommier–were raised in the comparatively little mining town of Sudbury in Ontario, Canada but their work has been all over the world, from the pages of Thrasher and Transworld (Scott) to shows in Italy, Australia, and New York (Andrew). And though skate graphics often convey toughness through hackneyed metal clichés (skulls, hesh fonts, monsters), Pommier's art for skate companies like Toy Machine, RVCA, and Momentum is often touching, with renderings of Ed Templeton hugging an owl and Rick McCrank screaming in a squid outfit.
Many of these graphics–-along with Pommier's signature, saucer-eyed indie kids–can be found in Things I Don't Remember, published last November by the UK's Holy Water. "The book draws from the past nine years of sketchbook drawings, paintings (both watercolor and oil), and a smattering of the commercial work I have done," says Pommier. "I really like that I could include a lot of sketchbook stuff because I love it when I get to see how other artists get their initial ideas. Sketches pull back the curtain a little."
Following his May show, The Parallel Campaign, with Derrick Hodgson at Los Angeles' Lab 101 gallery, we caught up with this soft-spoken 31-year-old back home in Vancouver. He advised us to stay humble and, of course, never smoke.
XLR8R: Your human characters often wear animal ears, horns, or costumes. What does this symbolize for you?
Andrew Pommier: I don't really think in symbolic ways. My paintings and drawings aren't created based on a grand theory or for cerebral satisfaction. The images are created for the love of humor and affection for the odd and out of place. The displacement also rings with a kind of sadness. My paintings are about playing with images and icons. The costumes and cigarettes in some cases reinforce the separation of the characters from a normal day-to-day–the outsider.
Are the people that you draw and paint people that you know?
The people that I paint are almost always faces from my head. There are maybe one or two paintings that I was thinking about a person but never trying to duplicate their features; it's more about picking up on visual clues. I just draw and the face that comes out is the face that comes out.
You've said that you're a big fan of John Currin's work. Where did you first encounter his work and what is it you like most about it?
I became aware of Currin's work when I went to the Venice Bienniale in 1995 while I was going to school in Florence. It didn't really strike me at first but in later years I would trip over his work here and there and I really liked the direction he was going. I like that he sticks close to figurative work and works within the traditions of painting; also, his work is very playful and whimsical and sometimes just plain silly. All that and he is pretty successful.
What does the cigarette as an object represent to you?
The cigarette adds a certain toughness to the image. Also it seems to make the characters I draw or paint to be more based in the real world, [as if] the characters are just normal people going through their day. I also like the cigarette because it is one way to spoil the cuteness factor. I have always liked using symbols and this one symbol has been with me for a while. It seems to really connect to people. It is a commonality.
Who was your favorite skater growing up?
Mike Vallely. At the time he was one of the best street skaters and he rode for Powell-Peralta–everybody's favorite company in the '80s. As he states proudly these days, he was one of the first pros to break away from the major companies and ride for World Industries, a small upstart at the time. So he lead the charge and that was pretty dope when I was a 15-year-old kid living in Sudbury.
What character from a movie do you most relate to?
Fiver in Watership Down.
What is your big fear?
How do you and your brother [skate photographer Scott Pommier] influence each other?
We have introduced each other to so many different things. I can't even imagine what I would be like if I didn't grow up with Scott. He is pretty integral to the person I am today and I'm sure he would say the same of me. Scott has showed me what hard work and sacrifice can lead to. He has such a strong work ethic and is sharp as a tack figuratively and literally. Yes, he is a very pointy young lad. Ouch.
Where is your art going next? Any new mediums or stuff you're changing?
I think I'll be changing a lot of the imagery I have relied upon for the past few years. Once I finish paintings for a show I always feel that it is time for a change. I don't really plan what to do next. I just roll with what I'm drawing in my sketchbook at the time. There is no medium shift at the moment. Oil painting will always be what I love to do. Watercolor is still pretty new to me and I'm happy with what I am producing so that will continue.
What song did you have your first make-out session to?
Something by Led Zeppelin. The fact that was playing in the background will forever piss me off because I really can't stand that band and it will always be with me. It was only playing because I was at my friend's apartment and I put the tape on because I thought the girl would like it. As it turns out it didn't really matter what I put on, so I wish it had been Black Flag or the Dead Kennedys.
What are some of your favorite skateboard graphics ever?
I have always been a fan of the Chris Miller decks from the '89-'90 period–the ones with the drawings of the cats. The Mike Hill period at Alien Workshop was also pretty kick ass, all those dioramas. I really get a big kick out of skate graphics from the early '90s because there were no rules–nobody was thinking of branding or marketing. There was almost no money in skateboarding so nobody cared all that much about the graphics, a lot [of boards] didn't even have company logos or pro names on them. There are some real gems from that period, boards that would never see the light of day if you produced them today.
List five random things that are making you happy at this moment in time.
A day out with [my girlfriend] Tiffany and the dog. Morning coffee. Faber Castel pens. Apple products. Velcro.