Andrew Swarbrick Wants To Take You To Space

Andrew Swarbrick is a New Zealand-based artist whose work cannot possible leave you indifferent. His oil paintings cultivate a kind of weirdness that generates strong emotions among the art profane and art savvy alike.

The artist’s art offers an intricate color palette and an affinity for oddness complimented by elaborate kaleidoscopes of shapes, bodies and faces. Indeed Andrew Swarbrick isn’t reluctant to showcase the beauty of a contorted body or an ultra expressive face adorned by more than one pair of eyes. In a way, the artist surfs between the world of realism and surrealism as a way to transcend frontiers.

Untitled artwork by Andrew Swarbrick

Andrew Swarbrick refuses to comply with the simple imitative reproduction of models whose face and features he should scrupulously respect. Perhaps we can see in this desire, an attempt at protesting against the obligation of mimesis. It is as if the artist used, for example, distortion in order to be able to break with tradition and stand out from it. Because deformation, which generally designates a modification of forms in relation to the current perception of a represented object, modulate the construction of well-known forms and shapes.

I want to show the beauty I witness in people that they usually perceive as ugliness.

The artist’s affinity for total freedom can probably be traced back to his background as a tattoo artist. Andrew Swarbrick mentions the influence tattooing had on his own art as it was a medium that allowed him to learn new styles and approaches. “Tattooing is very striking, and bold, bright, high contrast and “over the top” images and designs tend to stand out the most; some of the most amazing work I have seen is from people unafraid to be bold, to push the limits and see what can be done… These experiences feed my artistic practice”, confides the artist.

Furthermore Andrew Swarbrick, eager to convey his genuine enthusiasm to connect with people through art, mentions the emotional aspect of his practice as a tattoo artist. Indeed, in this context, he gets to witness people’s spiritual journeys and accompany them on this journey through art. “Showing the beauty I witness in people that they usually see as ugliness. Spending hours close to the wrinkles, folds, veins and blemishes in their skin, that they choose to wear or cover and what they choose to permanently mark it with”.

There is no such thing as death, life is only a dream, and we are the imagination of ourselves”… The more I look into this, the more it rings true.

From his earlier experiences as a budding artist in high school, Andrew Swarbrick recalls having one of these teachers which views on what did or did not constitute art would generate a need for Andrew to explore art on his own terms. “What I was interested in exploring was very much not art in her eyes; my skills, talent, practice and passion was written off instead of being directed and nurtured”. Landscapes with flattened forms, strong outlines and a decorative approach to the treatment of form and space seemed to be the most valued elements in her teachings. “A far cry from the aliens, superheroes and crazy surrealist ideals of my youth”, jokes the artist.

Soon enough, he would pursue his own learning through a series of books by Burne Hogarth. These volumes exposed Andrew Swarbrick to the human form. How to convey shape, weight, expression and movement, and how to manipulate proportions, lighting and pose to convey my ideas. “Frank Frazetta, H.R. Geiger and most of the artist contributing to 2000AD magazine taught me so much through my studies of their work.”

Additionally, Andrew Swarbrick shares with us how from a very young age his bustling imagination allowed him to draw miniature worlds, spaceships, alien battles, heroes and monsters. He mentions the world of Star Trek next generation as a never-ending source of wonder for his child self. In a way, the artist’s art today is a reflection of that world. Perhaps, a more refine re-interpretation.

The artist also mentions the physical disabilities he suffered and led to him spending a consequential amount of time in and out of hospitals. It was an emotionally traumatic time for the artist. Andrew Swarbrick suffered from depression at an early age and appears to still be processing and navigating these emotions to this day. “Having major surgery to attempt to correct some things that resulted in me being in a wheelchair for about a year; back then there was one TV on the whole children’s ward, no internet access, and nothing to really do but read, and draw so thats what I did, read comics and novels… Making my own comic strips and drawing self portraits of me being sad in my wheelchair”.

Nonetheless, the artist honed his skills and poured his entire passion into creating art in a way that set him apart from other children. Perhaps it is cliché to say so but art genuinely saved him and offered him a more positive outlook on his life. However it is difficult to walk the fine line between escaping through art and tying your entire self-worth to it by using success as a determining factor.

“I understand now how I was lining myself up for future mental heartache by welding my self image of worthiness with my success in art but I am forever grateful and in debt to that young kid who found his own light in the darkness; and kept feeding it his time and attention, changing the trajectory of his life so that could thrive doing what I love”, shares Andrew Swarbrick.

Geisha by Andrew Swarbrick

As for the artist’s work as it is now, it has evolved into somewhat of a psychedelic and mesmerizing journey through a new kind of space ecosystem. Andrew Swarbrick credits science-based podcasts and his overall interest in all things physics when talking about what inspires him. Black holes, the stars above us that humans can’t reach, the nature of consciousness according to neuroscience… all elements that help him channel the creative force he needs.

“To quote the comedian Bill Hicks: ‘Today a young man on acid realized that all matter is merely energy condensed to a slow vibration, that we are all one consciousness experiencing itself subjectively, there is no such thing as death, life is only a dream, and we are the imagination of ourselves’… The more I look into this, the more it rings true.”

When asked to walk us through his creative process for a piece like “Crabs In A Buckey” from its conceptualization to its completion, the artist exhibited a rare frankness where he highlights the heavy weight of depression and how negative thoughts can impact his productivity. “This piece came out of a frustration with my depression (…) The battle between the need to create, the lifelong dream of art, and the crushing weight of my mental health that hamstrings any effort to just get in front of the canvas”.

On a practical and technical level, Andrew Swarbrick tells us how it all starts with one idea. A seed, if you will. A thought that grows and morphs into action when he starts sketching thumbnail in ballpoint pen. He says that “it forces him into quick iterations rather than fiddling something to death”. Then, for this piece specifically, he asks his mother to pull some faces via the camera of their phones. She has a great face and understands that the painting isn’t a portrait of her so much as it is the reinterpretation of her face as reference.

“I used this and digitally painted out a few ideas, really loose stuff, playing with different temperatures and contrasts; I had a good idea of the overall composition, I just needed to get the swirling loose ideas tied down a bit more before I dove into the actual painting. Sketching it onto the canvass with colored pencil allows me to build up layers of ideas, and run everything through the filter of how I see things, my understanding of anatomy and drawing skills.”

Sometimes Andrew Swarbrick under-paints with burnt sienna or raw umber and white. Other times, he paints straight onto the canvas. He uses a limited palette of three primary colours and white in all of his paintings. Mixing all of the tones as transparent and opaques depending on the amount of white added to the mix, and using layering, glazes etc to build up an image. Pulling and pushing elements forward and back into the space until he is satisfied with it.

Another interesting aspect in Andrew Swarbrick’s work is that he is unafraid to reference the inherent sensuality and multi-faceted eroticism of women. One of his recent piece titled “Ayy girl, nice tats!” is both, according to the artist, a sort of commentary on tattoo culture and its misogyny still rampant to this day and a nod to the women he met along the way whether they were in or around the tattoo industry.

Crabs in a buckey by Andrew Swarbrick

“Ayy girl, nice tats!” is a depiction of a goddess of mushrooms, terrible yet grand. “A divine being which takes your psyche on a ride of her choosing and peels away their layers to reveal quivering people shaped like galaxies, barely holding on. The minds of the masses that surround her move to the beat of her drum”.

In spite of the misconceptions surrounding his art, Andrew Swarbrick wants people to see the beauty and love that he conveys. He aims to connect with viewers in ways that allow for growth and care. As conscious as he is of the confronting nature of his art, he still seeks to showcase how light and darkness can coexist with pain and humor. And that, again, in spite of his personal hurdles regarding his self-doubt or imposter syndrome.

Andrew Swarbrick is the illustration by excellence of what it means to seek light in darkness, favoring an empathetic approach to a stoic one.

As for the artist’s future, it seems bright and fruitful. And we cannot wait to experience his work again. In the meantime, the artist reminds us with the enthusiasm and joviality that constitute his brand: “I have an exhibition in the works for early next year in my hometown of Christchurch, and have a few announcements coming up over the next few months regarding some international art shows I will be attending, so watch this space!”

Andrew Swarbrick Social Media Accounts

Website | Instagram | Facebook


This site is protected by reCaptcha and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.

The reCAPTCHA verification period has expired. Please reload the page.

Beautiful Bizarre will never supply your information to anyone else without your explicit permission - see our PRIVACY POLICY.

Join the Beautiful Bizarre email list


This site is protected by reCaptcha and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.

The reCAPTCHA verification period has expired. Please reload the page.

Beautiful Bizarre Magazine takes your privacy seriously, we will
never share your information without your express permission.