Each month we partner with a new Exchange District artist to share their work in our window display.
This month we’re pleased to host the contemporary portraiture of painter Andrew James Blair!
His works range from representational to the abstract and are often found on the continuum between them. Working primarily in oil and gouache (opaque watercolor), he employs broad strokes, organic movement, texture, and limited colour palettes to create a sense of impermanence and variability. His goal is for the viewer to be drawn in by the unnatural properties of a piece and still recognize and connect with the underlying representation.
His studio is located on the corner of McDermot and Arthur in the heart of the Exchange District.
Andrew was kind enough to answer a few questions to help us get to know him and his connection to the neighbourhood.
Tell us, what inspired you to become a painter?
I’ve always had a fascination with creating physical things. When I was young, I used to draw constantly every chance I had and sculpt creatures out of clay. I don’t view it as a choice as much as I believe that regardless of what I do, I will always be a painter. As an adult and a working artist, I see it as a necessary part of life. Being an artist is intertwined with my identity and is something that I could never separate from that.
Describe a day in your art practice:
Some days are spent working on portrait studies or still lifes. I am constantly trying to better my technical skills and my understanding of the craft. Other days are spent working on commissioned pieces and personal projects. I’ll gather tons of references, from life and other sources, to find the best way to express my own artistic vision. My sketchbooks, these days, are filled with complete paintings. It’s been a long time since I roughed anything out in pencil.
What inspires you to create the work you do?
The work I do tows the line between representational art and the abstract. I’m enamoured with the human form, and recreating that in art, but I want to show more feeling in my work than strictly representational work. I’m inspired by the day-to-day life and the struggles that everyone faces. I want my audience to be drawn in by the unnatural properties of my works but still recognize and connect with the underlying subject in my works. People inspire me, in general.
Why do you choose the exchange for your studio / art practice?
The Exchange District is the hub of the arts in Winnipeg. The culture that exists around the area is unparalleled, both in support of the arts, and the community of artists that live and work there. Its central location gives me easy access to events, networking, and leisure in my down time. Beyond that, I would be nothing without the support of the community that’s founded around the Exchange District.
Ok, rapid-fire, neighbourhood favourites:
Curry fries at the King’s Head and falafel wraps at Shawarma Khan.
Forth is my first stop, with their convenient location and good coffee, but a list of coffee in the exchange couldn’t be complete without mentioning parlour. An honourable mention goes out to the Winnipeg Free Press Cafe for always having my back when I needed a cup of joe.
After hours / drinks?
Nonsuch is one of the best breweries and taprooms in the city, with their fantastic, high ABV belgian-style ales and ever-improving food menu. Forth is a tie with their unparalleled cocktail lounge right on McDermot Avenue. They are both truly must-sees in the Exchange.
Tiny Feast, Red River Books, and Antiques & FUNK.
Thanks for sharing your work with us, Andrew! Follow him on Instagram to see more of his work.