Interview: Drew Tyndell

September 28 2014

Designer Drew Tyndell grew up doodling at the drafting table of his father, the architect. It is in the intersection of playful color and architectural simplicity that Tyndell’s work feels most at home. As an animator, Drew has worked with Cartoon Network and Fuel TV. As an artist, his dimensional wooden collages are shown around the world and have earned the Nashville based creative much acclaim. We spoke to Tyndell to learn a bit more about his process, projects, and how BMX finds its way into his work.

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You dapple in many fields, how do you describe what you do? Are you a designer, illustrator, sculptor? Or just a ‘Creative’?

I am a bit of a dabbler I guess. My artwork has always been a moonlight ordeal, or a weekend warrior type of thing. I owned a design studio in Atlanta doing mostly broadcast design and animation for the last eight years, but recently parted ways to fly free. It’s been nice to be able to work full-time on any project that comes my way. I spend some days painting, interspersed with animation and design projects. It’s a really nice mix. I enjoy many different creative outlets.

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I’ve read that your father was an architect – how do you feel this informed your work?
I grew up around my dad’s home building and design business, going from running around his job sites as a kid to working for him full-time on my summers during college. The whole process from start to finish is something I’ve always been familiar with and was a natural subject matter to apply to my work.
I remember as a kid playing at my dad’s drafting table…ruining all his pencils and erasing everything I could with his electric eraser. House plans were always something laying around our house and I think it’s easy to see that in my work.
My grandfather also designed log homes, and developed new ways of stacking logs that I always found interesting. It wasn’t until later in my life that I looked back and connected all the dots. It’s cool to see its influence now.

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Are there any other particular influences from your childhood that show up in your work today?
This is not necessarily from my childhood but in college I was really inspired by David Carson. I loved all this layouts for Raygun Magazine, especially the photography. I minored in photography at Ringling and spent a year making a book of image pairings. This was really before digital photography got going, so I processed and printed every photo by hand in a dark room. Its really hard to think about that now, but I think it changed the way I take pictures for sure.

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This may just be me projecting, but your work seems to be influenced by a lot of the surf/skate culture and corresponding art of the 70’s – 90’s. Were you an active kid, or “boarder” of some kind?

For sure! Probably the other huge influence in my life. I grew up racing BMX … my family would travel all over the place for races. We’d go as far as our Dodge Caravan could take us in a single weekend.
I also skated. I remember getting my first board when I was in the first grade probably. My dad would take my brother and me to the skate shops and we’d rent out all the Bones Brigade movies from the ’80s and ’90s. I think the Powell Ripper logo animation might still be one my favorite bits of animation i’ve ever seen.

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Your professional work revolves around a lot of seemingly unforgiving mediums, stop motion, animation, that require a lot of precision and planning. Are you particularly attracted to these processes? Do you think the process informs your art?
I like processes that take a lot of work. I think they’re the most rewarding, especially now when software is making it increasingly easier to make a slick-looking product. There is a realness to traditional methods that I love.
On the other hand it can be a torturous process, but it seems to show up in a lot of places in my life. Whether I’m puzzling together a million pieces of wood for a painting or riding my bike 100 miles in the mountains, I like a tough challenge.

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Do you have a particular process , system, or theory that drives you work?
I aim for simplification. I enjoy the challenge of breaking down structures, landscapes, and typography down to their most basic forms. I think that’s been the driving force behind my artwork for the last 5 years.
As far as my design and animation work goes, I try to take it as lightheartedly as possible. It’s an uptight industry…so I’ve always set out to make fun stuff.

You create dense and intriguing, but ultimately uninhabitable environment in your work. Do you think you’ll ever build larger scale work? Perhaps a home?
Building a home is one of the biggest goals I have. I think that when the opportunity comes I’ll be completely overwhelmed … I’ve wanted to do it since I was young. My wife and I almost built one in Nashville this year, but got cold feet and decided the time and place weren’t right. We’re currently saving our pennies, and setting our sights on California. I’ve been doing lots of job hunting out there, and hope to find something that fits all my dabbling.

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Are there any particular projects, your own or those of others, that are inspiring you right now?
I’ve been super inspired by early abstract animations from the ‘20s. Artists like Walter Ruttman and Oskar Fischinger. I recently saw an animation exhibition at the Frist Museum in Nashville that really inspired my recent binge of instagram videos. I’ve been hand-painting animations and making some weird loops. I’ve also been dabbling in a little sound design for them, which has been fun.
I’m also looking forward to showing some paintings at the Architecture Digest Home Show in New York next spring for their curated MADE section.

You can find more of Drew’s work at drewtyndell.com and follow him on Instagram @drewtyndell