We are thrilled to have been able to catch up with one of our newest Ambassadors, Gary Andrews, to discuss his life and work as an animator and illustrator, and how he uses his 'Doodleaday' diary as an outlet for his emotions after the death of his wife, Joy.
Hi Gary! Thanks so much for taking the time to talk with us today. We are so excited to have you as one of our Ambassadors for The 2019 Big Draw Festival! First off, could you start by telling us a little bit about you? Over the years you have worked as an animator, creating various characters for films and shows including Beatrix Potter and Fireman Sam. Could you tell us more about this, and your work in animation?
Hi! Thanks for asking me to be an ambassador – I’m so honoured. Well, I graduated art college in 1983 expecting to be an illustrator but sort of fell into animation. I discovered I had a natural aptitude for it and it has been my bread and butter ever since. Over the years I have worked on countless commercials and then found myself a supervising animator at a UK based branch of Disney for a while. After that, I moved more into animating on specials like the Beatrix Potter films. The industry began to change and storyboarding started to be the direction I headed in, which led on to my being asked to direct a few pilot shows and eventually this led to directing series. Alongside this I have continued working as an illustrator with my longest running gig being the ‘Sylvie Krin’ stories in Private Eye.
Your ‘Doodleaday’ diary became an incredible outlet for your grief after the death of your wife, Joy, in October 2017. However, I understand that you had been creating these daily doodles for some time prior to this. What was it that first inspired you to start creating these little pictorial summaries of each day?
Well, my day-to-day work was becoming increasingly digital and I simply missed the feeling of pen on paper. I decided to do at least one ‘real’ drawing a day and so using a diary as the motivation for that seemed to me to be the obvious solution.
Was it difficult continuing with your ‘Doodleaday’ diary after Joy’s death?
No – in fact I think not doing it would have felt harder, as it was so much a part of who I was, and an outlet for my emotions. Getting a feeling down on paper (either positive or negative) allowed me to process and move on past that.
You talk a lot about ‘positive grieving’. It is very human (and, in fact, very ‘British’!) to avoid discussing and dealing with grief, despite it being one of the most universal emotions. Through your drawings you have been able to illustrate not just the devastating side of grief, but the endearing side too. Why do you think that art is such a therapeutic outlet for grief?
It is such a primal urge. You only have to look at cave paintings to see that as a species we are primed to be creative in some way. The very act of creating or expressing is a kind of release… a valve to let out pent up feelings. Putting those feelings on paper de-mystifies them, let’s them out into the world.
This year’s theme is ‘Drawn to Life: Creativity and Wellbeing’, celebrating the incredible health benefits and healing powers of a more creative life. Do you think that it is important to encourage some more recognition of the transformative effects that engagement with the arts can bring?
Absolutely. I know for me, without my art I would have found the last 16 months a much harder and darker time. I try to encourage people to find something that they too are passionate about and to pour their feelings into it.
Whilst it is clear through your ‘Doodleaday’ diary that drawing is a huge part of your life, I imagine that it has also been an essential tool throughout your career in animation. Do you find that drawing plays an important role in all aspects of your life?
Yes. I am always drawing! It’s a great communication tool and I am lucky to have been born with a certain ability that allows me to use it as such.
Your ‘Doodleaday’ diary helps so many people understand how to cope with their own grief, including your children. It must be incredible being able to help so many others through such unspeakably difficult times, and create an online community for ‘positive grieving’. Have you found that helping others through your illustrations has in turn helped you?
Completely. I receive countless messages from all over the world from people who have found that the doodles speak to them on a personal level. I think it is because grief is so universal. Seeing how it is having a positive effect on others could not fail to have a positive effect on me too. Knowing this makes Joy’s death less pointless too, which eases the pain.
At The Big Draw we believe that everyone can draw, and everyone should have access to drawing. We hope that this year’s theme will encourage people to explore the transformative effects that creativity can have on our wellbeing, and focus on the process rather than the finished product. What advice would you give to anyone who feels they don’t have the confidence, nor the ability, to draw?
To just do it! I always say there is no such thing as a bad drawing – every drawing is a step on a learning curve. You see what didn’t work, identify that and try to improve it next time. Also – you are not necessarily drawing for other people. Not everyone is doing it for a job! Draw for yourself. The very act of drawing alone is the thing that matters – that creative surge. The tactile pleasure. The mental processing. Enjoy it!
Thanks so much for chatting with us, Gary!
Have you been inspired by Gary's interview and The Big Draw Festival 2019 theme: #DrawntoLife?
Why not join our global Festival in 2019? Registration is now open! Find out more about the benefits of becoming an organiser here and other ways to support The Big Draw's mission here.
Find out more about Gary's work through his website, or follow him on Twitter for daily 'Doodleaday' updates!