One of the advantages of living in our time is the freedom to reinvent yourself, whether it’s leaving a law practice to become a teacher, or deciding at 50 to learn to surf. When Andrew Faulkner became a full-time artist after 30 years as a successful graphic designer, it was both a reinvention and a return. Faulkner studied painting at Trinity College in Hartford, CT, and after graduating with a Fine Arts degree, chose a career in graphic design because it allowed him to be creative and earn a living. “Now I’m doing what I’m meant to be doing,” he says.
The son of a prominent Washington, D.C. architect who had his own firm, and the grandson of accomplished American impressionist Herbert Waldron Faulkner, Faulkner knew early on that he wanted to work on his own. But even as the principal of Andrew Faulkner Studio in Sausalito, California, independence had its limits. “When you’re a graphic designer you always want people to let you do what you want to do for your project and that never happens,” he says. “So as a painter I get to do whatever I want to do, but I needed a little push to actually make that transition.”
The push came six years ago, when he signed up for a one-week-long painting workshop on the island of Molokai in Hawaii. “I realized after really immersing myself in painting that this is what I had to do full-time—it was not a maybe, it was a definite,” Faulkner says. Portland Art Gallery artist Bibby Gignilliat, a fellow participant in the workshop, encouraged him, and eventually helped him secure a studio space in Sausalito, where he has made meaningful connections with other artists. Faulkner’s sister lives in Portland, and on visits to her, he would stop by the gallery, making sure to sign the guest book and include his Instagram account. It wasn’t long before he was invited to join the gallery’s roster of artists.
While he worked as a graphic designer, Faulkner continued to draw and paint as a hobby, and also created digital paintings, selling the prints as a side gig. “Now, I’ll take photos and do a digitally painted sketch from a photo and print that out, and that will be my sketch for a painting,” he says. “When I approach the canvas I start by looking at the sketch, but probably not after day one. I’m in my own world.”
Faulkner’s recent work is more abstract, and the concepts for these landscapes often spring from his head. “I take the journey by myself with just drawing a horizon line and then exploring painting in a road or some trees—and then maybe painting them out—so it’ll push and pull until I find something that I like,” he says. In these pieces, what holds the viewer’s eye is color, the proper use of which he credits to a demanding Trinity art professor. “I was at the point where I was drawing with color and I wasn’t using color to achieve space, but by the end of my time at Trinity I was starting to get to feel like I had that authority with color. It’s such a worthy goal to have the color chemistry work so there’s harmony, a sense of space, and a sense of place, so I’m always trying to achieve that magic.”