published Sunday, March 3rd, 2013

Faces of the artist: Teen artist spreads his focus across portraits, fantasy, cartooning

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    Andrew Hull, a junior at Center for Creative Arts, says most of his early portrait attempts were self-portraits.
    Photo by Connor Choate.
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To see his work

Andrew Hull is selling a new collection of fantasy characters at today’s Con Nooga event in the Chattanooga Convention Center from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Andrew Hull says his childhood efforts at drawing fantasy figures were the result of a young artist's frustration.

"I've been drawing for as long as I can remember. I remember not being able to draw what I could see, being young and unskilled, so I drew what I couldn't see," says the junior at Chattanooga Center for Creative Arts. "I began drawing from my imagination, making creatures and spaceships and cartooning."

It wasn't until his middle-school years, when he began to take art seriously, that he found his passion in portraiture.

"Drawing people's faces was one of the first things I learned to do from observation. I've always been fascinated with faces, so I naturally gravitated toward them."

Portraiture can be a tricky combination of an artist's perception of a person balanced with that subject's concept of their own identity. So before trying to capture others in his sketches, he says he began with himself.

"Most of my early portraits were self-portraits -- just drawing my face, trying to figure out how to approach a face, how to figure proportions," he says. "I have found lips give me the hardest time because teeth never look right; lip size is really difficult in trying to capture the width of a mouth and where it is on a face."

The 16-year-old says he soon discovered that the principles of drawing from observation overlapped -- and improved upon -- the artwork pulled from his imagination.

"Cartooning is stylized, but I've found that really being able to draw from observation is the key to everything. If you don't know how a face is structured, if you don't know anatomy, then it is much harder to draw something without looking at it."

Andrew debuted a collection of portraits this weekend as an exhibitor at Con Nooga, the multi-genre fandom convention that wraps up today. His art on display at the event includes portraits of video game and movie characters as well as personalities of his own creation.

His talents seem to come naturally, perhaps from as deep as his DNA since his mother, Eleanor, is an art teacher and his father, Bill, is a photographer.

"Andrew is quite the Renaissance man. He can act, sing." says Chad Burnette, fine arts teacher at CCA.

In addition, he maintains a 4.0 grade-point average.

"He is a very dedicated student in that he is always working on something," says CCA visual arts instructor Justin Black. "His portrait work is very nice and definitely in an advanced level among his peers."

Black says it's not uncommon for high school artists to "fall short on work ethic," which results in never reaching their talent's full potential. That's not Andrew's problem.

"He continues to improve his technical ability in a variety of media," says Black.

At a recent school fundraiser, Andrew drew portraits of guests at the dinner. His peers clustered around him, watching with delight as he brought strangers to life on his sketchpad.

"Andrew's art speaks volumes about how he thinks," says CCA Principal Deborah Smith. "When he's doing a portrait of someone, he captures the emotion, the facial expressions that convey personality. He shows emotion through shading, and he knows how to choose the right technique to convey what he wants."

Andrew says he also has experimented with landscapes and done a "fair amount" of sculpture, another form of anatomy from observation.

When cartooning, he says he sketches the strip in pencil, goes over it in ink, then scans it onto the computer to color it digitally for consistency.

"His digital animation -- very impressive stuff!" Burnette notes. "It looks quite professional."

As if he doesn't have enough to do, Andrew says he and a friend are currently developing a comic series.

"It centers around two friends who are adolescents. Randy is the brash one, the person who leaps before he looks and usually gets in trouble. Andy is an inventor, and the one who gets Randy out of trouble," he describes.

He admits their characters' personalities draw traits from both creators. "I would probably be Randy," he decides, laughing. "I really am a cautious person, but I think I fit Randy's more boisterous personality."

about Susan Pierce...

Susan Palmer Pierce is a reporter and columnist in the Life department. She began her journalism career as a summer employee 1972 for the News Free Press, typing bridal announcements and photo captions. She became a full-time employee in 1980, working her way up to feature writer, then special sections editor, then Lifestyle editor in 1995 until the merge of the NFP and Times in 1999. She was honored with the 2007 Chattanooga Woman of ...

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