Andrew “Android” Jones is an extremely skilled digital painter that continues to blur the line between abstract psychedelia and computer generated realism. During college, he interned at Industrial Light & Magic (ILM), one of cinema’s most prestigious special effects institutions. He then went on to work at Nintendo as a character concept artist which aided in the creation of his own company, Massive Black, and helped to round out his vision as an artist.
Android’s work has been immortalized and firmly entrenched in the contemporary psychedelic arts scene via viral internet presence. He is a prominent and long standing contributor to the Burning Man festival and has even been commissioned to work for the Royal Family of Abu Dhabi. Working since the age of eight to perfect his visual vernacular, he continues to evolve and reify the immense and mystical artistic dreamscapes that he has acquired through travel and transcendental exploration.
Featuring dazzling color palettes infused with Mandelbrot-esque geometric fractals (as well as a notable Asiatic component), he has set himself apart from many artists in his field. What is just as impressive in my opinion, is how crisp and hyper-realistic these creations are. While undoubtedly electronic simulacra, they possess a certain verisimilitude that is reminiscent of ultra high-def, big budget animation. He has been able to consistently blend together art and technology to create beautiful tapestries. For this interview, we decided to trim a bit of the fat and jump directly into the more poignant facets of Android’s work. I would also like to an extend a tremendous thank you to Martha Gilbert (one of Android’s team members) for giving me such a wonderful opportunity.
Prox: What did you learn from working at prestigious companies like ILM and Nintendo? How did these experiences help you grow as a person, artist, and businessman?
AJ: ILM was a very formative experience I think. I think the greatest lesson I really took away from it was actually an appreciation and awareness of what Lucas would call “The Force” and more specifically really, the techniques and dynamics of focusing your intent and your concentration to unleash the power of your imagination. Through the combination of imagination, discipline, and will, these factors used in the right way and with the right intentions, there is an unlimited amount of potential. Working and continuing in the field of film and games I also learned that contributing my energy into those kind of projects wasn’t really where my heart was. I didn’t really feel that, that was the most authentic expression of what I felt called to do.
Prox: What spurred you to create your own company, Massive Black? What is the overall aim of the project?
AJ: I would say Massive Black was born out of the reckless and naive hubris of youth. A group of friends and I were all working at different companies and we just got fed up with having a boss so we figured we’d strike out on our own and make our own company, legacy, and sell the company for millions of dollars some day to some chump. If there is any group of artists out there that are considering making any radical life decisions or starting a company together, I really recommend that there is at least one semi-seasoned or experienced business person in the mix. As far as calling your company Massive Black, in retrospect, I recognize that might not have been a recipe for success.
Prox: How did you get involved with Burning Man and the Psychedelic community? What is it like to be involved with such a time honored tradition?
AJ: Funny enough, it was actually another artist at ILM while I was interning who was the first person I had ever met that had gone to this Burning Man thing. They planted the seed in there and I started looking at the pictures and the videos and my fantasies started to unfurl. It wasn’t until 2003 that I went to my first burn and there has been enough compelling potential and value to have brought me back there every year since. I think this year will be my thirteenth burn. It’s an honor to have grown up and kind of cut my teeth there. Burning Man, for at least the first decade, was like the Olympics of mind altering creativity. The momentum and the energy of the event really pushed me far beyond whatever I would have imagined my creative limitations were. It’s the kind of place where I would pass out airbrushing people. There was never enough of what I could give and I think it’s exciting to be in a place that has such a need for what you could offer and your gifts, that you can never really satisfy it. Yeah, Burning Man. Never satisfied, thank goodness.
Prox: Have you personally experimented with any psychedelic substances? What kind of insights and influences did you gain?
AJ: That would be an affirmative. I feel that as human beings, we are granted the freedom to personally explore the borderlands and boundaries of our consciousness. I didn’t make it into Space Camp so I’m not going to be an astronaut. I don’t have a whole lot of opportunity to explore space, but I’d be damned if someone’s gonna stop me from the sovereignty of my ability to explore the inner space, the infinite dimensions of the mind, creativity, and the mystery that is unknowable. These are tools that grant portals and access into different realms that I still haven’t fully been able to grasp or say that I have uncovered all of their meanings. I consider a lot of them to be evolvers. They have evolved my ability to navigate the world, they evolved my ability to solve problems, and helped me discover new and interesting combinations of energy and matter. Some have given me insights into the higher aspects of myself and some have shown me greater nightmares than I could ever depict or wish to imagine ever again. I think they have expanded the parameters of my depth as a human being on this planet.
Prox: What do you believe the future of computer based visual art is?
AJ: Well, I think the future is immersive. I think the future is the combination of consciousness, creativity, and technology to design and develop experiences that cater to all combinations and dimensions of the five senses. The future is, instead of going into a gallery or show, we’re going be able to beam experiences directly into your frontal cortex. It’s a brave, exciting, and terrifying new world of peril, escape, distractions, and opportunities for artists. For thousands of years we’ve been dealing with the buffer between the artist and the depths of their imagination. I think for the first time, the audience is going to have an opportunity to step through the frame and really enter into the closest approximation of the artist’s imagination and creativity with fully realized worlds coordinated with 3D sound. It’s going to redefine us.
Prox: A lot of your work features Eastern figures and deities. What is it about this region that triggers so much inspiration in you? What are some of your other sources of inspiration?
AJ: One of my main sources of inspiration is traveling and absorbing and exploring all different contemporary aspects of culture, history, people, languages, and rituals. Out of all the places i’ve traveled to, India has been one of the most impactful for me. For me, spirituality and mystery are two different sides of a coin. Spirituality is maybe a type of way of navigating the deeper mysteries that lie beyond our comprehension. As far as a group that I’ve experienced, within my limited bandwidth, I just fell in love with the people of India: the environment, the atmosphere, and the experience. I’ve always been drawn towards creating characters, even back to the days of ILM and Nintendo. This allows me to use this imaginative character building experience I’ve been developing since I was a child making comic book characters, and I think what draws me towards the narrative (of say Eastern or Hindu mythology) is the depth of the narrative and the archetypal, symbolic significance of these deities and their stories, mantras, lessons, and characters. They’re all just different facets of the Unnamable. Expressions of the Source, God, the creator, the Great Spirit, the Spaghetti Monster. It’s a culture that’s visually exploding with color and expression.
When I attempt to depict these deities from different belief systems, I do my best to really approach them with a certain amount of reverence, respect, and appreciation for the history, lineage and meaning of them. Making sure I get the meanings, the colors, and the mudras correct. I find within the Vedas and the stories of Hinduism there are some deities that I don’t feel conformable depicting or like I’ve earned the privilege to depict them. There is such a strong visual component in the Vedas and in India. These spirits and the deities that they represent there are actively involved, enrolled, and contributing to humans reinventing the visual vernacular of these beings as time and technology evolves. I feel like a deeper sense of permission and a blessing is needed to explore that with meaning and to do my best to depict these energies with the respect and the dignity that they deserve.
Prox: What exactly are you trying to say with your art? Have you considered your legacy?
AJ: Yikes! That’s kind of a scary question. If I could put it into words, exactly what I was doing with my art I would probably just cut to the chase and be a writer and tell you. For me, I’m really in love with the world around me and the people in my life and at it’s purest and simple form, art is my favorite medium for which to interact with the world around me. It’s my language and these paintings are all different facets of me exploring the different aspects of my consciousness and personality. I can’t imagine another way to participate in this crazy world than that of the artist costume.
What will my legacy be? That’s kind of an intimidating one. I hope I’m remembered as someone that was really in love with what they were doing. The core principals of my art are freedom and the ability to experience freedom through creativity. I hope that, looking back when people see my art, if they can’t recognize anything else, that they can recognize that “Wow, this was a guy that really loved what he did and did whatever he could to make as much of it as he could, and tried to make it as meaningful as possible”. That would be a great experience to continue to elicit from people if and when they were able to see the work.
Prox: Could you give some advice to artists and businessmen who hope to be where you are some day?
AJ: Well my first piece of advice would be, at your earliest convenience, please give up any hope or desire to be where I am some day. The only person who should be where I am some day, is me. Some of the best advice I can give you is to do the best possible job you can do at being you. Your life is the true driving engine behind your creativity and all the art you end up creating. That’s the residue of your fourth dimensional rampage through time and space. Your canvases are just the molten sparks that hit the flint and cool, and the air is you rushing past this dimension of life towards your death. So make it count. What I learned, and what I continue to learn, is that art has a lot of heart in it and one of the best things an artist can develop is their eyes. You need to put as much time into understanding what you see, as you spend trying to depict what you see.
You can learn more about Android and purchase his work, here.