Trained as an architect, artist Andrew Parker creates mixed-media paintings that balance precision and spontaneity | Home | Spokane | Interior of the Pacific Northwest
Ssometimes the best plans are those which give way to serendipity. This is as true for the works of Andrew Parker as it is for his career path.
Parker recalls that a few years ago he was working on a painting, filling in circles with black pigment, but briefly walked away. When he resumed painting in the shapes, he discovered that the black values did not match because the pigment in his cup had dried very slightly.
“It was a lesson,” Parker says, noting his realization, “You can fight it or go for it.”
He left with.
Fast forward to a current piece, Midday, a composition of mixed techniques combining drawing, painting, collage and engraving. Its grid-like background of precise circles is overlaid with areas of color, including a black splatter that has flowed in long vertical arcs. Although it seems spontaneous, Parker actually transferred the splatter form onto the composition from another image, effectively merging two ways of working: structured and incidental.
These two words also apply to Parker’s career path. Initially, he pursued his career as an architect, partly because it looked like a definitive work.
“And that if that didn’t work, I’d be a wildlife photographer,” adds Parker, noting that he spent a lot of time camping, hiking, backpacking and fishing with his parents, who were both park rangers.
Although Parker had an early interest in art, he studied environmental design – similar to architecture but requiring fewer years of study – and photography in college. He spent his free time from Montana State University in Yellowstone and Glacier National Parks, and worked summers in remote locations like a fishing boat in Alaska and on an organic farm in Morocco.
In Parker’s final year, instead of completing the credit requirements for a double major in photography, he chose a paid architectural internship at BCHO Architects and Associates in Seoul, South Korea.
The culture, the climate and the mixture of new and historical architecture have marked him deeply, he says. “Totally different, radically different,” Parker recalls.
And because the architecture firm’s founder incorporated visual art into his design process, Parker had to follow suit.
“I spent a lot of time doing brush and pen calligraphy,” says Parker.
When Parker returned to the United States, he followed his future wife, Kit, to Houston, Texas. There he got a job with the international design firm PGAL and completed his Masters in Architecture.
When the young family moved back to Spokane, where Kit is from, Parker joined NAC Architecture, made art a creative outlet and familiarized himself with the local art scene.
During a visit to the Emerge Art Gallery in Coeur d’Alene, he was asked if he was an artist.
“I never liked that question, but I said yes,” he says, describing how the conversation turned into an opportunity to submit work to Emerge’s annual pop-up show.
To Parker’s surprise, all three pieces he submitted were accepted.
“It really kicked things off,” says Parker, whose work since leaving NAC Architecture in 2021 has been featured at Dean Davis and Emerge studios. With titles like forest path and deep blueParker writes in his artist statement that his work embodies “experiences as visual expressions”.
A backpack hangs in the studio Parker has created in his Moran Prairie home, a reminder to get out and explore. A blanket from his trip to Morocco covers a chair, while the little wall space is covered with artwork by Parker, one of his children’s works and an African mask.
The 120 square foot basement also contains his office, computer and library. A flat metal file holds his paints, drawing pens, and stacks of cards, pictures from Korean magazines, and other types of paper that he reuses in his works.
In an ideal world, he would remodel his studio space, says Parker, who is still active in the field of architecture and has served as executive director of the Spokane chapter of the American Institute of Architecture since the fall of 2021.
“I feel like I started out with an interest in architecture because it combined a lot of my interests in art, building, and environmental sustainability,” Parker says. “And so right now, I feel like I’ve taken the architecture again and separated it into individual pieces; the creative element is pretty much the core.”