A profile on Layla Andrews, an artist with first-hand experience in the White House during the Obama administration.
Layla Andrews is an expressionist and abstract portrait artist. Her career kicked off when she was 15 when she painted a large scale expressionist portrait of Nelson Mandela, which was acquired by the South African Embassy in London. Since then, she has had a variety of exhibitions and continues to produce work and commissions for artists, companies and charities worldwide. Here, she outlines her process, inspirations, and plans for the future.
How would you describe your artistic style?
I do not create art as a backdrop. Colour and violent expressive brush strokes are integral in my pieces; for me, creating a painting is creating a statement, and so bold expressionist techniques are imperative in ensuring my work has (some form) of loud impact.
What are you up to at the moment?
I’m currently managing a history degree as well as an art career, which was a difficult decision for me. I thought it would be impractical to try to accomplish both, but since so many of my pieces are political, the degree helps to fuel ideas which in turn encourage me to create some interesting pieces. I think choosing a subject which allows your work to improve its depth and understanding can only be a positive addition to your art. It has allowed me to combine my love for political study with my love for creating.
Tell us about your painting of Obama.
I spent some time a while back at the White House during the Obama administration (the golden days!) and I got to know the staff quite well. They were interested in my art – especially my huge Obama painting. The staff showed Obama’s secretary, who passed on some information about me and my art. A few months later, when I was in Cuba, my mum called me saying a letter had arrived from the White House! I mean, what a nice guy! He was literally the busiest man on the planet, and he had time to write a personal letter to someone who wasn’t even from his own country.
Do you see a future for yourself in the art world?
In the future, I hope to continue doing what I’m doing now. My main frustration with art as a career is that I still feel it’s quite an exclusive industry, which is something I have always desperately tried to avoid or escape. I think it’s certainly becoming more accessible, but there’s still a long way for it to go in order to break down not only its elitist stigma but also its definitive top-down structure – there are just not enough opportunities for working class people in the art world. It’s a shameful deprivation; money can’t buy talent, money doesn’t mean you can paint – but it certainly enables you the time and opportunities to give it a go. I would love to be part of a wider movement, or for my work to represent a change.