Andi Burnum is a paper mosaic artist and illustrator. She got her first picture published in the school calendar in second grade and has been creating ever since. In high school, she was painting nonstop, plowing through all the class’ art supplies. Her art teacher gave her a paper mosaic project to slow her down and boy, did it ever. She immediately fell in love with the process. Andi decided to major in art in college and made it an entire year before deciding that no one could make a living doing studio art and she didn’t want to do graphic design. Pre-med seemed like a nice choice. After a quick detour medical assisting in the orthopedic world, she decided that perhaps this wasn’t creative enough. It seemed logical to start a moderately successful chocolate truffle company, AndiChocolates. Eventually, Andi found herself putting more creative energy into designing the chocolate boxes than the chocolates. After a small natural disaster, she decided to box up the business and move on. Although she’d been doing mosaics as side projects for years, in 2014 Andi finally circled around and found herself being fulfilled with creating fine art. Largely self-taught, she’s been refining her paper process over the last 20 years. In 2018 she decided to begin illustrating a page a day, to better her drawing skills. Oddly enough, the chicken scratch illustration work balances out the OCD and slow work of tearing paper. You can find her online here.
Meet Andi Burnum
- Tell us a little about your work and artistic practice? Currently, the majority of my work is paper mosaic. In a nutshell, I use magazines and tweezers to make semi-realistic contemporary art. The longer, drawn-out version of this is I individually tear colors from magazines with tweezers and glue them together on a smooth wood panel. Animals are always my first choice of subject matter and I work my way from the eyes—extremely detailed with pieces as small as the lead end of a pencil—to quarter size plus. It’s like putting together a giant puzzle. My tweezers are basically an extension of my fingers and never leave my hand. When working, each piece of paper is torn specifically for its spot. Pieces for the nose and parts of the eye are generally round while hairs are long and skinny. For paper, I use magazines that generally have full pages of pictures, nice thick paper and are rich in their colors. For example, National Geographic is one of my favorites, not only for its color but there are nice wide white margins (I only use whites that are white on both sides to prevent ink transparency). Vogue has a lot of fun colors, such as pink, which is hard to find (as are nice yellows). Ninety percent of the magazines I use are donated. People often tell me how patient I must be. For the record—I am pretty much the opposite! However, I really thrive on the challenge and tremendously enjoy the magic of making something out of nothing. Unfortunately in my case, this just takes a lot of time.
A couple of years ago I began experimenting in the illustration world and have recently begun illustrating for commercial projects as well as dabbling in the overwhelming world of picture books. Follow along on Instagram: @andiburnumart.
- What have you been doing to keep occupied during the shelter-in-place and how has your creative process been impacted? I’m kind of turning myself in here, but my introvert life didn’t really change a whole lot from its normal. (Yes, I too, find this somewhat pathetic.) In February I had just finished up my last picture from my red Angus series and clicked submit for the Coors Western Stock Show Application. I needed a break from my tweezers and was instead immersed in a hugely successful 6-month children’s book writing and illustrating mentorship. Out of the process I ended up with two book dummies and am currently submitting to agents. With everything cancelled, in a funny way I don’t feel like I’m “missing out” on events or having to make choices such as choosing between my studio and being social. Of course I do miss people and have instead, like so many others, joined in on several Zoom meetings. Now I’m back to tearing paper and have a thousand ideas I want to get done. (Will there ever be enough time?!) I’m currently prepping for my first year as part of the Evergreen Open Door Studio Tour. Come by and say hi!
- Where do you find inspiration? Ah! The easiest of questions. My heart is in the open skies of Kansas—home of the family farm and my major artistic inspiration. Only 4 hours from Evergreen, I’m “employed” as a part-time farm hand on the much loved farm, and I head back whenever I get a chance. While there and when I’m supposed to be working, I’m often found getting in trouble for taking pictures of cows during critical times, such as when bulls are fighting. I love all things nature, but animals are my favorite source of subject matter. I’ve always had this passionate, unexplained connection to them, which I believe has been largely influenced by my farm girl upbringing.
- Who are your biggest influences? I find the most influential people to be any artists who are passionate about their work. I don’t care if you paint, tear paper, draw, sculpt or whatever you do. In a world where you can look at social media and feel about 2” tall, there is something completely inspiring about those that work hard at their craft and are proud of their work. It’s so easy to overlook all the hard unaccounted hours in a studio. Knowing there are others out there working hard to keep at it is awesome motivation to keep going yourself. That being said, since I’m really working hard to improve my drawing, Rob Biddulph, an English author/illustrator is at the top of my watch list right now.