Featured artist brings 'Midwest surreal' to art fest

When you enter the world of artist Andy Van Schyndle, don't be surprised if you find cavorting cows, windmills decked out with red and blue lights and dark gnarled trees that appear to be filled with the lights of a big city.

Andy - Cows
"Where The Cows Go" by Andy Van Schyndle is an example of what he calls fantasy realism.

When you enter the world of artist Andy Van Schyndle, don't be surprised if you find cavorting cows, windmills decked out with red and blue lights and dark gnarled trees that appear to be filled with the lights of a big city.

Van Schyndle, who will be the featured artist Saturday and Sunday at Altru Health System Grand Cities Art Fest, is known for making pictures of an entire world that he describes as residing "in the cloudy vapor that occupies the space in my cranium."

"I tend to call the world fantasy realism, because I think a lot of them are landscapes and things I've seen in the real world and I'm putting my fantasy twist on them," Van Schyndle said in a telephone interview from his home in Algoma, Wis., a small town on Lake Michigan.

"I also call it Midwest surreal," he said. "That's why you'll see a lot of cows in there." Cows are one of the things he's likely to see looking out his window in Algoma, he said.

Van Schyndle said he's been attending the Grand Cities Art Fest on and off since 2006, and in recent years, mostly on. He called it one of his favorite art fairs, even though it's an 11-hour trip from his home.


"Every year it gets better and better," he said. "Last year was fantastic and my sales were great. Every year the energy is so much fun."

The 10th annual Grand Cities Art Fest will be from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday with more than 160 artist vendors on both sides of the Red River in downtown Grand Forks and East Grand Forks. There will be entertainment, food concessions, artist demonstrations and activities for kids.

Van Schyndle's interest in art began when he was a boy. He grew up in Green Bay, Wis., and used to doodle and cartoon as a kid in elementary school. His interest grew in high school when he was doing more realistic drawing of wildlife and nature. He earned a BFA in art and studio art at University of Wisconsin Green Bay.

Van Schyndle spent most of his early life working for his father's plumbing company and continued working as a plumber until about 10 years ago, when the firm wasn't making much money. That's when he began taking his work to art fairs. Now he has enough work and sales to be a full-time artist.

His art work and business has taken over more and more of his house. He believes Wisconsin has a good climate for artists.

"I spend the whole winter painting, and it's perfect," he said. "The long, cold, dark winters in Wisconsin are perfect for an artist. They get more done because they are inside, especially studio artists." From spring to fall, he travels to art festivals to sell his work.

Van Schyndle will bring his paintings and prints to Grand Forks.

"I sell prints of my work mainly, in the $20 to $500 range," he said. "It's something for everybody's price point and what fits their space."


He mostly paints oil on canvas and uses a technique called glazing, which he says was used by a lot of the Renaissance masters. He takes the oil paint and thins it and then applies it in layers -- sometimes dozens of layers.

Then he uses a digital camera to photograph his work and Photoshops it on the computer until the look is satisfactory to him. His goal is to get it looking better than the painting, he said, to enhance the colors and contrast.

Last, he uses his printers to make giclee prints on canvas. Giclee creates a non-screen print, a higher quality version of a work of art or photograph with inks that degrade less over time. Giclee can be printed on paper or canvas, and many giclee printers are big enough to create huge works. Van Schyndle has one that is six feet wide. He said watching the printing process in his studio was "like magic."

"I'll be printing with this big printhead going back and forth and watching the colors come out and think, 'Oh my god, I spent five months making that and the machine can make it in 15 minutes,'" he said.

Van Schyndle's interest in fantasy realism isn't waning. He see is as a mirror to today's pop culture.

"About 12 years ago I starting doing this, what I'm working on now," he said. "I still like it. It's a release to be able to get these ideas and then work them out on canvas. Things have been really great for the last five years. I think my genre is really in sync with what's going on with pop culture these days, with books and movies and games. It's really in the forefront."

Reach Tobin at (701) 780-1134; (800) 477-6572, ext. 134; or send e-mail to .


Andy Van Schyndle

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