Happy Accidents: L.A.-based artist returns to EC for hometown talk

Eric Christenson

MIDWEST, WEST COAST. Visual artist Andy Schansberg lives and works in Santa Monica, Calif., but he’ll be returning to his native Eau Claire for a talk on Aug. 8.
MIDWEST, WEST COAST. Visual artist Andy Schansberg lives and works in Santa Monica, Calif., but he’ll be returning to his native Eau Claire for a talk on Aug. 8.

Eau Claire native and visual artist Andy Schansberg wakes up every morning in the mountains of Santa Monica, Calif., skates around, and walks the dog. After a few breaths, he then hits his home art studio to start creating. “The morning marine layer rolls in and you’re painting in a mist or a fog,” he said. “That kinda stuff enters into the artistic output. It has a weird effect on everything that comes out of it.”

Deadlines comes first, but really his day-to-day mood – and the weather – nudge him in different directions as for what to work on. He’s a painter, who blends analog realness and digital finesse for his patterned creations, but really he does a little bit of everything. 

“I’m trying to fail safe. As long as you stay in the studio that kind of sh*t happens.”  – Andy Schansberg

Schansberg grew up playing violin at a young age, but these days he’s on bass guitar. He’s a skater, but when he’s not on top of the board, he’s designing and painting decks. He owned a skate company,  Molotov Skateboards, that he co-created in the late ‘80s with his brother Matt, who’s now living in Switzerland and just got a doctorate in architecture. He and Matt are currently working on a skate-heavy art book.

Schansberg’s been involved with art collectives and galleries all his professional life. He worked at the Whitney Museum in New York City, and several other galleries and museums around the country, closely watching the ways other artists produce, taking mental snapshots and applying a lifetime in the art world to his own work, which takes on myriad different styles. Be it photography, painting, screen-printing, 3D work, archiving, using found materials – Shansberg’s work comes together somewhat haphazardly, but his style is ever-present. And sometimes “happy accidents” – as he called them – come from left-behind scraps that make up some of his most treasured works, just by virtue of dedicating enough time to simply create.

“I’m trying to fail safe,” he said over the phone. “As long as you stay in the studio, that kind of sh*t happens.”

After 12 years in the Los Angeles art scene, Schansberg’s mastering not only the artwork itself and his own specific style, but the creative process altogether. Oceanside, he’s got a pretty idyllic situation happening in his home studio, where under the natural light, he pushes himself to make stuff every single day. Last year, he intended to make a book with 365 daily drawings. The book didn’t pan out, but some of the pieces from that rigorous regimen became some his favorites in time.

He studies his own process too, video-recording himself in the studio, to see how his actions line up with the kind of work he’s creating. “I’m always looking at how does it compare and contrast,” he said. “What I’m doing right now, how does it line up with something I’ve done before? I can go back to one of those things and draw from it, pick it up again.”

After his many years in the art world, Schansberg has tons of work, and now his challenge is to figure out a way to magnetize the right pieces together. He’s been hard at work finding throughlines between his old work and his current stuff, and he intends to publish a widespread collection online and IRL.

But certainly talking with Schansberg about art, he has thoughtful points about the process and what it means to be creating. The multi-talent spends his days thinking about it, acting it out, and reflecting on what it was in the moment. 

“I’m always trying to figure out how to break more rules,” he said. Or maybe, he’s writing his own.

Andy Shansberg will be returning home to Eau Claire on Aug. 8 at 7pm for a book signing and talk at the Volume One Gallery called Not Where Is When. He’ll sign books and talk about his work during a Q&A with UW-Stout professor and lifelong friend Dan Lang. The event is free.