As Comox Valley-raised artist Andrew Moncrief continues to hone his craft, his talent has taken him places he never thought possible.
In a 2016 Black Press feature, Moncrief was preparing for a solo show in Utah, using downtown office space in Courtenay as a makeshift studio for his project, “Strange Feeling.”
Now he lives in Berlin, has had eight solo shows, and continues to evolve as he learns.
Prior to moving to Germany, Moncrief spent some time in Vancouver, under the tutelage of well-known Canadian artist, Justin Ogilvie. A grant from the federal government in 2018, through the Canada Council For the Arts, facilitated that experience.
“That was a nine-month (period),” said Moncrief. “Studying this sort of classical… training – old master painting, anatomy, etc.”
“At the time I was sort of spinning my wheels a bit, and I needed to learn a little more about the blood and guts of painting, and the practice, the alchemy and stuff,” said Moncrief, who moved from Montreal for the training in Vancouver. “I had been in Montreal for nearly a decade and I felt it was time for a change, so I ended up applying for the grant. It was kind of nice to be in Vancouver, West Coast, closer to family and such.”
The studies took place in Ogilvie’s Vancouver studio. Moncrief said the time spent with Ogilvie was invaluable.
“That was really big for me, because I got to learn from somebody who is further along in their career – older, wiser and he is a really good instructor,” said Moncrief.
A look at Moncrief’s more recent works shows a stark contrast to the pieces he created for the Utah show. He credits his time with Ogilvie for his change of direction, and for his decision to move to Germany.
“Learning about all the classical painting techniques when I was with Justin sort of set the ball rolling,” said Moncrief. “After finishing in Vancouver, I was sort of in limbo. I didn’t really want to move back to Montreal, because I sort of felt like I was done with that chapter. So I have friends in Germany who said ‘Why not move to Berlin?’ There are lots of artists there; you can get a (work) visa as an artist – the only city in Europe where you can do that. The thought kind of terrified me, which made me think it was the right thing to do.”
He said he has not regretted the move.
“It’s been great,” he said. “Europe is so small, compared to Canada – you have access to so many cities, you met so many people from all over the world. There are a lot of well-known artists who live and work there, and young artists, so it’s definitely a melting pot. It has been so easy to meet people. Since I have moved there it feels like everything has sort of exploded and taken off. It’s been really exciting.
“Berlin is a bit of an artist mecca. I think it’s the last relatively affordable city to live in, in Europe.”
Moncrief said his career choice has not all been smooth sailing, but he wouldn’t change it. It’s an ongoing learning experience.
“It’s a roller-coaster… it can be super challenging, but when it rains it pours,” he said. “I think these days, there’s a lot more engagement with artists, commercially. I did a project with Gucci, for example. So the reach is better, with brands and such, to do collaborations.
“So there are more income sources coming in than just solely from the work. But I am still trying to figure it all out. You really have to be a business person. I kind of have to be the CEO of myself. That’s something that I don’t think I learned in school, so it’s been a lot of stumbling through, asking friends, and other people involved in marketing. There’s no clear path.”