Today we talk to artist Andy Baylis, who has contributed postcards to TAE since 2017. He’s a huge TAE fan and even has his own collection of original postcards, which he has built up over visits to Stratford and Edinburgh. He’s planning to be at Cheltenham for the opening of this year’s exhibition on July 3rd. Andy, from Nuneaton, lives on the edge of Leicestershire, with his girlfriend Charlie, his grown-up stepdaughter Sophia, his young son, Albert - and their two chickens, Frida and Michonne. Andy writes and illustrates children’s books, alongside a full-on role as production manager for a sign company. In this interview, with Carolyn Murphy, his love of art, appreciation for the TAE community and his creativity all shine through.
“I first came across TAE not long after I joined Twitter,” Andy explained. “I had left a full-time job to try and finish and self-publish my debut picture book “Too Many Bears in the Bed.” I had just started to set myself up on social media to promote my work. I found and began to follow other illustrators, some of whom were taking part in TAE17. I looked into it, saw it was for a good cause and thought I would give it a go.”
What was your first TAE contribution?
My first postcard was “Tweed Ted,” who was one of the characters in the picture book. It was created using a combination of watercolours and fine liners.
How did you start to write and illustrate children’s books?
It’s something I’ve always wanted to do. I studied art and graphic design, specialising in illustration at college. For the last 10 years, it has been an active hobby and I am still trying to find an agent or publisher to get my work published in the traditional way.
So far, I have written a chapter book and written and illustrated four picture books, with more ready to illustrate. My latest picture book - “Lots to find in a Fisherman’s Beard” - is a very silly account of what strange objects you might come across if you were to investigate a fisherman’s facial hair thoroughly.
I get the sense you’re a busy guy! How do you fit in all this creativity?
I have to try and find little pockets of opportunity to create. I just love art. I have always loved the creative process and when I get an idea, I can’t wait to see it come alive on the page. I always have a large selection of projects on the go at any one time. I write songs and stories, I illustrate, paint, design and build. I am currently building a play castle from old pallets in the garden for Albert.
What brought you to your first TAE opening night?
I wanted to see where my work would be displayed and how it was helping the cause. I was also keen to buy some art. I love filling my walls with art and supporting other artists, so I am always looking for an excuse to buy some more.
You’re involving the whole family, aren’t you?
Charlie and I went to Stratford on Avon - and we loved it so much we returned to Edinburgh with baby Albert in 2019.
Andy with his partner, Charlie, David Sandum and Baby Albert
In Edinburgh, I took my uncle and aunt to show them my work and the world of TAE. We listened to speeches and waited for the sale to open. As soon as we were able, I walked straight to where my postcard was - and it had gone! It had been sold in the first minute!
What can you tell us about your own postcard collection?
Between me and my partner, Charlie, so far we have collected eight postcards by TAE artists from all over the world. My first purchase was by an illustrator called Nici Gregory. I follow Nici on Twitter (@NiciGregory) and was really hoping to get this card before I went to the exhibition - and I was lucky enough to secure it.
Other favourites include a card created by Sir Ian McKellen, which I bought in the auction at Stratford. It now hangs in my lounge above the television. I was also lucky enough to win a postcard in Edinburgh in the raffle by ‘The Archers’ star Tim Bentinck. One of my other favourites is a beautiful painting of a bird by @cynthiadormeyer who lives in Reims, France. It is colourful and sits on my dining room wall with my other TAE postcards.
What did you create for TAE21?
For this year’s postcard, I decided to do something simple yet colourful. My piece is called “Rainbow Birds” and was drawn with a fine-liner and watercolours.
What appeals to you about TAE?
The TAE community is so welcoming and brings artists from all over the world together. Everyone involved is so genuine, kind and friendly. There is no judgement on ability. No matter how talented and skilful you may be, whether you are an amateur or professional, your art is welcome and appreciated.
What is the highlight of your creative career so far?
I have to say I was over the moon when my postcard made it onto the official TAE19 poster! I have one framed on my kitchen wall. I also took on a commission based on my postcard for this year’s entry, which was unexpected.
What are your hopes and plans for the future?
I am hoping to find an agent and get the opportunity to traditionally publish one of my stories. That would be amazing! If I could get a ten-book deal and a huge advance, then that would be even better!
What would you say to others who might be thinking of taking part in the next TAE?
Do it! If you want to be part of an art-loving friendly group of people doing something special for a great cause, get involved! It couldn’t be simpler.