Graphic and interactive design major turned business student Drew Amato first caught my eye through a collaborative project he did with a photographer friend of mine back in 2015. I had brought my photo genius gal-pal a bouquet of flowers, and when she had nowhere to put them we created a makeshift vase by finishing a bottle of wine. She photographed this and later Amato recreated the image in a painting. This piece of art had impressed me because it captured the reality of the situation: two twenty-something-year-old girls being drunk on wine and shoving roses down a bottle with the stems warping to fit.
Today it seems as though everyone is trying to create this aesthetic of perfection. Whether it’s face-tuning an Instagram photo or the censorship that takes place in media, it’s a breath of fresh air to see someone who embraces the realness of life. Amato focuses on “moments and feelings” rather than small details to capture “life itself.” Keep reading to find out more about Amato, his childhood and how he combats the crisis of identity through art.
Devin Hendricks: How would you describe your background? And what is your favorite childhood memory?
Drew Amato: I grew up in a suburb of NYC, New Jersey. My mom is an English teacher and my dad owns a business. My childhood was pretty much what you would expect a northeast suburban childhood would be. Since my mom was a teacher she was always off from school at the same times as me and my sisters, so she spent a lot of time with us growing up. She was supportive of the things I did, like when I started getting into skateboarding she would take me and my friends to skate parks and things like that, so a lot of my childhood memories are her driving me and my friends around to wherever we wanted to go.
I attribute her for my creative side because she pushed me to do the things I enjoyed. As far as my favorite childhood memory goes, it’s sort of hard to pinpoint one thing and claim it as my favorite. I would say, however, as I began to fall in love with skateboarding—although I was terrible at the sport—it really became something that structured my identity as I grew up, so perhaps getting my first skateboard could be a memory of mine that will always important to me.
DH: What are you studying in school and why?
DA: I am currently studying Business at Quinnipiac University, I am a graduate student working to get a Master of Business Administration. I received my undergraduate BA in Graphic and Interactive Design before deciding I wanted to seek further education in business.
It seems, perhaps from an outside perspective, this would be a bit of a departure from the creative career I had previously been preparing myself for, but I think there is a lot of opportunity for creativity that exists within the business world. I wanted a combination of skills that would separate me from my peers, and I think additional education will open up more doors for me going further and hopefully I find myself a career that can do both.
DH: Is there anything you’ve learned in school that has impressed you or shaped your future goals?
DA: Interestingly enough, my father has always fancied himself a numbers man, and I always thought of myself as a more right brain creative type (I am aware anytime someone says “creative type” it comes off sounding awfully pretentious, but I promise I don’t mean it that way). As I began taking finance and marketing classes, the mathematical aspect spoke to me and became something I enjoy as well. There’s a bit of a comfort in math you don’t necessarily get with art or design because there isn’t a steadfast right answer.
In math, the numbers work out the way they do, and the creative aspect comes in after you’ve figured out what to do with those numbers. So that’s something I think surprised me a bit about this new direction I’ve taken myself. It has adjusted my path a bit where I could see myself owning my own business at in the future knowing I could feel comfortable having my hands in design and also in the business parts as well.
DH: What brought you to art?
DA: I think I was brought to art the same way a lot of people are. In the beginning, it was just something that was fun. It was entertaining and had a pay off at the end where you could see what you’d made from this blank piece of paper. As I got better, it became a way of distinguishing myself from other people.
I think everyone can agree that in a kid’s formative years and as they grow up and go through high school, there’s a lot of confusion about their identity. Like a lot of people, I was always someone who was both introverted and extroverted. As a kid, you want people to pay attention to you, and there’s a social bubble which is constructed where you want friends and to be popular. I loved being the center of attention but found it difficult to sustain, often becoming overwhelmed and feeling socially exhausted after parties where I was interacting with people outside of my immediate close friends.
Art, I think, gave me a balance. The things I did in my free time away from people would attract the attention I craved without putting me directly in the spotlight. So in a way, I was brought to art as a way to cope with that identity crisis we all have as we’re growing up. Now, I don’t really give a fuck about what other people think, so I just do it because I love it.
DH: Would say life influences your art, or art influences your life?
DA: I would say that my life influences my art. My style sort of developed from skateboard culture and all the beautiful art which surrounds it. I personally am sort of infatuated with human interaction and behavior in a way that people become the thing which influences me the most. I love the little interactions at grocery stores or relationships amongst roommates, things that I experience.
I’ve been trying to drive my art to reflect those types of interactions as of lately. I’ve always wanted people to take away from my work a feeling in which they can relate, and I want them to feel as if they’d been where the characters I’ve created are. So, if there’s a drawing of two people sitting on a couch, then I want someone to look at that and see them and their friends on that same couch. Life is definitely what inspires my work because people have always been the subject and I want to capture what people feel.
I don’t think I’m there yet and perhaps never will be completely, but I think that’s what’s so fun about drawing and painting, or whatever medium you choose to use, is that it’s constant progress and improvement. A lot of my work doesn’t always involve a great deal of intricate detail as I prefer to focus on moments and feelings. I suppose what I’m trying to do is capture life itself because at the end of the day life is mundane for many people, or can be at times, but I think mundane can be beautiful because it’s relatable.