Andrew Holder

Illustrator, Designer, Artist-person

Aug 30, 2017Words By Luis Angel CancelPhotos By Chris Braun

If the late John Berger taught us anything, it's that the best definition of art is "a way of seeing." That's why we created the Huckberry Artist Series — a partnership with some of our favorite creatives, a peek into their process, and a chance to see the world through their eyes. And to bring just a little more of their world into yours, we teamed up to create a limited run of prints and merch. This time around, there's even a beer growler.

"The ocean and surfing have always always been a source of inspiration for me."

Dad, we're artists, right?

Andrew Holder


Our exclusive series continues with Andrew Holder, an artist with an immediately recognizable style despite a body of work that encompasses everything from surf competition posters to illustrations for NPR. It's tempting to tie his playful use of color and pattern to his roots in sunny Southern California, but a closer look reveals a sharpshooter's precision — a surprising level of discipline that's at odds with the go-with-the-flow stereotype pinned to many of his fellow surfers. Ahead of Andrew's recent relocation to our neck of the woods, we sat down to chat about his work, inspiration, and the challenge of creating a piece for Wu Tang's GZA.


I don’t really like the word “maker”. When people ask what I do, I find myself trying to simplify it so there’s no confusion. 


Flip the lights on. Check the emails. Respond to the ones that I can respond to quickly. My process depends on the project. Like, if I’m working for the New York Times or something like that, the turn-around’s super fast. On that kind of day, I do a lot of research before I sketch. Everything starts on paper but nearly everything goes to the computer at some point, from there I can correct and refine.


I’m from San Diego but I’ve lived all over the place. I moved to LA for school, and I met my wife there when I was just a broke art school kid. I’d always go somewhere, then back to San Diego, go somewhere, back to San Diego. So no matter how far I ventured, it was, like, home base.


If I’m trying to figure out a problem, I’ll listen to a lot of movie music. Scores, not soundtracks. Something that builds and builds. Cinematic stuff like Sigur Ros. There’s a lot of classic rock. Not much hip-hop. I did this GZA poster and I kinda felt like a phony. But no one said anything bad, so, it all worked out.  


The ocean and surfing have always always been a source of inspiration for me. Even now, I admittedly don’t get to go as much as I want. But it’s kind of like a family thing. My grandfather, Dempsey, was a big wave pioneer down in Imperial Beach. He was a well-known waterman. The lifeguard station down there is named after him. So being near water is kind of a comforting thing, for me and my family.

Andrew's grandfather, waterman and surf pioneer Dempsey Holder (pictured far left), along with his crew of lifeguards at Imperial Beach, CA



It took me twenty minutes to go two miles in traffic today. So, going surfing now that I’ve got kids is definitely a little harder. 


Before I started illustrating for NPR’s How I Built This podcast I had only done a few portraits, like this Bodhi Rips t-shirt for The Critical Slide Society. Ya know, Bodhi from Point Break. But up to then, I hadn’t really done many portraits. It’s an intimate thing, even working from a photograph. You don’t know the person, you’re, like, zooming into their eyeballs, you need to make decisions on what details to include to create a likeness. But you don’t want to insult the person by including a trait that calls too much attention to itself. 

Andrew's illustrations for NPR's 'How I Built This' podcast, (l-r) Yvon Chouinard of Patagonia, Richard Branson of Virgin, and Troy Carter of Atom Factory



My daughter’s five and she’s got a creative streak. She’ll say, “Dad, we’re artists, right?” And she’ll sit there for a really long time and just draw. She comes into the studio and wants to see what I’m working on, she asks questions. That's really cool. My son's too young to know what's goin' on. Yet.


I wanna make an 18-foot-tall rabbit house. [laughter]



Andrew’s Social Hangouts

Andrewby the numbers

  • 5Surfboards"Going surfing, now that I have kids, has definitely gotten harder."
  • 4Skateboardsscattered around the studio
  • 6States Lived In"I’d always go somewhere, then back to San Diego, go somewhere, back to San Diego."

Andrew’sfavorite things

  • Countless amps and guitars — leftovers from Andrew's days playing in bands.
  • Organic shapes and patterns creep into Andrew's work, inspired by his love of nature and the many plants found in his studio.
  • "Everything starts on paper."