With smiles and humor, Andrea Levy shares insight to her art

Andrea Levy is all smiles as she talks with an audience member after her Nov. 5 talk at Porter Library. In the background, Bob Parry looks at one of her illustrations. Photo by Marge Widmar

During nearly her entire Nov. 5 presentation at Westlake Porter Library, Andrea Levy had a smile on her face. She emphasized the importance of being positive, “making oneself bigger,” “resisting resistance,” and using the energy in the moment an idea occurs.

In this program sponsored by Westlake-Westshore Arts Council, the award-winning Plain Dealer artist shared that she has been drawing since she was a very young child. Her mother would buy her stenographer tablets. Levy would anxiously open them and energetically draw repetitive circular images along the lines.

One day, her mother purchased a pad without lines. Describing that experience, Levy raised her voice, smiled, and moved her arms about as she recalled the thrill of having a “WHOLE page to draw upon, WITHOUT lines.” She spoke fondly about her parents' support and their strong encouragement for her to major in painting at Ohio University.

Another childhood treasure was her first camera. To this day, a camera goes everywhere with her, sensitively capturing the unique.

Levy’s illustrations begin with a layout drawing for a visual to accompany a writer’s text. She meets with editors for discussion and evaluation of the concept. Once a “go ahead” is given, the subject matter may be created in unique ways such as dipping her hands and arms into black paint and using them to brush on the image, as she did to create the award-winning illustration for the ten-year commemoration of 9-11. Levy, as audience member Ursula Ryan noted, “takes intangible subjects, eliminates all obvious solutions, and comes up with a unique and succinct powerful resolution that grabs the viewer’s attention.”

When her illustrations require models, Levy often fills that role from among her three daughters and their friends. This frequent recruitment often brings pleas of, “I did it last time – ask her!” Occasionally, she hires a model. Sometimes, she incorporates a fairy tale, such as Little Red Riding Hood and the Big Bad Wolf as she did in her photo illustration for an article, “Taxes: How to avoid unpleasant surprises.” 

Some illustrations are composed of paper sculpture or collage with newspaper, printed music or even currency. Additional props are selected from a vast collection of items in her studio. Upon completion, the illustration is again reviewed by the paper’s editors who, she stated, sometimes need convincing. Mind expansion, sensitivity awareness and “beating down prejudice” are among her objectives in newspaper illustration.

The remarkable creativity in Levy’s art has earned her the Cleveland Arts Prize 2013 Mid-Career Artist Award for Design. Also, a Creative Workforce Fellowship was awarded to her by Cleveland’s Community Partnership for Arts and Culture. Her illustrations have been in national newspapers including The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, the Los Angeles Times, and The Washington Post.

Her creativity also spurred Ursula Ryan to ask Levy: “Can I have just a tiny part of your right brain?” More of that right brain thinking may be on exhibit and perhaps in the form of painting as Levy hinted regarding a future exhibition of her work.

Marge Widmar

Westlake Resident; Member, Westlake-Westshore Arts Council

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Volume 5, Issue 23, Posted 10:08 AM, 11.12.2013