From the Archives: 'Permanence to fleeting moments in time'
Andy Eccleshall is the town's muralist extraordinaire
Last updated 4/30/2020 at 9:01am
Each weekend, the Beacon is republishing stories we think will be of interest to readers. Here's one on artist Andy Eccleshall. Read it again. Or if you're new to town, enjoy getting to know one of the town's most interesting residents.
Originally published March 9, 2017
It's increasingly difficult to avoid Andy Eccleshall's landscapes and murals in Edmonds. Not that you'd want to, as his striking works can be appreciated for both their breathtaking visuals and technical skill.
Drive down Main Street and you'll spot the murals: "The Brothers," "Steam Mills 1893" and "Changing Times." Stopping by Chanterelle for something to eat? Visit the bar for another view of "The Brothers," the snow-capped, ragged twin peaks visible from Edmonds as they rise up from the Olympic range.
Visiting the police station? There's an Eccleshall mural inside, celebrating the department's 100th anniversary. Edmonds Theater lobby? There, too.
Leave Edmonds and you can still spot Eccleshall's murals. Look out the window of the Shoreline Department of Licensing office (you'll have plenty of time) to spot one on the side of the Benjamin Moore paint store next door.
Drive east on State Route 104 approaching Interstate 5 and you can't miss the large mural of Echo Lake.
The point is, Eccleshall has become one of Edmonds' most well-known personalities, 15 years after arriving in the city with his wife Ingrid and young son Jack.
He is one of Cole Gallery's best-selling artists, and his current show, "Breathe" can be seen through Monday, March 13. He's sold two paintings through the show so far, one for $2,850 and the other for $3,750.
"I think Andy Eccleshall is one of the most talented artists I have ever known," Cole Gallery owner Denise Cole, herself an accomplished artist, said. "He has an uncanny ability to create a specific mood in each painting he creates. His windswept skies and powerful landscapes are reminiscent of the great painters of the American West, the Hudson River School.
"I love that he takes common scenes we see every day and turns them into majestic masterpieces. We have such beautiful views in Edmonds, but he gives permanence to fleeting moments in time."
Other artists recognize his stature, as well: He was the awards juror for Gallery North's annual Small Works Show – he picked the winners this week – which continues through March.
It's really no surprise that Eccleshall continues to paint at a furious pace. It's all he's ever really done. Or wanted to do.
Finding his way
Eccleshall has lived in the U.S. for 23 years, but you can still hear a touch of his West Midlands accent. Born in 1967, he grew up in England, in Stafford, the county town of Staffordshire.
Pencils and paintbrushes dominated his early life. There was plenty to inspire him in the lowlands, with its green rolling hills and mist-covered pastures.
"I'd drive my mum crazy because I'd constantly be looking for something to draw," Eccleshall said from his studio. "It's all I've ever really done, in one form or the other. It found its own way. I took opportunities as they came along, and they led me down a certain path."
At 16, he left school to work on architectural illustration and landscape painting. He also published prints ("Walton-on-the-Hill," "Stafford") and had works shown as part of the Stafford Art Group, an informal organization open to artists of all abilities.
His life wasn't all about art – Eccleshall also drove a bus to help make ends meet. "After a couple years," he said, "I realized maybe I didn't know it, after all." He turned to arts education, enrolling in the Exeter Faculty of Arts and Design in southern England in 1992.
His parents helped, working-class folks who agreed to support him for four years. "They didn't hesitate to say yes," he said. "I try to bear that in mind now, as I have a son who is 16; he's got his own dreams. I try to remember that I was there once."
After graduating from Exeter in 1992 with a degree in illustration, Eccleshall returned to illustration and graphic design work, commuting to London to meet with publishing house representatives.
It was one of those meetings that led to a job in 1994 in the U.S., as an assistant muralist in Greenwich, Connecticut.
Two years later, Eccleshall, with a green card in hand, started The Mural Works, which continues to be the portal for his mural commissions.
In Connecticut, he met Ingrid Junker, a traveling occupational therapist from Vancouver, British Columbia. They started dating. "She ended up going back to Vancouver after her visa ran out," Eccleshall said.
"I flew back and forth to Vancouver every month for close to a year. I finally said, This is crazy – either you have to come here or I have to go there."
He went there. "Once I saw the West Coast, there was just no going back."
The couple, married in 1999, had planned to live in Vancouver, but Eccleshall said he was only a year away from getting his U.S. citizenship, which he would receive in September 2001.
They moved to Seattle in April 2000 – where Junker could still be relatively close to her family – and Eccleshall worked as artist and Ingrid as a therapist while renting in downtown Seattle, Capitol Hill and finally Madison Park. But with a toddler now in tow, they tired of renting and realized they wanted to be homeowners.
After scouting locations in Issaquah, Ballard and even Sultan, Eccleshall read in a newspaper that Edmonds had once again been named the friendliest town in western Washington.
"We'd never been, so we drove up one day," he said. "It was one of those gorgeous, sunny September days. The trees were starting to turn, the summer market was on, and we're sitting down on the beach, looking at the mountains in the sunshine, watching the ferry come and go. We thought, Why isn't everybody here? It's just paradise."
Eccleshall moved his family into a home in the city's Westgate neighborhood, joined the Chamber of Commerce, and secured a position on the Edmonds Historic Preservation Commission, where he soaked up the city's history. That would help in the creation of some of his murals to come.
With the help of representative Marni Muir – now a Cascadia Art Museum board member – Eccleshall realized a successful show in a Seattle gallery. He then joined the list of artists represented by Cole Gallery in Edmonds.
When the Edmonds Mural Society debuted its first work in late 2009 (Pat Brier's "A Day in Edmonds," just east of the fountain, on Main Street), it seemed preordained that Eccleshall would be showcased around town. "Edmonds Mills 1893" was first, in 2010, followed by "The Brothers" in 2011 and "Changing Times" in 2013. Members of the Edmonds Mural Society gave the latter two its "members' choice" award.
The mural group is no longer around, although Eccleshall hinted that there might be some new ideas in the works. He did paint another mural, not related to the society, two years ago for Spangler's Book Exchange on Fourth Avenue North.
"I'm a legalized graffiti artist," Eccleshall said with a grin.
Murals belong to public
After painting numerous murals over the years, both in home and in public, Eccleshall has strong views on where they should be placed.
"My personal philosophy is that there should be some public input on murals in the public domain. It's not like it's a gallery where, if you don't like the artwork or style, you don't have to go in. But when it's in public, you have no choice. You have to look at it every day. So it's not only about the personal taste of the artist or building owner. It's everybody in town."
That said, Eccleshall says now that his "The Brothers" mural might have worked better in a different location than on the side of the historic Beeson Building on Main Street, which replaced a downtown block that burned to the ground in 1909.
"(F.R.) Beeson bought the building the next day and said he'd had it with wooden buildings," Eccleshall said. "There's such a great story there – it was the first concrete building in Edmonds. So I don't think the mural is appropriate for the building it's on. It deserves something more relevant to the building."
So why is it there?
Each year, from 2009 to 2013, when the murals were being painted in Edmonds, the society named a particular theme. Eccleshall said he painted "The Brothers" with that in mind. "But a mural has to be designed for the location," he said. "It has to be an enhancement, not an afterthought."
To see one of Eccleshall's most accomplished murals – one that certainly fits into its location – you have to drive east, over the Cascades, to the small town of Tonasket. It's there in 2011 that he spent six weeks, over three months, on the Tonasket Cultural Community Center.
He worked Thursdays through Mondays on the mural, returned to Edmonds, then went back over the mountains.
The commissioned project – his artwork can be seen on two sides of the 165-foot-long building – depicts the beauty of the Okanogan highlands through the four seasons. Eccleshall also paints murals inside, of course, such as a recent, expansive creation for a couple's dining room in their historic 1914 home in north Seattle.
Eccleshall said he brainstormed with the homeowners to help them realize a very personal decision. Eccleshall wouldn't say how much he charged for the mural, but it was certainly in the four figures. He bases his prices on how long he estimates it will take.
Not all home prices are expensive, relatively speaking. He recently took six hours to complete a mural inside a home, charging $800.
He rarely sketches a design beforehand.
"I treat them like a big painting," he said. "I figure out where horizon line is, where the large elements are, and literally just start painting from the back forward and from the top down, and let it grow. If you grid it out, you lose that quality that allows unexpected things to happen along the way. From my experience, the unexpected stuff is always best."
Many of Eccleshall's murals and landscape paintings feature what is called "trompe l'oeil," the term for an art form that uses illusion – often one of depth – though painted on a flat surface. Translated from French, it means "to deceive the eye."
Painting for a cause
Two years ago, Eccleshall and his wife moved from Westgate to a home on Sixth Avenue South in the Edmonds Bowl. They are fixing up the historic, turn-of-century house, and one of the first things Eccleshall took on was building an art studio. It's there where he regularly displays his work during the annual Edmonds Art Studio Tour.
Last year, Eccleshall, as he does regularly on the tour, set one painting aside for the highest bidder, who in the terms of the sale would write their check to the Osteogenesis Imperfecta Foundation.
Osteogenesis Imperfecta is a brittle-bone disease that affects both his wife and son. The foundation exists to fund research, to educate and raise awareness, and to provide support for those who have the disease.
It's a certainty that Eccleshall, who turns 50 this year, will continue to create his paintings and landscapes for a while. He's got a wine cellar in Gig Harbor in his plans, as well as a mural in Ravenna celebrating the achievements of the celebrated University of Washington crew teams.
"I'm 50 this year, so I don't think I want to be climbing scaffolding in 10 years," he said. "I'll probably dial back on murals, but not for a while. I'm slowly trying to build up the painting and gallery side of my work so when I'm too old and decrepit to go up 24 feet on scaffolding I can sit in the studio, dabble way, and hopefully still pay the mortgage."
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"Our customers recognize his genius, and once they have purchased one painting they will often become repeat collectors of his art," Cole said. "Anyone who has seen his paintings in person recognize how incredibly special he is and how fortunate we are to have him in our community."