|Born||September 17, 1956
Iowa City, Iowa
Brian Andreas (born 1956 in Iowa City, Iowa) is an American writer, painter, publisher and speaker widely known for his simple and poetic short stories of 50 to 100 words, often accompanied by distinctive color drawings. The stories range from wry comic commentary to elegant and direct meditations on themes of love, relationships, and being alive now. His earlier stories, prints and books to 2014 continue to be released by his company StoryPeople. After 2014, his work is published for both national and international audiences by brian andreas studio.
The work published by StoryPeople now includes twelve books incorporating drawings and writings, color prints of his drawings and short stories, as well as greeting cards and calendars. The mixed-media sculptures incorporating salvaged wood in deliberately crude shapes, bright colors, hand drawings (especially faces) and rubber-stamped imprints of his writings are no longer produced as of June, 2015. The work published by brian andreas studio includes his latest stories in color prints and greeting cards on fine art papers.
In 1994, Andreas founded a company, StoryPeople, to distribute his work worldwide. In 2012 he founded tumblecloud.com, a collaborative digital storytelling platform. In 2014, he founded brianandreas.com as a platform for his original art and his other creative projects. In 2015, he was a key collaborator in the formation of A Hundred Ways North, a company focused on using stories and workshops to transform the ways people find and sustain community.
Andreas was born in 1956 in Iowa City and grew up in Chicago, Illinois. He graduated from Luther College in Decorah, Iowa, in 1979 with a BA in Theater and English. He went on to receive his MFA in Fiber and Mixed Media in 1992 from the John F. Kennedy University in Orinda, California, where he focused on Fiber, with an emphasis on story as the fiber of human community. It was during 1992-1993, in conjunction with the Graduate School of Arts and Consciousness at JFK University, that he coordinated an early Internet experiment in collaborative storytelling called the Hall of Whispers.
Hall of Whispers
Andreas set out to ask people to share stories about their experience of being alive, using the Internet of the early 1990s. Of this experiment, he wrote:
"Hall of Whispers takes its name from an ancient Babylonian myth of a specially constructed room in one of the ziggurats (stepped pyramids), in which the walls were so highly polished that a whisper would stay alive forever. I have an image of the electronic networks whispering ceaselessly with the voices of our times.
"The form of the project is deceptively simple ... to create a situation ... where we could join each other around a technological campfire ... to create a virtual community using an ancient fundamental of community-making: shared stories ... a council model for understanding our world ... that it is in the sharing that greater wisdom evolves. Finally, in a turbulent world, it is easy to lose sight of the small beauties and moments of grace that occur constantly around us. I wanted Hall of Whispers to give voice to that side of ourselves that recognizes that this is as much a time of renewal as it is a time of decay."
At the time of Hall of Whispers, Andreas was living with his former wife, Ellen Rockne, and two young sons in Berkeley, and was focusing artistically on stone sculpting. "I had lots of white, black and beige around but no color." Finally, Rockne is reported to have told him, "Please don't talk to me again until you have some color." With those words and his sons as motivation, Andreas pulled a board from the fence outside of his Berkeley, California studio and cut it into a stylized human figure, and then painted it in bright colors. Further experiments with these figures included hand stamped text along with the color and a softly blended face. Soon, these sculptural 'people' began to sell, first at the Marin Swap Meet, and then later at local craft markets in the San Francisco Bay area. Encouraged by the results, Andreas and his family subsequently left Berkeley early in 1994 and returned to Decorah, Iowa, where they both had previously attended Luther College. Of the results of the Hall of Whispers and the fence-board experiments, it was eventually written that "he discovered the StoryPeople waiting to be carved out of rough barn board, painted in bright colors, and hand-lettered with their individual stories." He "gives voice to the vision of the child and the unsophisticated in books that listen to unnamed 'StoryPeople,' who express themselves through hand-stamped print, as if epigrammatically."
Andreas and Rockne established the company headquarters of StoryPeople in downtown Decorah, Iowa, in May 1994. Andreas spent the next decade directing the production of wood sculptures, print reproductions, books, greeting card sets and furniture all bearing his trademark "bright colors . . . and hand-lettered stories." He and his family returned to California in 2001 where they remained until 2011, when Andreas and Rockne separated, and later divorced. He remained in California until 2015 where he continued to innovate with new stories and new media and created original works on large canvases. In April 2015, he moved back to Iowa to work more closely with his production team at StoryPeople and to collaborate more closely with A Hundred Ways North, a startup focused on workshops and conversations around creativity and community. As he said in a recent interview about those conversations, "We're exploring what it is to be a larger consciousness. [...W]e're also exploring what it is to create stories that allow people to live more fully." He also speaks nationally on the topics of creativity, art and storytelling.
Of his work, Andreas says, "I like art that admits to being a part of life. The moments I have with my friends and family are really all that I need. I like to take them and weave them into stories that are filled with laughter and music and lunacy. And they are mostly true, but I'm not telling which parts. . . " "I have a real quirky view of the world. A century ago I would have been standing on a soapbox in Hyde Park telling people about a better way of seeing." "[Because] when it's all said and done, everyone should pay attention to the beauty and richness of their lives. One person can't be creative with someone else's guidelines. Do what lights you up. It's much simpler and easier than you think."
Andreas' first book of hand-stamped stories and black-and-white line drawings, entitled Mostly True, was first published in August, 1993. Still Mostly True followed in May 1994, and to date Andreas' publications include a total of fifteen books. He was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize in Poetry for Traveling Light in 2003, and again for Some Kind of Ride in 2006. The book "Cuba: This Moment, Exactly So", Andreas' collaboration with photographer Lorne Resnick, was the winner of two major awards in 2016: a gold IPPY from the Independent Publisher Book Awards, and a silver IBPA Benjamin Franklin Award from Independent Book Publishers Association.
With his experience in design, storytelling and digital collaboration, Andreas started tumblecloud in April, 2008. The intention was to create a new communication platform that "will change the way we view ourselves & the planet. Moving from data to meaning. With tools that will help us remember that we're all creative & beautiful & alive. Tools that will help us remember who we are." With an initial group of angel investors, the company built a browser-agnostic workspace for people to arrange, co-create and publish their collaborations, using integrated tools for manipulating cloud-stored multimedia objects. The company was unable to secure further funding in 2014 and subsequently dissolved.
A Hundred Ways North
In the second quarter of 2015, Andreas began a collaboration with Ball State University professor, Wendy Saver, and her company A Hundred Ways North. With his background in story as the fibre of human community and her background in movement, voice, and helping the body to inhabit space fully, they currently lead public and corporate workshops on creativity and collaboration. The workshops "focus on three things: alignment, partnering and creating spaces where learning can happen." They also collaborate with various non-profits around the world, such as JDRF, to help create stories that give voice to the overall mission of each organization. Their first co-authored book, Creative Anarchy, was published by A Hundred Ways North in November, 2015.
- Mostly True (1993)
- Still Mostly True (1994)
- Going Somewhere Soon (1995)
- Strange Dreams (1996)
- Story People (1997 (compilation of Mostly True, Still Mostly True, and Going Somewhere Soon)
- Hearing Voices (1998)
- Trusting Soul (2000)
- Traveling Light (2003)
- Some Kind of Ride (2006)
- Peculiar Times (eBook only) (2008)
- Marching Bands Are Just Homeless Orchestras, Half-Empty Thoughts Vol. 1 (illustrations) (2010)
- Theories of Everything (2012)
- Something Like Magic (2014)
- "Cuba: This Moment, Exactly So" (stories) (2015)
- "Impossible To Know" (2015)
- "Creative Anarchy" (2015)
- Young 1996, p. C3.
- Webb 2006, p. 2D.
- Watts 1995, Sketchbook.
- Langton 1998, cover.
- Brainard 1994, B8.
- Wiley 1995, p. 2A.
- Andreas 1993, pp. 256-257.
- Brainard 1994, p. B8.
- Nathan 1998, p. 25.
- Wiley 1995, p. 1A.
- Marty 1998, p. 14.
- Webb 2006, 2D.
- Wilcox 2016, B4.
- Young 1996, C3.
- Besancon 2016, B1.
- Andreas, 2009
- Saver 2016, About Us.
- Andreas, B (1993). "Hall of Whispers: A Virtual Opera," LEONARDO, Vol. 26, No. 3, pp. 256–257.
- Andreas, B (2009). "The tumblecloud manifesto" Zen Bandit, May, 2009
- Besancon, M (Feb. 6, 2016). "Speaker to share love of creativity with community," Victoria Advocate, pp. B1.
- Brainard, L (June 16, 1994). "Arts and stories lead to StoryPeople," Decorah Journal, p. B8.
- Langton, C (Fall, 1998). "Stories, Sketches, Trunks, and the Art of Life," Vesterheim News, cover.
- Marty, M (July, 1998). "Revising the Map of American Religion," Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, Vol. 558, Americans and Religions in the Twenty-First Century, pp. 14, 15.
- Nathan, J (Sept., 1998). "The StoryPeople: A Publishing Tale," ForeWord, p. 25.
- Saver, W (March, 2016). "About Us" A Hundred Ways North, May, 2016
- Watts Jr., J (May 21, 1995). "Artist's Work Like Prism Held Up to Light of Life," Tulsa World, Sketchbook.
- Webb, J (Dec. 8, 2006). "Slices of life, served with color," Billings Gazette, pp. 2D-3D.
- Wiley, D (Feb. 27, 1995). "His art speaks to people," Des Moines Register, pp. 1A-2A.
- Wilcox, J (Feb. 17, 2016). "Brian Andreas to visit UHV for speaking event," Victoria Advocate, pp. B2.
- Young, L (Nov. 7, 1996). "Funny People Hanging Around At the Library," New York Times, p. C3.
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