Drawing attention

Everyday objects, plants and animals spark Wright State fine arts alum Andrew Dailey’s unique graphite drawings

Wright State fine arts graduate Andrew Dailey created “Testudo Temporalis” during his recent solo exhibition at the Dana L. Wiley Gallery in Dayton. Community members can watch Dailey create a large wall drawing in Wright State’s Stein Galleries on Feb. 16 as part of the “Drawing from Perception, Invention and Memory” exhibition. (Photo by Erin Pence)

Andrew Dailey likes to draw on walls.

From giant tortoises to elephants to pigs stacked atop one another, creating original graphite drawings on gallery walls has become a feature of many of Dailey’s exhibitions.

Dailey, who studied drawing and painting at Wright State University, is even OK knowing the murals are temporary.

For instance, in his most recent exhibition, “Ephemera,” at the Dana L. Wiley Gallery in downtown Dayton, Dailey drew a six-foot square tortoise with driftwood on its shell.

When the exhibition closed in January, the drawing was painted over. It fit with the theme of Dailey’s exhibition: life is ever-changing, unpredictable, fleeting and finite.

“It’s like a drawing that exists temporarily,” Dailey said.

Many of Dailey’s graphite murals are whimsical.

“Bloated Elevation” featured an elephant, frightened by a tiny mouse, standing on top of two water fountains in a secluded gallery space at The Contemporary Dayton. “Counting Sheep,” drawn on the adjoining wall, depicted a large wolf standing on top of three sheep.

At the Neon Heater Gallery in Findlay, Ohio, Dailey drew pigs stacked on top of each other, the largest crowned with a gold leaf halo. As part of an exhibition about politicians abusing their power, the idea behind the mural was “elevating things that are bad for us,” Dailey said. “We put the biggest fattest pig on the top.”

Watch Dailey draw live

Dailey, who graduated from Wright State in 2005 with a Bachelor of Fine Art in Arts, will create a large wall drawing in the Robert and Elaine Stein Galleries on Friday, Feb. 16, as part of “Drawing from Perception, Invention and Memory,” a juried exhibition of artists from across the United States. Sam Kelly, who earned a B.F.A. in Painting from Wright State, will lead a concurrent drawing marathon in one of the drawing studios.

Community members can watch Dailey work or draw with Kelly from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. in Wright State’s Creative Arts Center.

Much of Andrew Dailey’s current work is inspired by everyday objects and natural subjects. (Photo by Erin Pence)

Dailey also has a portrait he drew of his daughter Phoenix in “Drawing from Perception, Invention and Memory,” which is on display in the Stein Galleries through March 8.

“I have had a long interest in drawing the human form and did it for many years,” he said. “So, this drawing is a departure from my recent work, but it’s also a return to a familiar and much-loved motif.”

Natural inspiration

Much of Dailey’s artistic inspiration comes from everyday objects, plants and animals.

“There’s something I’ve always really found fascinating with natural forms and organic forms,” he said. “They’re often challenging to pick in a way that feels worthwhile from my point of view, not necessarily from a viewer’s point of view. No two roots or blades of grass are the same. I like that. The one thing you’re working on is not like any other thing like it.”

Dailey started focusing on natural subjects while grieving for his older brother who died unexpectedly in 2015.

“I had done enough of these drawings and saw a theme starting to emerge and wanted to keep it going,” he said. “It became more intentional after I realized what I had been working on.”

Dailey’s interest in focuses on drawing also has some practical application. As a busy father raising two children, it was challenging to set up a painting studio.

“Drawing was a way to feel like I was being productive, while the kids needed their dad around to do dad things,” he said.

It also helps that drawing is his favorite media to work in.

“It’s got its own unique characteristics and properties that you can’t get in a painting or etching,” he said. “So, I leaned heavily into that, and I’ve been trying to push it as far as I can and see what happens.”

“Butterfly Bush Roots” by Andrew Dailey

In addition to his studio practice, Dailey is the cultural arts program supervisor at the City of Kettering’s Rosewood Arts Centre. He facilitates arts opportunities for the community by bringing in teaching artists who share their skills and knowledge.

His responsibilities include overseeing the visual arts educational programs, classes and workshops and Kettering’s long-running children’s theater program while also assisting with outreach programs, special events and a robust summer art camp.

“It’s not something, honestly, I had thought about a whole lot before working here, but it’s been a rewarding experience,” he said. “I’m still working in the field. It’s gratifying.”

Dailey comes from a family of visual artists and was encouraged to pursue his artistic interests as a child. His great-grandfather was a painter, and while Dailey never met him, he knew his artwork because it hung in family members’ homes.

His great-aunt was also an artist and art teacher. His mother was a nurse and painted in her free time. She would set up and paint on the dining room table and her paintings were displayed around the house.

“I learned a lot just being around that as a kid,” he said.

Dailey drew a lot as he was growing up and, as a fan of comic book illustration, enjoyed drawing Wolverine and the X-Men.

“I showed an inclination toward it as a kid and kept drawing,” he said. “In high school, I decided I wanted to take this seriously.”

‘Wonderfully supportive place’

After graduating from Greeneview High School in Jamestown, Dailey enrolled in Wright State’s Bachelor of Fine Arts in Art program because of its focus on drawing fundamentals.

He credits the fine art faculty for creating a supportive environment and for pushing him to establish a strong work ethic and discover how to be self-motivated. He also learned how to see the world as an artist, a skill he uses not only to draw but also to think critically.

“You learn how to look at a problem and figure out how to diagnose the problem and find solutions,” he said.

“Shad” by Andrew Dailey

When he enrolled in the M.F.A. program at Miami University, Dailey realized how well Wright State had prepared him to succeed as a graduate student.

He has remained close to Wright State’s fine art program since graduating.

As a young professional, Dailey taught drawing, painting and printmaking in the College of Liberal Arts for several years. It allowed him to work alongside many of the instructors who taught him as a student.

He received the Outstanding Alumni Award from Wright State’s former Department of Art and Art History in 2016.

Dailey has also worked with several Wright State faculty members as a member and coordinator of the Dutoit Gallery, an artist-run coop at Front Street in downtown Dayton.

Faculty members continue to support him by attending his events and staying in touch.

“They’re mentors, teachers, friends, intellects I look up to as well,” he said. “Wright State has been a wonderfully supportive place for me over the year.”

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