Geometrical landscapes and foreboding futures: Drew Etienne’s inspirational artwork comes to life in his small studio

Drew Etienne, a second year graduate student at the University of Iowa, uses peculiar objects from his mind to inspire his art


Katie Goodale

Graduate Student Drew Etienne poses in his studio in the Visual Arts Building on Tuesday, Feb. 25, 2020.

Ashley Dawson, Arts Reporter

Unspecified, peculiar beauties that pop into the mind are what inspire Drew Etienne, a second-year graduate student at the University of Iowa, before he begins a new drawing.

“There are these mysterious, inorganic objects that just keep hanging around for unknown reasons,” Etienne said.

Instead of being scared by these mind-floaters, though, he said he uses them as the basis for his art.

Geometric patterns and colorful landscapes cover canvases in Etienne’s workspace in the Visual Arts Building. Although he has historically used acrylic paints, he said he is slowly getting back into the use of oil paints. He has also pursued his interest in printmaking as a secondary area of study.

“Landscapes of foreboding futures are a main part in my paintings,” Etienne said.

A near-kaleidoscope effect takes place in Etienne’s work. His canvases are covered in bright colors and patterns.

Inspired by his artistic mother to pursue art, Etienne looked to art styles in video game manuals and comic books for a steady, expressive artistic style as a child.

As he grew older, Etienne said his inspiration changed depending on his headspace. Sometimes, he feels inspired by artist Yoshida Hiroshi due to his ability to say a lot in his work with a small amount of informational colors and patterns.

The 36-year-old also looks up to artists such as David Schnell, a German painter who specializes in geometric landscapes, and Frank Nitsche, another German painter who does geometric abstract work.

Etienne received his BFA at Indiana University over a decade ago, and he is now working towards an MFA in studio art with a focus in drawing and painting.

Although Etienne is not known to keep all of his works on-hand after finishing them, he has kept two or three with him to remind himself that not all of his art is unfavorable.

“I held on to them because everything came together in them, and they’re good benchmark or milestone pieces. I like having them around because they remind me that things can go right sometimes,” he said.

After finishing his MFA, Etienne hopes to use whatever abilities he has grown to pay the bills. He has a project in mind that can help national parks. Despite the project still being fairly abstract, he knows that he wants to do something for the parks.

On March 6, Etienne will have a reception for his pieces in the Levitt Gallery at Art Building West.

Though his color schemes and palettes have varied since his early artistic beginning, Etienne feels that he has found a comfortable theme for his art and hopes to inspire others through his work.

“I like color a lot. I like to explore different color palettes and pay close attention to where I use color that’s very bright versus color that’s very dull,” he said. “ I like to explore what that does to change the mood or atmosphere of the piece.”