In Conversation:  Andy & Dooby let us in on 37 years of friendship, Art, and Inverted Dreams & Technicolor Nightmares

Published October 6th 2023
By Jay Sanchez

Andy King and Dooby Tomkins have been a dynamic duo for over 37 years. As creatives, they’ve surrounded themselves with a unique energy that many are yet to encounter. They’ve been a powerful force in the art community for quite some time; Andy has inspired many as an artist and educator in Nashville for many years now. The work created by Dooby, and his care for the installation of an extraordinary amount of art at the Frist Center is long lasting as well.

Inverted Dreams & Technicolor Nightmares invite us into the creative genius of Andy King and Dooby Tomkins. Together they have given us a body of work that allows the viewer to transcend into another dimension… The usual logic or elements are reversed and turned upside down by Andy in the piece “Bilocation” in a setting surreal to most Nashvillians. The meticulous stroke of his brush gives us a glimpse to situations where the expected is replaced by the unexpected. In “Cosmically Linked” we’re witness to Andy’s fascination with the contrast between personal evolution and the influence of others. Dooby takes us to Technicolor Nightmares via his complex, perfectly executed spectacle, and amazingly hand-cut layered paper pieces. His pieces “Cowboy” and “Telestial Passengers No. 1 (Space Chimp) injects the viewer with intense, surreal, vibrant, and often unsettling disturbing imagery. Inverted Dreams & Technicolor Nightmares leave an emotionally charged, vivid, and long-lasting impression on the dreamer upon waking. Their exhibit is currently showing at Modfellows Gallery until October 14th.

Numberinc: Let’s begin this conversation at Modfellows Gallery amigos. Please take reader to opening night of Inverted Dreams & Technicolor Nightmares. 

Dooby: I arrived way too early. I definitely did some pacing around the place. Had that “Is anyone coming to the show” moment. Then everyone arrived around six, and suddenly it was 09:30.

What about you?

Andy: I thought I was going to be late, but I showed up right before six. It was insane so many people, it honestly felt like my wedding reception.

Dooby: That's what I kept saying it was like a wedding reception that buzzed by, and I was like: “Did I say hi to that person?” “Did I thank them for coming?”

Andy: A lot of handshakes and smiles, the conversations got a bit deeper as the night progressed.

Dooby: I totally agree, we also had a lot of creatives that came out to show support.

Numberinc: Explain the feelings and emotions correlating with the collaboration between you both? 

Dooby: I've known you pretty much my whole life. You're like a brother.  It was cool to finally have an actual show together with the two of us as featured artists.

Andy: The whole process felt natural, and I think it was a lot better than if I was paired with someone I didn't know, or if you had been.

Dooby: I agree. I also thought that our work, which I was a little nervous about, was not going to work well together, but you can tell that we have brushed edges over the last 37 years.

Andy: Absolutely. Same feeling as, oh my God, how's this going to look. For me, you know, it was exciting. We've both been making art for a long time; I think you're probably a little bit more consistent through the years than I've been. And we've never had a show together so that was awesome.

Dooby: So cool to be the featured artists together. I feel like we've had pieces in the same show a few times in the past, but we never collaborated at this level.

Andy: I am so grateful; that we were able to formulate this show together. We didn't even know we were going to be in that first group show, did we? Fast forward, it has officially happened.

“I’m truly amazed by Andy’s use of color as he transitions from serenity to subject. It reminds me of a natural high, as if he sees the world like a circus mirror. Doobie has the patience of a cat trainer with detailed cuts of his X-Acto blade. Their choices of paper and colors shows their longtime bond as friends and artist.”

-Ol Skool Mike 

Numberinc: How did this show come to be? Describe the inspiration and process behind Inverted Dreams & Technicolor Nightmares? 

Doody: “Andy called me.” (laughter)

Andy: I didn't think you were going to do it at first because of the flood that happened when you showed at Modfellows in the past. By the time we settled on having the show together, most of our works are already done, right?

Dooby: Definitely, all I had to worry about was the framing of the pieces. We worked on trying to come up with a title for a long time. Came up with hundreds of bad titles.

Andy: We really had to dig deep in order to find our theme….

Dooby: The inverted dreams part…, I wasn't sure if that was a little more you and the technicolor nightmares a little more me. For me the technicolor nightmares reference influenced the color palette of paper that I'm using. I was aiming for that kind of vibrating eye effects that I like.

Andy: The Bezold effect.

Dooby: Yeah, something like that. A lot of the work created deals with issues of loss, vice, and uncontrollable circumstances.

Andy: To me, the inverted dreams are very internalized and other-worldly circumstances. To invert the dream is to bring the unreality into reality. Instead of being present in the world, you are stuck in yourself, and that's the reality that I was stuck in. My attempt is to reconcile with what's happening in my dome, and what's happening in the world and how a person fits into that and, my inner reality, what I'm feeling, what I'm thinking, what I consider to be myself, and how is that part of everything else that's going on around me, or is it even a part of that at all?

Dooby: I felt like your work had a little bit of a conversation with transformation too. I could see and sense something transformative in the work. Maybe it's the change in the spinning piece (Duality), or the stylistic shifts, but transformative. Just growth in general.

Andy: Before I started this series, I was in a dark place honestly. I don't know what the hell was going on, but it wasn't good. I finally got out of it, and it was that kind of transformation that you're picking up on.

It was great to see a show where two friends are having fun with Art. I also enjoyed seeing where they fall into detail and the style they bring to storytelling. Congratulations, much respect & love to both Andy and Dooby.


Numberinc: You guys have been friends since elementary school, right? Take us back to the beginning of this beautiful friendship. What’s the secret to the friendship you both share? 

Dooby: Well, we met at the Armadillo Station at the kindergarten science table. Pretty sure there's a photograph of it. You were probably more the scientist growing up than me. I would say we've been friends since the beginning, 37 years to be exact.

Andy: We went to elementary school together. We went to high school together and started college together. You were nearby in Chattanooga; I was in Sewanee.

Dooby: I visited all the time.

Andy: Then we both moved back here around the same time back in 2005, right?

Dooby: That's the year I graduated college. We decided we would take Nashville by storm.

Andy: (maniacal laugh)

Dooby: Real friends don't lose touch.

Andy: You’ve got to make an effort to stay in touch and It’s always been pretty easy for us.

Dooby: It’s been so easy because we have so many similar interests and a similar upbringing.

Andy: We had a few friends from our childhood show up at our show… Hayley, Duensing, Clay, Skye. We’ve known them all since kindergarten.

Dooby: We count ourselves very lucky to have these lifelong friendships. We have trust in one another. That’s a big one, trust.

Andy: I think it’s been like a judgment-free relationship. I don't think we've ever had a real fight. We have similar humor; we both like the same things, horror movies, comic books, sci-fi, Wayne’s World.

Dooby: I feel like we can play off each other pretty well too [socially]. Maybe just the natural dynamic!

Numberinc: How did art create a greater connection between you both? How long have you both been creating art? 

Andy: We both had Miss Frelinghuysen and Miss Bills as art teachers.

Dooby: I remember making drawings and comic books as a kid at your house with a giant sketch pad, the giant one you kept under the couch while we watched Monster Squad!

Andy: My grandfather bought those big presentation notebooks. We would draw Robotech scenes and all sorts of stuff.

Dooby: I remember that. We’ve always been making stuff together [in one form or another]. Like those films we made in high school, or the plays we wrote in middle school. I feel like we've always been creating either separately or together, but closely enough together to have influenced one another.

Numberinc: What’s your favorite piece by Andy/Dooby in this show? Why?

Dooby: Oh geez. I love the symmetry of Double Christ (Inward Outward Entanglement). I thought that it played well with Cowboy and with the way they were displayed across from each other, and the palette. It's surreal, it’s “surreality.” I like the kind of “out-there” vibe of it. I'm NOT encouraging anyone to do drugs, but it definitely has that kind of a trippy vibe…… And the Christ reference!?! I like that it goes very deep and has multi-layers of meaning.

Andy: Actually, it’s not about Christ. You know what they say, “you see what you wanna see.”

Dooby: They say the Lord made us in his image or whatever, so there you go.

What about you Andy?

Andy: Your piece titled Little Boy Lost! Is that a reference to the Twilight Zone episode?

Dooby: Oh…good catch! It is a reference that was a deep cut for those Twilight Zone aficionados. I had to look up the title of that Twilight Zone episode to make sure I got it right.

Andy: I love that one, me being a father and seeing that kid in forced perspective is badass. I love that visual effect, it's just raw. I had a strong emotional response to it. And it hit me in a place that (points to chest) I had a strong reaction to that piece.

Dooby: I [actually] had another father at the show come up and tell me that he had a strong reaction to it. Kinda like Double Christ (Inward Outward Entanglement), there are multiple meanings you could take from several pieces of our work. It doesn’t mean he has to be lost.  He could be lost… in dreams! So, in that sense, I kind of like the open-endedness of some of our work and how the viewer can bring their own preconceptions to the work.

Andy: That's half the fun, isn't it?  I always like to leave it a little open because you know, the fun part for me, looking at art is like, it’s almost like being a detective and trying to figure out the clues and what it means to me to interpret it.

Dooby: I like to hide clues in my works too, what do you call them? Easter eggs!

Numberinc: What inspires you?

Andy: As a teacher, I'm always researching artists, and finding inspiration there. I’m inspired by my students. I'm inspired by my coworkers because they (the art department) are all practicing artists too.

Dooby: Is it nice to be in a community of practicing artists?

Andy: I wasn't always a teacher in a community of practicing artists. And I didn't practice either. Here we push each other, everybody's working, everybody's showing. So that's cool. Other than that, what inspires me is just the dynamism of the world. That everything is always changing. Including us. I’m also trying to figure out what is going on in me, in the world, and what's my place. Therefore, I’m focused on challenging myself to show that in visual terms.

Dooby: Do you think you're trying to figure out yourself or the world?

Andy: Both… All right, what about you where do you find your inspiration? What inspires you, Dooby Tomkins?

Dooby: Well, I get inspired by a lot of the stuff we got inspired by as kids: like horror movies, science fiction, comic books…. really media of any sort. Since we're a society of visual information, and so inundated, so constantly [inundated] with it [visual information].  I think it's interesting to pause and select which pieces of the [flow] of visual information I take the time to interpret, and which ones subconsciously hit you. I'm kind of curating those, it's like surfing the TV or the Internet, you know? You're just kind of streaming through it.

Andy: That's one cool aspect of your work that I haven’t really seen in that way.

Dooby: Like when you drive past a billboard and you may take in the information, but you don't really process all of it. It's like you don't really take the time to sit there and process what you're seeing. Your mind just moves on, because otherwise, we'd be at a standstill from trying to take in all the visual information that we receive. It's almost like the brain's way of survival.

Andy: When I'm teaching art, that's one of the more interesting concepts to teach. Is that you get to determine what the viewer sees and how they read a painting or a collage or anything like that. You’re kind of conducting music, or conducting the viewer through the piece.

Dooby: There are so many different things that go into that, like composition or color, that can affect your psyche or your emotions or the way you view it. I'm trying to think of a better way to say that.

Andy: Just fucking with people's heads…

Dooby: Just a little bit.

Numberinc: How do you each find inspiration in one another?

Andy: I am constantly texting you.

Dooby: You ARE. I know! (Sarcastically rolls eyes) (Laughter)

Andy: I'm like, super insecure as an artist. I need to know. I need extra eyes looking at my work because I don't trust my eyes always. You and Doug (Charlton) help me out a lot. And I know that it's probably annoying and I'm trying to cut back on it, I promise.

Dooby: It's funny you say that Andy because it’s nice to have a safe critique space. We've known each other for so long, Douglas included. It doesn't take as much courage to share our work with each other. Even if you might think it sucks, it’'s like “oh well, it sucks. So, I won't show that, but just presenting it [your art] straight out to the public with no kind of filter (makes scary hands up motion) As you said, one way I find inspiration through you is having another set of eyes, or another way of thinking, looking at it.

Numberinc: What creatives inspire your work? What are you wanting to accomplish through your work?

Dooby: I would say I get a lot of inspiration from all the creatives, and all the art that passes through the museum that I get to handle and see. I guess it's kind of intimidating in a way, to see world-class art, but it also gives you something to strive for.

Andy: I’d say you make world-class art.

Dooby: Well, depends on what world (laughter). I don't know, also, as you said, the people that are in our community that you see their work out at galleries or in spaces, and people that I know in the community who are practicing artists.

Andy: Yes, those people probably have more influence on me than anything else. I can get inspiration from a painting that I see in an art history book or something, but it's the people that I know that are making art really the ones that affect me. So, like you, Doug Duncan (McDaniel) I love his brush work! doughjoe, Ol Skool. There’s a German artist that I'm friends with on Instagram Gunter Krentz, we've got a lot of similar things going on. The people here (at school), Delilah, Trent (Boysen), Emily (Holt), and Chris Cheney. And of course, my former art professor, Ed Carlos. We are still remarkably close.

Dooby: There have been several artists who have worked as art handlers with me that I've seen their work for years, and we still keep in touch through Instagram, Facebook, et cetera. I don't feel like it has to be museum-quality art or anything. I can get just as much inspiration from a copy of Fangoria, as I can from a book on Michelangelo. There needs to be something contemporary. I think it's important to draw your inspiration from all around you and lots of sources. So, I can look at a kid's drawings, [for inspiration] for instance.

Andy: If you're looking at art history who inspires you? Rauschenberg?

Dooby: Yeah [of course]! I always love David Salle's paintings because of his use of overlays.  Always appreciated that. I like James Rosenquist a lot. I guess a lot of the pop artists, really.

What about you?

Andy: I like the Symbolists. Redon, Roerich, people like that. In terms of brushwork, the shan shui, the calligraphic landscapes from China. I love pushing paint, I love putting it on differently, so those guys. Also, creatives like Roberto Marta, Ralph Steadman, and Francis Bacon.

Dooby: I was gonna say Jack Kirby; I mean I can't tell you how much Jack Kirby artwork I've looked at through the years. Several comic book artists that I grew up with greatly influenced my work. John Buscema is good. I like being kind of vampiric in nature when it comes to inspiration. I think that's an aspect of artists that most of us have in some way whether we admit it or not.

Andy: I mean that's what we all do right?  We incorporate different elements from things we like and put it all together in our own way,

Dooby: That's why I kind of have a feeling that there's no originality left.

Andy: No, that is originality though! Especially with emerging technologies.

Dooby: That's true…. good point.

Numberinc: What’s next for Andy King & Dooby Tomkins.

Dooby: What's next? What next for Andy King?

Andy: There are so many things bouncing around my head right now. I kind of want to go back from the more realistic stuff and return to more flowy things. I've wanted to incorporate elements in different ways. I've got some ideas of these big panels with cut out shapes that I wanna do. I've thought about making these symbolist collages and paintings. We have the show and now I get to, like, try on all these different things and see what I like. What about you? You gonna continue with the cut paper? Do more with the lights?

Dooby: Well, like you said, I have a lot of ideas running around my head.

The hard part for me is figuring out which ones are good ideas and which ones are bad. But I'm gonna try to build up my layer in depth a little bit, maybe with more panels of acrylic. Different sections of the work on different planes…

Andy: That would be dope.