Local artist hosts show at Schultz's Treat Street: talks artistic style, autism and Mr. Rogers

Check out Schultz's Treat Street to see work by local artist, Andy Wunderlin. A meet-and-greet will be held on November 20 from 2-4 p.m.

Andy Wunderlin is a local artist with autism, who creates colored pencil drawings. His work is on display at Shultz’s Treat Street located at 3023 Oakland Drive. On November 20, he will be at the restaurant doing a meet and greet from 2-4 p.m. He will be doing drawings at that time. 


Wunderlin's cousin connected him to Schultz’s Treat Street to do a show at the restaurant. Wunderlinis showing a variety of subject matter for the show; one piece has sold already. 


Wunderlin has a piece he created especially for this event:


“When I was with my aunt, Dawn Wunderlin, she said to me, ‘Andy, I think you should draw ice cream cones since Treat Street is all about ice cream,’” said Wunderlin. 


Schultz’s Treat Street is owned by Erin Schultz who stated:


“Wunderlin is a special person with a true passion for drawing. His works are full of life and color and brighten everyone's day who experiences them. They have been a welcome addition to our local artist wall and we can't wait to host our first art show featuring Andy.”


Wunderlin draws a variety of subjects. From plants to trees and portraits, he enjoys making something that is two dimensional look three dimensional. Wunderlin likes the computer-generated aesthetic and brings that to his art by creating colorful gradients and true to life realism.


Drawing by Andy Wunderlin

“Making the color combinations when I am drawing a leaf, making dark green, green and then yellow. Then the white paper is the highlight. That is my favorite part of my work.”


He began thinking about drawing at Marcellus Middle School in Cass County. Wunderlin further pursued art while attending the Young Adult Program (YAP) with Kalamazoo RESA. 


YAP is a special education program that helps adults aged 18 through 26 to continue to learn and gain life skills. Wunderlin took art classes almost every year of the program. Wunderlin’s teacher, Mark Hubbard, encouraged him to draw and taught him techniques to create a self portrait. Wunderlin said that his teacher taught him to see things differently, as parts to a whole.


The self portrait is Wunderlin's favorite piece he created because it is his best work, he says, and because it is a very detailed composition. 


“The family as a whole supports him. No one ever really knew (he was interested in drawing). When he brought home his self portrait, everyone realized the potential he has,” said Brian Penny, Wunderlin’s uncle. 


Andy Wunderlin, self portrait

self portrait, by Andy Wunderlin


Wunderlin began living with his uncle and aunt when he lost his parents fifteen years ago. Recently, he began living independently. His favorite part is being able to go for walks, draw, have visitors, and get mail. After living with a big family, he is adjusting to a quieter home by himself.  


“I didn't think I could do it at first. What if I didn't know how to pay my bills? My aunt and uncle help me do that for now” Wunderlin said.


Penny said that Wunderlin is steadily tackling this new challenge. 


 “He is learning that he can do it and it's not so scary,” Penny said.


Wunderlin has autism and is visually impaired. He had been blind in one eye since birth and has visual impairment in the other, which affects his depth perception. 


When describing his vision he described it as like seeing through a straw. This requires him to get very close to the paper when he draws.  


But this impairment is not a hindrance when using technology to draw, like Gravity Sketch on the Oculus Rift. 


“It's kind of like sculpting, drawing in the air. Sort of like Harold and the Purple Crayon, but virtual reality,” Wunderlin said.


Wunderlin also is drawn to stories where people enter computer or imaginary worlds like Tron or Enchanted. 


“It's the imagination of what I can do with my work,” said Wunderlin. 


Wunderlin biggest influences are Bob Ross and Mr. Rogers. 


“I like his nature pictures and (the paintings) look real,” Wunderlin said about Ross. 


Although Mr. Rogers is not a visual artist, Wunderlin’s admiration of Rogers comes from how his teachings about love and acceptance make him feel about himself.


“(Mr. Rogers) sang a song called ‘I Am Proud of You,’” said Wunderlin. “I think that if I showed him a picture he would be proud of me. He says he likes me just the way I am.”


Wunderlin was able to meet David Newell who played Mr. McFeely on Mr. Rogers several years ago in Grand Rapids. They met at a sweater drive and were able to get to know each other. Eventually Wunderlinand Newell became pen pals.


Wunderlin and his Uncle Brian Penny even made their own homage to Mr Rogers,  called Mr Andy's Neighborhood which is on Youtube.