sioux falls

Andy J. Pizza


Andy J. Pizza’s illustrations are inspired by what he can’t see. On his recent trip to South Dakota, the illustrator, podcaster and public speaker experienced the parts of South Dakota that you can’t get from a photo –creative enthusiasm, excitement and generous communities. Naturally, he came away inspired. Learn more about Andy’s discoveries in South Dakota, his encounters with Sioux Falls artists Wes Eisenhauer & Mitch Torbert, and the creative inspiration he gathered along the way.

Andy J. Pizza

Help us get to know you a little better. What’s your creative journey been like up to this point?

My name is Andy J. Pizza. Today I am an illustrator, podcaster and public speaker, but getting to this point was a heck of a journey. Many creative dragons had to be slayed along the way. For starters, I have ADHD, and that meant from the get-go I had to take a creative approach to my career. I’ve built my entire career on self-initiated personal projects that I like to call “Creative Side Quests”.

My latest and most successful of these “side quests” is my podcast “Creative Pep Talk.” This podcast has opened up so many incredible doors, including meeting and chatting with some of my all-time creative heroes, like Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Abbi Jacobson and Morgan Harper Nichols!

On top of that, I’ve been super fortunate to illustrate for many incredible clients such as The New York Times, The Washington Post, Nickelodeon, Google, YouTube, Amazon and many more.

Did you always want to be an illustrator?

Actually, no. When I was a kid I really, really, really wanted to be on Saturday Night Live. However, coming from a small town in Indiana, that dream just seemed completely insane. When I found illustration it seemed like it had similar potential for creativity and fun but ultimately more realistic.

If only I’d known just how hard this path was going to be!! Ha ha! Luckily, along the way I realized that, in my bones, I am an illustrator. Even on the podcast, I’m illustrating with analogies and metaphors. I live to illuminate topics that matter to me!

Where do you typically find creative inspiration?

Instagram. HA. Just kidding…kind of. So many artists say “life” and, YES, life inspires me, but so do other illustrators. I AM A HUGE FAN of illustration, and that fandom is a huge part of staying excited about the game, man!

My deepest inspirations, though, are pretty much all things you can’t see. This was a massive hurdle for me early on because my illustration teachers would say "Draw what you love”! The person next me to me would be drawing cats, the person on the other side would be drawing basketballs, and I was like “Hmmm, how do you draw dark matter? The divine? Quantum entanglement? How can you draw invisible things?”

Eventually I realized that making the invisible visible is what illustration is really all about! Photography can really reveal what’s there, but illustration has the power to show you things that there are no other ways of seeing! I love the Paul Klee quote “Art does not reproduce the visible; rather, it makes visible.”

What surprised you most about South Dakota?

THE ENTHUSIASM! Man, I am so used to traveling to the “usual suspect” creative hotspots we all know about: NYC, LA, etc., and I think I’ve grown accustomed to the general malaise and jadedness of many of these places in regard to creative stuff. But, man, going to South Dakota and seeing the creative enthusiasm in the cafes, coffee shops, record shops and creative spaces had me feeling like I was 22 again and making stuff for the first time. There is so much excitement and generosity in the community. The excitement was so thick you could cut it with a knife! So good.

Andy J. Pizza
What did you find most creatively inspiring about the state, if you had to pick just one person, place or thing?

I LOVED all the conversations I had on my tour, even the unplanned ones! BUT if I had to choose, it would be Hugh Weber. Dude is a gift to this world! He brought a tear to my eye with his creative vision and passion. The depth of his insight about community and creativity has been in my thoughts almost on a daily basis since I left Sioux Falls!!

Do you think your experiences in South Dakota will have an impact on your art going forward?

100%. The biggest takeaway for me is the power of an enthusiastic community. I go too long without checking in and getting “in real life” face time with folks that are enthusiastic about the same things I am. In South Dakota, every creative person I met had a connection to the person I’d met before them, and they were inspired by each other’s spark. It lit my creative flame, and I want to carry that torch forward!

Tell us about your time with Mitch, Leslie and Wes— all talented artists in their own right. What did you try to help them with, and how did they help you?

Selfishly I probably took more than I gave! Each of these artists were so gracious with their time and wisdom. However, in each conversation there was a creative nugget of wisdom that I will go on to use. Mitch showed me how manual labor can unblock your creativity. Les shared his “graveyard folder” of old unused work he uses to steal from himself and inspire new projects. Wes showed me that every medium I use can teach me something about my other creative outlets. So grateful for all these juicy tips!!

What will you remember most about your time in South Dakota?

The cauliflower curry naan bread from Bread and Circus! Ha ha!! Seriously, though, so good...

Were there any spots you wanted to explore but couldn’t on this trip?

If I ever make it back out there, I’d love to go further out into the wilderness. The peace and quiet that I found on the trails out there was unmatched!!

Andy has seen the future

Wes Eisenhauer

What’s your creative background, and how does South Dakota inspire your artistic endeavors?

My creative background is made up of a lot of different experiences, namely in music and skateboarding culture. I've spent the last 15 years playing in a band and touring the country, sharing our music. Music led me to pick up a camera and explore photography, which would ultimately change my life and career trajectory. For the last three years, I have run my own photography and video production company out of a newly renovated studio warehouse space in downtown Sioux Falls. 

What were you hoping to gain by meeting with Andy?

I'm always looking to learn and gain different perspectives from like-minded individuals in the creative industry. Learning about the work that Andy has done was super inspiring. 

What was the biggest takeaway in meeting with him?

My biggest takeaway in meeting with Andy is that we're all navigating a similar path. Regardless of what point we're at in our creative journey or what geography we're operating out of, we're all just sort of figuring it out as we go. No path is linear. You have to be prepared for the unexpected turns and changes that will inevitably arise as you pursue your passions. 

What were you most excited to show Andy about South Dakota?

I was most excited to show Andy that we have a thriving arts scene in South Dakota. Most people are familiar with larger metropolitan areas. What makes South Dakota unique is that we're a mostly rural state that has a lot to offer when it comes to creativity and the arts. You can proudly be from South Dakota while still pursuing ambitious creative endeavors! 

Your Everyday
Andy J. Pizza Illustration

Mitch Torbert

What’s your creative background, and how does South Dakota inspire your artistic endeavors? 

I received by Bachelor of Arts from SDSU, and my Master of Fine Arts in printmaking at USD. I’ve worked freelance design for nine years and have been the graphic designer and project manager at Fernson Brewing Company for four years. South Dakota is a very inspiring place to be from! I’ve lived in Sioux Falls, Rapid City, and a small town named Gettysburg north of Pierre, so I’ve gotten to experience the breadth of South Dakota’s landscape and cultures. Right now, I’m most passionate about the environment around downtown Sioux Falls. It’s very easy to find people exploring fun personal projects, running inspiring businesses, and engaging in important discussions. These are three things that I find important to a satisfying life.

What were you hoping to gain by meeting with Andy? 

Some creatives are happy to dive into the deeper discussions that underpin motivation and productivity. Andy is especially good at this and getting to share in that conversation was an honor!

What was the biggest takeaway in meeting with him?

To be strategic with how you respond to creative ruts. Knowing what techniques work and how to recognize that you’ve hit a wall.

What were you most excited to show Andy about South Dakota?

I was so excited to point him to some of the many great bars and restaurants we have DTSF (downtown Sioux Falls)!

Illustrated image of three bison grazing in Custer State Park. The Needles rock formation is visible in the background.
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