Art Talks with gallery artist Beverley Hawksley

Art Talks


CH: What would you say motivates your practice? Why do you create? 

BH: I love that you use the word practice in this question because for me that is almost the answer in full. I think of my art making as nourishing and life-giving. It lives in the same category as any practice that would be considered as grounding or supportive. Spending the better part of each day in my studio is not something I could easily do without. I am sometimes credited with being self-disciplined, but my response to that is that an all-consuming desire can look a lot like discipline.

CH: Your work often focuses on the female figure in a variety of scenes/scenarios. Why do you think you continue to return to this subject matter? What do you find so compelling about it?

BH: I have always considered the body to be a vessel for our stories and using figures that are female comes so naturally to me because I am a woman. I physically feel in my own body, the gestures that I paint as I work. I get to know the figures as characters and I trust them to show me whatever wants to come forth. I love this collaboration.

CH: Your work is collage-based with some painting included. Where do you source your collage materials? Does this have some relation to the imagery you paint?

BH: I do detailed drawings before I start painting or applying the collage bits. Painting is my starting point because it sets the mood of the work. Developing the figures a bit before I add collage gives them some encouragement to direct me. It can be time consuming to find just the right collage pieces, it’s a meditative process and yes for sure, it does relate to and/or inform the work as it progresses.

I spend a lot of time hunting collage material in thrift shops and second hand stores. I like to use text from dictionaries, encyclopaedias, and vintage newspapers.  I often use small printed copies of my own past paintings as embellishment on the clothing or objects in my work. I also search for anything with illuminated manuscript imagery. Most of the time I’m not sure what I’m looking for until I see it.  Some portion of an image of a building that catches my eye, or some design that repeats are all considered when I’m scouring for materials.

CH: You have mentioned in your artist statement that you have some experience in costume making. Are you influenced by any particular periods of fashion?

BH: I have included some dresses as an art form in a few solo shows. They were simple classic styles that I covered in stitched and drawn imagery and my poetry.

Some years back I was commissioned by Huntsville Festival of the Arts to do “something” and created a forest performance piece called “Subplot” completely inspired by the woods, much of the costume creation for that show involved organic accoutrements. I’m not sure about periods of influence, but perhaps my inspiration for garment making comes from the desire to give some outside form to what is stirring on the inside.

CH: Your work often has a narrative component. Why do you think these narratives are so important to your work? Does our political climate ever influence your pieces?

BH: Stories are super important in my creative endeavours. I can’t say that I always know what they are, but they are always waiting in the studio for me to invite them onto the canvas. The analytical part comes post creatively for me, so often I don’t have a clear idea of a completed work when I begin. Trusting that the images know their story is important for me and I find time after time that each work comes with its own agenda. The viewer brings something to each piece too and then the narrative becomes a collaboration between the work and its audience.  Although our political climate can’t help but influence on some level, it is not usually my driving force.

CH: How would you describe your process? Can you describe a day in the studio life?

BH: My day starts early. I wake up at 4:00AM or shortly after every day. I seem to have a built in body clock that never lets me sleep beyond that.  I love the stillness of that time of the day and I am in the studio working by 5:00. It feels like there is more time between 5:00AM and 9:00AM than any other time of the day. External energy seems slower then, so it is just me and the birds and the stories. I generally work on one piece at a time so that I have a deep relationship with all of its layers. I don’t often break much in those morning hours, but I stop for lunch and then only work a couple of hours after lunch. By 2:00 or 3:00PM. I shift into other things…maybe write a bit ,but usually my creative energy is waning and I don’t trust myself to do great work at that point in the day.  This predictable rhythm works well for me.

CH: Do you have any advice for emerging artists looking to work fulltime in the industry?

BH: I’m not sure I have enough figured out to be giving too much advice, but in my experience what has worked for me is to just keep showing up. Endurance seems to create a certain amount of dependable evidence that something is working.