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Interview with Jennifer Hawkyard

Jennifer Hawkyard is a very talented artist and graphic designer. After studying both Art and Design and Graphic Design in Canada, she then started working at a local design studio and managed to work her way up to the position of Art Director. Now settled back in England, Jennifer has recently started a new long term project: The Totem Project. We took the time to speak to Jennifer to find out more about her art, the decision behind studying in Canada and her goals for the future. 


White Horse by Jennifer HawkyardHow did you first get into art? Was it something you took to immediately as a child, or did someone introduce you to the subject?

I can't remember a time when I wasn't drawing. I'm pretty sure I was one of those kids that scrawled all over the walls with markers at a young age. I do remember during primary school, or maybe it was secondary school, thinking that I didn't want to go to school. I just wanted to draw pictures all day and as a youngster my obsession was drawing horses - horses, horses, horses! My grandad was a painter, so whenever we visited my grandparents I have fond memories of seeing whatever oil painting he had on the go and of course the walls were filled with his paintings. My family were also pretty creative in general with interests in music, acting and photography so creativity was generally all around from an early age. 


After growing up in Northern England you went on to study Art and Design in Canada. What were your reasons behind making this move?

I took a two year gap year after finishing secondary school and worked in a music shop. I knew I wanted to be in the arts but I didn't know what precisely. My secondary school applied a lot of pressure to all students to go straight to college or uni[versity] but I didn't want to waste money on something I wasn't sure about so I took some time out to work and travel. I had an aunt out in Canada and visited her for the summer. Whilst there someone introduced me to the local college that had an Art and Design Fundamentals course (known as a Foundation Course over here). It seemed like a good way to spend more time in Canada and also discover more about the arts to help me make a decision with a career. I completed the one year foundation course and through that discovered Graphic Design. After spending a year there it was pretty straight-forward to commit to another three years learning Graphic Design. Then, once I'd graduated, I got hired right away at a local design studio. Needless to say, what was going to be a one year visit turned into an eleven year visit in which I learned all about the business side of design and worked my way up to becoming Art Director at that agency.


Uriel by Jennifer HawkyardFollowing your studies you moved into the world of Graphic Design and succeeded in working your way up to the position of Art Director. First of all congratulations! Secondly, what was it about Graphic Design that appealed to you?

Graphic Design was a means to use my creativity and be paid for it! I had a pretty grounded upbringing that was based around [the mantra] ‘you can do whatever you want, but creativity and the arts are tough to make your way in, so make good choices and work hard!’ With that in mind I saw Graphic Design as a way to still be creative but also apply it to something that would pay the bills. My training and what I learned at my job basically taught me that I could create almost anything that I could put my mind to and that is a valuable resource. It opened the door to a world of design that I had no idea about, one that we walk through every day and take for granted!

You state that your artwork does not focus on a particular genre or medium. Do you find, however, that you tend to use one medium slightly more than others? If yes, which medium is it and why?

Hmmm, tough question! I would say that although there isn’t one that I use more than others, I did learn art in a very traditional way, so I tend to start in a traditional manner. Most of my artwork starts with a pencil sketch in black and white and goes from there. Even some of my most “digital” pieces have a traditional start point and a lot of the look and feel I go for often tends to emulate traditional techniques or textures. Digital art can have a tendency to look very plastic, so I enjoy trying to bring a painterly look, or canvas texture to the digital realm.


Are there any particular genres that you’d like to experiment with but haven’t had the chance to yet?

Yes! So many! I’d love to do more architecture / fantasy landscapes - this I find very challenging but also really inspiring, I also love working on portraits but I’m intimidated by using the whole body in a composition, these are two big challenges that I’m slowly chipping away on and trying to improve at. I love reading fantasy and sci-fi, so improving on techniques that would help me render characters, situations and worlds is a place I’d really like to get to with my art.


Windrunners by Jennifer HawkyardHave you got a favourite piece of work that you’ve created? If yes, what is it and why?

It’s a toss up between 'Windrunners', 'Uriel' and 'Winter King'. Sorry I can’t choose!! [With] 'Windrunners' there was just this moment of time that crystallized in my mind’s eye and somehow, magically it came out on the digital canvas better than I imagined it (a rarity). I also tried some new techniques and generally worked on getting looser with my style (a challenge for me) and was very happy with the result. 'Uriel' was a challenging piece that came out better than I imagined it and was a real culmination of what I love about art, starting with a traditional base and then doing a heck of a lot of experimentation in Photoshop to get the end result. I had so much fun working on this piece. 'Winter King' has a lot of history behind it. It was originally created for a College assignment and over the years I have re-done it several times, coming back to it when I [felt] like my skills [had] progressed enough to improve it further. A lot of my animal artwork has an environmental awareness side to it, and 'Winter King' would sum up my general frustration with our society that seems to be largely apathetic about our roles in being good stewards of our planet and our home. I may turn this into a larger project as I have since created the 'Jungle King' that follows along with this idea.


You’re currently working on a very exciting long term project. Could you tell us a bit more about your Totem Project? How did you come up with the idea and what does it entail?

Eagle Totem by Jennifer HawkyardThe Totem Project started one Canadian winter a couple of years ago when I was sick of staring at the computer. I’d work all day at the computer screen and then go home and work even more at the computer screen on my illustrations. I decided it was time to get back to my roots, take a break from the digital world and work in pencil crayons - something I used to do all the time when I was a teenager.

I’ve always loved drawing animals, so I started to toy with the idea of creating Totem Animals or Spirit Animals that represented people’s favourite animals. It seems that most people who love animals have one that they are particularly drawn to or have an affinity with, so I began picking animals that I was drawn to. I also wanted to do something completely different to what I was working on, so the animals were quite symbolic, flat in form, filled with pattern and colour and against a black background. Over time people started to request commissions for their own animals and it became a bigger thing! I’ve created about 25 so far and I’ve decided to keep going and eventually create an Oracle Card deck (similar to a Tarot deck) so that people can purchase the whole set! That means I need about 44 so I have a lot more to do!


You’ve also recently set up your own Patreon page. Could you tell us a little more about this? What would people receive in exchange for becoming a patron of your work?

Yes, the Patreon page is new ground for me! In this day and age there are so many outlets for artists and so many ways for people to discover and appreciate art. There’s also many ways in which people can lose control of their creations or not be credited for what they have done. As a creative, I really appreciate platforms that want to support creatives and help them make a living doing what they love.

Since moving back to England I’ve found my art focus has become a little fractured as I’ve got my hands in many pots trying to make a living at what I do. I’m hoping the Patreon page will help me to continue to maintain the momentum with some of the larger projects that I have on the go, such as The Totem Project. There is so much that happens behind the scenes as a creative - whether that's sketches that never see the light of day, tips and tricks or tried and tested methods - all of which can be shared on a feed such as Patreon. I’m hoping to use Patreon to show the inner workings of my Totem Project. Patrons can gain access to Patreon only content, discounts to my Etsy Store, first dibs on originals, sketches, and much more!


Winter King by Jennifer HawkyardWhat advice would you give someone just starting out in art and/or graphic design?

Practice. All the time. It sounds so typical but it’s true. If you practice regularly and aspire to greatness, keep pushing the boundaries and do what you love, I think you will find success. It’s a tough world to be in. There is so much talent out there - both in art and design - but there’s also so much opportunity. I do think, especially in art, there is a pressure to “find your style” but I totally disagree. I love being someone who can try her hand at anything and not feel confined to a particular genre or medium (I have my graphic design training to thank for that). Don’t be afraid to fail either and don’t get downhearted by how awesome everyone else is because behind you is a designer or artist looking at your work and feeling the exact same! Also, look back at how far you’ve come, consider having a project - such as my 'Winter King' - that every few years you do again, just so you can see how far you have progressed. Get involved with the art community out there, they are an amazingly supportive bunch!


Now for a fun little question we ask everyone…if you were a Strathmore paper which one would you be and why?

Well of course I’d be the 400 Series Artagain because it’s environmentally friendly, it’s got a beautiful texture and makes colours look awesome!


Bee Totem by Jennifer Hawkyard


Finally, what does the future hold for you? Are there any exciting plans on the horizon that you’re able to share with us?

Hehe, well I’ve just [gone] through a big life change by quitting my day job and moving back to England so I’m currently enjoying a little settling down period after the general stress and chaos of moving across oceans! I’m hoping to soon see my work printed in my favourite digital art mag - ImagineFX - which is super exciting and a big life goal for me, as well as a potential new collaboration and Kickstarter with a New York based fashion company, which will be inspired by my Totem Project - so that is on the horizon too!



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