Meet the Artist
"Work on your craft and who knows what you can achieve!"
- Written by Vanessa Champion Vanessa Champion
Naomi Hawkins is the fabulously talented animal artist who won our Spring judged banner competition over on Facebook. A wonderful inspiration to many, her own journey has been one of determination and success.
Congratulations once again on winning the judged prize on our Spring 2018 Facebook competition. It’s a lovely drawing, can you tell us more about the image, what inspired you to draw it?
Thank you so much. I began drawing the tiger cub in early January last year after the rush of finishing my commission orders in time for Xmas had passed. There are many talented photographers that inspire me, and an image of a tiger cub by Paul Sawford caught my eye. I love drawing animals in interesting poses, something unique, and I wanted to try and capture the inquisitiveness of the tiger cub in the photograph. The Cub's eyes wide and focused, his little legs can't spin him round quick enough. His tail trying to counter balance the whole affair....and those big paws!
How do you start building up your image?
I always like to start with an outline, it’s important firstly to get all your proportions correct because it doesn’t matter how much shading you do, if your proportions are out the whole drawing will look odd and everyone will notice. Secondly, I have an idea in my mind of how I want the drawing to look once finished, so planning where your subject is going to be on the paper is important. You need to leave enough space around the drawing for a frame perhaps, it’s little things like that which gives your drawing a professional finish. I have step by step photos to show the progress of the tiger cub. Once I’m happy with the outline (this could take a few hours, it’s got to be spot on, never rush it’s probably the most important part) tend to always start with an eye (if there is one) window of the soul, this is what the viewer focuses on first, the eyes. In the tiger cubs eyes I really wanted capture that intense focus. It will setup the whole feel for the piece. When shading, I will start with lighter pencil first, maybe 4H or 2H then start adding the darker shades 2B 3B mainly. All the time I’m imagining the 3D shape of the eye, imagining how the light passes through the lens bouncing back, all the reflections distorted by the shape of the eye. I love details like this I get lost for hours while I’m drawing, I’ll suddenly look up and it would be 1am. From this I will start moving away from the eye building up layers of fur with variants of graphite start light then adding darker hairs.
The bee wasn’t in the original photo. I wanted an insect which caught the fascination of this cub, but also could defend it self from this predator... maybe the cub ended up with a sore paw or did he think better if it? It’s nice to let the viewer’s imagination to decide on the ending.
Which of the Strathmore papers do you like to use and why is that?
There is a wonderful choice of Strathmore papers and to be honest I’m still working my way through them. But so far my most favourite is Strathmore 300 Series Bristol. It’s brilliant value for money and the finished piece always has a high end standard look to it, because it’s so white and crisp.
What do you love about art?
Art is something I’ve always been interested in, it’s something I’ve always been able to do. It runs in the family, my mum is an amateur sea scape artist and my grandad was an artist before her. So from a very young age I was always surrounded by art and the smell of oil paints, always encouraged to draw and paint, but there wasn’t much encouragement needed I loved it and was always drawing or making something. What I love about art is the way it can make the viewer feel. A picture can speak a thousand words. It’s a way of expression and communication for many.
You draw some amazing portraits of animals, what do you love about capturing animals?
I have always had a love for animals, so naturally that is reflected in my art. I love to try and capture their essence, the character of that particular individual. Just like a human portrait artist tries to capture the soul of a person, I try and do that with animals. But also aren’t animals just amazing! Colours, textures and the variety, different shapes patterns and markings, every habitat on this planet they have evolved to thrive in. An artist could really spend a life time exploring this incredible diversity.
If you had one tip to pass on to other artists wanting to reach your level of drawing animals what would it be?
You got to get to know your subject. No I don’t mean invite a tiger round for tea, go and see them for real at zoos. There things you simply can’t see from a photo. For example, If you are drawing a horse, go where you can see horses, stroke them if you can, look at which direction the fur lays, feel the muscle tone and observe the movement of joints, angles, colours, behaviours and proportions etc. You can learn so much more.
“If you keep working on your craft who knows what you can achieve” That’s such a great quote from you. Can you tell us how you feel having come so far in your own artistic journey?
Incredible! but a rough ride, that’s what people don’t see. I’ve gone full circle in my art career from leaving school for a passion to do nothing but art, to not picking up a pencil in 5 years, then picking up that pencil again thinking why did I give this up! Yes I’ve had many challenges like family members telling me I should get a proper job to not having enough money to buy paper. It’s been so hard to carry on sometimes but deep down I knew I had to block out everything and push forward. I couldn’t see my self doing anything but art. Every time I felt like giving up something would just help me along just to let know I’m on the right path, like a nice comment left on my Facebook page by another artist or a tin of pencils given to me by a complete stranger, yes that really did happen! I’ve learnt so much about the art business and myself, but I’m always still learning you never stop. We have all the information nowadays at our fingertips it’s brilliant! If you need inspiration you just type it in, don’t know something ask. Follow artists who inspire you and are where you want to be, that’s what I did. And now, I’m always happy to help other artists too, for me, it’s a way of giving back.
And finally, a fun question, if you were a Strathmore Paper which one would you be?
Well so many to choose from and they are superb! But if I was going to be a Strathmore paper it would be Strathmore 400 Series Recycled. The least impact we have on the environment the better for everyone.
To see more of Naomi's art visit her Facebook page on https://www.facebook.com/naomihawkinsartist/