I've known artist Allison Hawkins since our days together at Kenyon College. She was extraordinarily talented at drawing and watercolor then, and it's been amazing to see how she's developed since. Besides an obvious technical mastery, her work features potent imagery and a restrained palette; it would add a dose of warmth to an industrial space, or a hit of toughness to a softer one. We spoke recently to discuss her process and inspirations, and her thoughts on the role art plays in the home.
How did you come to your career?
I have been drawing much of my life and have always gravitated towards art making, art history and the support of other artists in my studies and work. I pursued visual art throughout grade school and college, as well as art history during my time as an undergraduate. I later received a graduate degree in fine art at the School of Visual Arts. Since graduate school I have had a studio outside of my home where I create my work. I have also participated in group and solo exhibitions.
I have also worked in arts administration for the past 13 years. I've focused largely on grant programming for artists and art historians in both the museum and artist endowed foundation setting.
What materials do you use in your work?
While creating works on paper has been a consistent focus throughout my practice, I have used a range of materials in partnership with the paper: graphite, colored pencil, watercolor, ink and charcoal. In recent years I have worked primarily in ink, with moments of color (watercolor or colored pencil) here and there within the drawings. I have also enjoyed intaglio printmaking in the classroom setting.
How are you inspired?
For my earlier drawings I was most often inspired by old family photographs and pieces (primarily portraits) from my studies in art history. Today I look more towards weather, the land, and visceral sensations for inspiration. I like darker, moodier imagery and many of the works depict imagined scenes that are more mysterious and ambiguous. Short stories, certain songs, nature, a found photograph can all be sources of inspiration. I may use photo references for aspects of the piece or create something entirely from my head.
Do you ever conceive of pieces as a series?
I have worked in series before, but this tends not to be my usual practice. Some comment that they can see a narrative thread running throughout certain works, but this isn’t necessarily intended.
What kind of projects are you working on now?
I am currently in a period of transition with my studio, so I just have a couple drawings in progress that are helping me work through some new ideas at this time. In terms of exhibitions, several drawings were recently shipped abroad for upcoming shows in France and Italy.
Are you ever commissioned by collectors? If so, how does that process work?
Yes, I have been commissioned by collectors in the past. This has either happened through a friend connecting me with an individual looking for a specific drawing, or the gallery I work with putting me in touch with a collector who has seen work in exhibition, online, or at the gallery. In some cases a collector will see a piece in a show and request something similar to a piece that is no longer available.
Do you have thoughts on framing? Mat or no mat? White frame or black?
I most often frame my drawings through “floating” in a shadow box style frame; this features the drawing mounted on matboard without a cut mat and the edges of the paper are exposed. The frame itself is deeper than the type of frame used for a matted work so that there is space between the glass and the paper. I prefer that the matboard be the same color as the drawing paper – usually white or off-white. I now use wooden frames that are white, white-washed (a light pinkish tone), and in rare cases, natural (a blonde wood color).
What role does art play in your own home? How do you feel it can add to a space?
Our home is full of art! We showcase pieces by friends, family, and works passed down from family members. My own works and those by my husband are also featured.
Displaying this collection is very important to us. I feel that artwork can invigorate and engage a space; it can bring a certain feeling or energy to a room. It also conveys the aesthetics, style, and taste of the inhabitant. The selection and approach to hanging work can be very telling of one’s personality.