Monday, December 08, 2008

Art Space Talk: Craig Hawkins

Craig Hawkins is a graduate with a B.F.A in Fine Art from Valdosta State University(2001). Drawing since the age of two, Hawkins grew up in multiple cities including Laurinburg, NC, Greer, SC, Roanoke Rapids, NC and Warner Robins, GA before attending college in Valdosta, GA where he currently lives. Hawkins describes his work as, “the evidence of taking truth and imagining it”. His background includes oil and acrylic painting and charcoal drawing. In his 2D work, Hawkins uses canvas or collage of various papers and masking tape to develop a composition of line and texture in addition to applying his media. Creating a piece that explores depths of truth, mark making, and the love of contrast becomes the foundation of his work.

Stand, charcoal and tape on paper, 42” x 42”, 2008

Brian Sherwin: Craig, you studied at Valdosta State University. Can you discuss your academic background? For example, did you have any influential instructors?

Craig Hawkins: I'm thankful for the education and experience I received at Valdosta State University. VSU gives their students storage space and, when they become juniors and seniors, their own work space in the painting studio. 24 hr access and the encouragement of the professors helped me to develop dedicated studio habits that have continued to sustain my independent studio practice to the present.
Two instructors, Keith McIntyre and Harry Ally, were very influential to my work and work habits. Keith McIntyre was an artist in residence at VSU while I was an undergrad who was instrumental in my ability to study abroad at the University of Northumbria in Newcastle, England. His work illustrates stories and personal experiences in a language that surpasses my own ideas of illustrative work. Harry Ally taught me the elements and principles of design which have become an invaluable toolbox that every artist should be familiar with. In addition, the significance of a mark and the exposure to modern and contemporary artists like Jim Dine and Jenny Saville were to the credit of Harry Ally.
In Christ, charcoal and acrylic on paper, 72” x 54”, 2008

BS: You have described your work as “the evidence of taking truth and imagining it”. Can you go into further detail about that? Would you say that you adhere to a strong personal philosophy as far as your work is concerned?

CH: I would have to start by stating what is truth. Truth is the adherence to reality and fact. In relation to my life and art I believe the Bible to be real and true, Jesus' words to be true and Jesus to be truth beyond just a metaphor but as a person. Imagining Jesus as truth changes my relation to truth from an argument I can agree or disagree with to having confidence in a person.
In practice, I've imagined some of the parables Jesus taught and visualized them with an image that marries the story told and the truth taught. For example, the parable of the Sower, found in the eighth chapter of the book of Luke, tells a story about four different types of soil and their acceptance to seed. The types of soil represent the state of a person's heart and their acceptance to the word of God. When I imagined this parable I saw the four soils as portraits of people and to represent each soil I used the described state of the soil literally applied the face of each model.
As for a personal philosophy regarding my work, I believe my work may vary in style or content but I desire it to have integrity and excellent craftsmanship. I believe seeking to understand a work should be the prerequisite to having an opinion of it's success or value as a piece of art.
Light of the World, oil on canvas, 2006

BS: Craig, tell us about your process. For example, I understand that you admire a strong relationship between marks on a canvas… you see the use of materials as a form of conversation, correct? Can you go into detail about that?

CH: I do see the materials as a form of conversation. On occasion I have used vellum or some translucent material to mute the information I have on the paper and potentially redirect the focus of a piece of art. The power of a line to suggest form and space seems to me to be a very primal function that I just can't get enough of. Freshness in mark making is thrilling to me. It seems more truthful. It's hard to lie with a drawing as opposed to a painting. Mark making leaves a history of process where as it's easier to edit unwanted strokes of paint with more paint in a painting.
My marks become journal-like on a personal level. So my goal in my process is to be as honest as possible with the creation of a work and try to embrace every attempt to render or express something with a mark. Even if a mark isn't successful I enjoy the history left behind from the attempt to erase it because it never truly goes away.
Adam and Eve, mixed media, 2003

BS: Craig, I understand that you are heavily influenced by the bible, both in your personal life and as far as your art is concerned. Can you discuss that influence at length? Perhaps you can discuss a few examples of your work in order to convey that connection?

CH: Yes, the bible is a significant influence in my life. As a Christian it is my source material to discovering God's attributes, his character, his likes and his dislikes. As stated earlier I believe it to be true. It's such a significant influence that it shapes my world view. I see people as intrinsically valuable because they are God's creation. In seemingly unforgivable circumstances I believe I can forgive someone because I have been forgiven for my own sin, independence, and rebellion from God. I believe that love can change anyone and that a relationship with God is vital to discovering one's own sense of purpose and meaning in life. I see my art as a journal of my relationship with God. What I learn about God, the nature of mankind, and the application of God's truths to my own life becomes the inspiration for the majority of my art.
Some of my work, like "Adam and Eve" exhibits this influence more directly and traditionally. Adam and Eve are both drawn on vellum stretched over canvas. They face each other with their heads downcast in shame. They are divided physically from a larger face painted on the canvas below representing God the Father. The division of the media represents man's broken relationship with God. Adam and Eve are also separated by a half eaten apple and a crack dividing the composition representing how sin not only broke the relationship between God and man but also contributes to broken relationships within mankind's interaction with itself.
Another example, Rebellion, less directly exhibits the rebellion of mankind. This drawing illustrates two girls embraced in a hug. However, both girls are holding hand mirrors and staring at their own reflections exposing their own selfish nature during what should be a mutually shared exchange of care for each other. Both "Adam and Eve" and "Rebellion", in my opinion, are successful examples of my work influenced by the bible and my faith. Someone's personal knowledge of the bible may determine which work of art illustrates the broken world we live in best.
Rebellion, charcoal on paper, 2007

BS: As an artist do you ever face conflict with your work as far as your faith is concerned? Or conflict with how others who share your faith view your work?

CH: If I was very strict about the interpretation of my work I think I would encounter a lot of conflict, but I'm aware that every viewer brings their own interpretations based on their own history and experience with religious subject matter. That kind of variable is out of my control. I do like to write about the inspiration for each piece and I make it available on my website if viewers are interested but I enjoy the applicability others find in my artwork as well as the message I try to communicate.
I've had others who do not share my beliefs challenge me on matters of creating a graven image or even my own knowledge of the history of religious art. I do not believe I create works of art that are graven images. At the core of it's inspiration my art is an attempt to share or direct attention towards God and glorify God; not to become a substitute for God. The potential to abuse something should not become reason in and of itself to make a blanket ban on anything. It sounds absurd to destroy the sun and the moon because people may worship it.
As for art history, probably every artist I know, including myself, could always benefit from a greater knowledge of art history. It is an admittedly weak area in my studies that I intend to improve. Most who share my faith have been very encouraging and a few have even decided to support my work financially while others have been critical of the nudity that I have used. Nudity is more distracting to some audiences than others. While I hold nudity as an excellent way to represent timelessness, the vulnerability of man, beauty, universal applicability, as well as sexuality I understand that not everyone will acknowledge these uses and limit the use of nudity to sexuality. Sometimes we have to agree to disagree.

Denial, acrylic and charcoal on mylar, 30” x 24”, 2008

BS: A friend of mine has stated that he feels that there is a need to focus on God within the art that is created today. Not necessarily in the spiritual sense, but in how works can convey something other than who we are as individuals. My position is that God can be seen in all works no matter who has created the work in question. What are your thoughts on this?

CH: I agree with your position that God can be seen in all works no matter the creator. I think it's innate for all creation to naturally point to the creator. The "work of our hands" as artists is hard to ignore and in many cases something that inspires awe.

BS: What about other influences? For example, do you draw inspiration from any specific artists?

CH: Some of my favorites due to skill, contrast, mark making, the use of the figure, and their wrestle with spiritual themes are Jim Dine, Alex Kanevsky, Harry Ally, Gerhardt Richter, Tony Scherman, Eric Fischl, Jenny Saville, Caravaggio, Rembrandt, Michelangelo, Makoto Fujimura, Ann Gale, and Chuck Close

Meditation, charcoal and acrylic on paper, 81” x 60”, 2008

BS: Craig, what are you working on at this time? Can you give our readers some insight into your current work?

CH: Currently, I'm playing around with a color alphabet. I've used colored blocks spread across drawings to represent individual letters. The colored blocks spell out words and sentences that relate to the content of the piece. It's forcing color into my drawings in an abstract way. I'm also working larger. I'm finding the larger scale to free up my hand as I mark make while still allowing a concentration of marks to render representationally amidst the soundtrack of marks I'm playing with.

BS: What about exhibitions? Will you be involved with any upcoming exhibits?
CH: I will be in a group show in February 2009 at Johnson Ferry Baptist Church, Marietta, GA

Firstborn, oil on board, 48” x 42”, 2008

BS: Speaking of exhibitions I noticed that you have focused on exhibiting in Georgia. I often advise emerging artists to focus on regional attention before setting out for national or international attention. I think regional exposure is very important because it gives an artist something to fall back on if the other routes are difficult. I assume you would agree with my views on this? Can you discuss that? For example, in your opinion why is important to exhibit in the state in which you live? In your opinion, why is it important to seek as many opportunities as you can regionally?

CH: I think it's important to exhibit in the state in which you live because your peers and the general public may have better access to the you not just the art. It just makes since that there's a better opportunity to develop professional and social relationships within the community that you spend the majority of your time living in. I would also think it helps to have a name for yourself before exhibiting nationally or internationally because that name can then bring a history or credit with it. It seems logical to think having regional support would naturally lead to national or international opportunities. People who live in your region may not be native to your region and may be the contact or link that creates greater opportunities for a national or international audience.

BS: Finally, is there anything else you would like to say about your art or the goals that you have?

CH: I think I have similar goals to most artists. My goals are to have my work impact as many people as possible, to find a wide variety of places to call home, to be shared and enjoyed and be understood. My work is a personal made public endeavor.
You can learn more about Craig Hawkins by visiting his website-- Craig is also a member of the myartspace community-- You can read more of my interviews by visiting the following page--
Take care, Stay true,
Brian Sherwin
Senior Editor


Anonymous said...

Not bad, not bad at all. Back to fundamentals, both of art and who we are. Good luck, keep working. Also see a show here in LA, at the Old Chinatown, which is falling apart. A Hungarian guy named Peter Sudar, eight small portraits done in a realist nineteenth century style, but present, and modern. Gotta go check it out.

MoLAA here in the LBC had a Puerto Rican guy named Arnaldo Roche, very interesting, Have few issues with it, too personal, but understandable under the situation. but talented. Gotta go back always need to give good art at least three separate viewing to see how it stands up. does it grow, or feel stale, under different emotional states and times.

Thre is hope, we simply must reprioritize, and get back to the fundamentals of line, color, structure. Man, Nature God.


Those who do will succeed, by focusing on truth, not career. Those days are over. it is time to start discussing how to improve art, ones own, and what it is, rather than career, and how to get a show. Most galleries will soon be gone anyway, time to be meaningful. do it because you msut, not because its "cool", and dont want to get a job. Those times have come, as they always inevitably do. The decadence will return, but not in our lifetime, not for awhile anyway, I have had my fill.

art colegia delenda est

Anonymous said...

This work is amazing. When I think of religious art with Christian values I think of Thomas Kinkade or some other lame painter. My opinion has changed now.

Anonymous said...

kinkaide is not a spiritual painter, he is kitcsh for the suburban hosuewife. Wallpaper. All great art is spiritual, much of it religious. all great art is infused with the feeling of god, and about Man, Nature and God. How is up to the artist, but the thmese must all be much greater than himself. We are but dust, and humility before the Universe essential to all art. Something forgotten in our decadent times of excess, and individual worship.

Unknown said...

Excellent read. I have viewed many photos of Craig's art online and would love to see some in person one day. Keep up the great work, Craig!

Anonymous said...

I've been to an opening and met Craig - he's the real deal! His work is excellent, because it's directly inspired. He has both [incredible] technical skill & the ability to beautifully convey his message...even if you're not familiar - you're drawn in by what he is able to say through his work.

Regarding inspiration & worship, Ingmar Bergman said it best: " lost its basic creative drive the moment it was separated from worship."

Craig's work is proof of what can be when you worship through your art.

I'll definitely be following his career for years to come!