AT: You live and work in Portland, Maine. Are many of your pieces inspired by these landscapes or do you derive more from your travels?
AH: I’m always seeking new landscapes, but I never try to paint a particular location in the studio. My process is spontaneous and reactionary, I do not force my subject matter but instead let the painting form organically. I paint from memory and need time to reflect on a sight’s nuances before it shows up on my canvas. I tend to paint places I know intimately, I am able to better capture the essence and palette of the sight while still keeping the subject matter open.
AT: Your inspiration from nature is apparent in your work. Can you tell us more about this inspiration throughout your work?
AH: Nature breaks my routine. When I’m in the middle of nowhere I focus on my immediate fundamental needs instead of thinking about what my schedule is like three weeks out. There’s no freer feeling than being so far out in the woods, desert, mountains, etc that you feel like the only human for miles. There are a lot of similarities between my studio practice and being out in the middle of nowhere, I’m able enter a focus mode that is beyond my control. A free and primal feeling comes over me that’s hard to find in my otherwise comfortable Portland lifestyle.
AT: Have you always been interested in creating abstract landscapes? Or are there other genres you have been interested?
AH: I’ve tried to stray from the landscape but it always shows up on my canvas. I’ve explored further degrees of abstraction with no allusions to the landscape, but I’ve always felt that body of work lacked passion or context. I’m not sure what it was missing but it did not get me nearly as excited as my recent work.
AT: Your palette resonates with earthy tones, but also has pops of bright colors. Do you try to depict the direct color represented to you by the landscape or do you enjoy taking liberties with the colors?
AH: I take as many liberties with color as the piece will allow. My palette gives the painting context and pulls the work deeper into abstraction. I tend to ground my work in earthy neutrals and quickly abandon local color thereafter. This gives a painting the necessary structure for further color exploration. Sometimes I wind up exploring with color a bit too much and have to reign it in by layering neutrals over bright colors, which gives the viewer glimpse of the painting’s history.
AT: Your work is usually made up of planes of color. Are these shapes something you sketch to then add color or is your work more of a free form process?
AH: My process is free form, spontaneous and ever changing. I always begin my studio time with a few 10-minute warm ups to get my mind in the game and my hands a little looser. After 20-30 minutes, I move to canvas. I start each piece with a quick 10-20 second pencil sketch to get some shapes on the canvas. My brush has a mind of it’s own in filling in these shapes, sometimes I create new shapes with the brush and other times the sketch holds true. I work in short bursts and add only a few shapes and marks at a time. Its crucial to step back and see how a work in progress is developing to prevent overworking. Some of my favorite pieces only have 1-2 layers of paint - I’m a sucker for paintings that have a sense of immediacy.
AT: Finally, I always like to ask what are some of your future goals with your work? Is there anything you interested in exploring?
AH: My theory is that if the work is good, opportunity will come, so the integrity of my work always comes first. I’m flying out to San Francisco next week to see the Matisse / Diebenkorn show at SFMOMA, so I’m sure that will ignite a fire in the studio. I have my sights set on an artist residency in 2018. I’m considering a few programs, but I’m also wildly attracted to simply sleeping on BLM land and keeping my field easel by my side. Spending a month in a very different landscape would do wonders for my work. I’ve dreamed of exploring Iceland, Joshua Tree National Park, or the Badlands for quite sometime now.
Check out more of Amanda Hawkins work.