Exploring “the tension between the mechanical and the handmade” with illustrator Carolyn Hawkins

Exploring “the tension between the mechanical and the handmade” with illustrator Carolyn Hawkins

Melbourne-based illustrator Carolyn Hawkins covers a broad spectrum. Her work presents a rich, artesanal feel; hand-crafted lettering mixes with printmaking, and animation and design work fuses together in spectacular fashion. “I always try to remain playful, bold and experimental in my approach,” Carolyn tells It’s Nice That. “And wherever possible, I try to embrace the idiosyncrasies of the medium, letting that guide my mark making or design concept.” It’s an admirable set of values, especially for an artist who has been plagued by the worry that their “aesthetic was too all over the place”. But now, Carolyn is steadfast in the kind of work she enjoys making – regardless of the pressure to present a ‘cohesive’ aesthetic trend in her portfolio. “I’ve always been interested in the tension between the mechanical and the handmade, repetition and inconsistency, playing with or referencing analogue processes to build layers of texture,” she adds. “And using collage to create wonky, and sometimes fractured images.”

Such a craft can only come about in a meticulous process, and Carolyn’s insight into her practice is incredibly helpful to those who may work in a similar vein. “If I’m having a bit of trouble thinking of visual ideas, I’ll turn to language and brainstorm lists of words or write down ideas and concepts, which will in turn usually loop back to some visual paths to follow,” she explains. “I also find getting away from the computer and looking through some of my art books is almost always a good move: I’m just looking at my shelf right now and some sure-fire favourites to get ideas flowing are David Hockney’s prints and drawings, Sister Corita Kent’s screenprinting workshop, a book of crayon drawings from Yirrkala in Arnhem Land, and a catalogue of Flying Nun posters and album art.” That, and of course “a lot of coffee,” she says. What results from this flurry of inspiration is often a mood board that crystallises all her ideas, and then “in the 11th hour all the good stuff comes out,” she tells us. “When it’s late at night, and I’m completely exhausted and almost just thinking ‘fuck it’, that’s when I’ve really let go and the floodgates can open a bit more.”

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