When you read a good fantasy novel, you get lost in a world created by the writer’s imagination. It’s a chance to escape the mundanity of daily life and immerse yourself in an enchanting tale. When I first saw Jennifer Hawkyard’s work, it reminded me of just that.
I remembered all of my favorite books from childhood and how simple things seemed back then. Imagine a time, place, or destination where you feel happy and care-free – and put yourself there. That’s how I felt every time I looked at Jennifer’s designs. I wanted to replicate that same experience with a pocket square.
We had the pleasure of working with Jennifer Hawkyard on the Stag Totem design. Easily, one of the most distinct and recognizable pieces from our men’s collection, Stag Totem is also part of Jennifer’s ambitious Totem Project – which includes over 15 unique works and counting. Jennifer’s work is bold, colorful, and full of symbolism. Each piece is a fairy tale on its own.
That’s why we wanted to find out more about the person, the artist, and what drives her creations. Read on and enjoy!
“The Stag Totem represents confidence and dignity. He stands proud in the wilderness, wholly comfortable and connected with his environment. He is Lord of the forest and protector of his herd. To catch a glimpse of his esteemed figure is to feel at peace. As the Lion is king of the plains, so is the Stag a master of his domain. It is our privilege to be in his presence.”
– Jennifer Hawkyard
Why did you decide to pursue a career in art? Were you always creatively-inclined as a child or is this talent something that you had to nurture?
Yes, I had a crayon in my hands from a very early age and remember thinking “I don’t want to go to school, I just want to draw pictures all day!”. I started obsessively drawing horses initially as I loved them, and then started drawing animal portraits and portraits of people as my skills progressed. After taking a two year gap-year I moved to Canada and took an Art & Design Fundamentals course, which gave me a taste for a wide variety of creative career options. It was in this course that I discovered graphic design and I went on to complete a 3 year graphic design course.
Once I finished my coursework I was hired at a local web design company and worked there for 7 years, gradually making my way up to Art Director and managing a team of Graphic Designers. During my career as a designer I was always illustrating on the side, exploring my own creativity in ways that were meaningful to me and allowed me full creative freedom. I’ve now decided to take the leap – move back home to England and pursue a career as a full-time artist!
Your works are very whimsical with an air of fantasy. How would you describe your style? What inspires and motivates you?
I’ve always struggled to say what particular style I have because I strive to stay fairly unique. Subject-wise I’ve always been drawn to the fantasy side of art – something with a magical or mythical influence. My latest project, the Totem Project, was started as I had a desire to move away from creating digital art and to do something with my hands. I’ve always loved bright colours, patterns, and animals so the Totem Project is an opportunity to combine all these interests into one. So far it has been hugely popular! I’m mostly inspired by nature so I spend a lot of time outdoors observing and taking mental notes and photos. I also love all things that sparkle, glitter, and catch the light so that’s another common element throughout my artwork.
What other artists, past or present, have been your biggest influences?
I remember discovering the work of Susan Seddon-Boulet in a local Tibetan monastery and it was one of the first times I became completely enamored with a particular artist’s work. It spoke to me in a way that nothing else did and I still refer back to her work when I’m looking for inspiration. I’ve always loved the Art Nouveau and Arts & Crafts movements for their love of natural forms and also the Pre-Raphaelites for their love of history and mythology. These, I think, have been the biggest influences on my artwork and style.
You recently went through a rough patch in your personal life. Did you notice a change in your artwork during this period?
Interestingly, no I didn’t, even though I thought I might. I’ve never (yet) had a problem with creative blocks or dry patches. I simply can’t keep up with all the projects and ideas that come to me on a daily basis. I have a long to do list! If anything, my artwork was a way to be distracted, to focus on something completely and to not think about what was happening in my life otherwise. I find that when I’m in the zone with my artwork it is all-consuming. Time will fly by and I don’t even notice so it’s a great distraction when there are other life stressors happening!
You’re originally from Wales but spent 11 years living in Canada. How would you compare the two countries? Has your geographic location influenced your work?
Canada and Wales are definitely very different! I liked the vast expanse of the Canadian wilderness and just how wild it is. I also liked how the Canadians love to be out in their country come snow or shine! Wales, on the other hand, has a completely different feel. The landscape is so condensed, rolling and flowing with stunning views around every corner. An artist can’t help but be inspired!
I think growing up in the countryside definitely instilled in me a love of the natural world and that comes out in the subject matter of my work. Living in Wales now I can see myself doing more landscape themed artworks simply because it begs to be painted!
In June you decided to leave your career as Art Director at a digital design agency and move back to Wales to pursue your personal projects full-time. What was the catalyst for this decision? What are your goals for this new path?
The catalyst was two-fold I think. Firstly, for several years I have been really pursuing my own art projects outside of work and getting increasingly frustrated that I didn’t have the time to push my artwork to the extent that I wanted, simply because I didn’t have the time. After joining a local art tour and selling my artwork very successfully over a weekend I realized that people were interested in my work and that I really could do it if I put my mind to it. Being an artist you tend to put your heart and soul into your work so it’s wonderful when people see that and want to take a piece home with them. Secondly, I lost both my father and my aunt, who I lived with for a while in Canada, to cancer over the period of about 5 years. Seeing a loved one suffer and ultimately pass away really makes you evaluate your own life and what you’re doing. I realized that my dream was to sell my artwork and live close to family and if I wasn’t doing that then I needed to start heading in that direction. So I took the leap, packed up my house and home in Canada, and moved to Wales!
As for goals, I’ll be working on getting my pieces into local galleries and art tours and setting up a studio with my mum where we can display and work on our various creative endeavors. I’ll also be looking to push the boundaries of my creativity, enhancing what I can do, and exploring new media to see what other skills I can add to my toolkit!
Thankfully the Totem style seemed to lend itself to the textile medium quite well, which was great. I did introduce a patterned background to the Stag Totem which is unique to that Totem as we needed more pattern and detail in order for the piece to be interesting when folded and viewed in a variety of ways. We also added a frame to the Totem in order to be suitable for a pocket square – again, a unique aspect of this Totem.
What advice would you give to other aspiring artists?
Strive to be unique. There are a lot of people doing the same thing out there, or doing what is considered fashionable or popular, which won’t last in the long run. Also, don’t worry so much about finding your own style! There’s a benefit to being flexible and having a variety of styles because it means you can explore more and do more. Make sure you have a strong online presence and you keep up to pace with social media, which is a great way to garner new followers!