Artist of the Week

Naomi Hawksley

July 25, 2022

Naomi Hawksley (b. 2000) is an artist based in San Francisco, CA, and graduated with a BFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 2022. Her practice works through processes of recontextualizing and dismantling conventional images, worldbuilding, and escapism using drawing and lithographic printing techniques. Naomi has shown at Southern Exposure, Co-Prosperity, Sulk Chicago, and Solo Show, and is currently working as a curator at London-based label and collective odyXxey.

Tell us a bit about yourself and what you do.

I’m an artist and illustrator based in San Francisco and Chicago. I mostly work with graphite on paper.

Girl I, Graphite on Paper

Your work frequently includes depictions of hair and braids – how does that imagery function within your practice and worldbuilding?

My work has been about how girls conduct themselves within well-established social and aesthetic rules, and I think hair is a useful symbol for that. It’s something that most people have, and exhibit at least some control over. So when hair is included in a drawing, there’s a sense of flexibility, delicacy, and beauty, but also violence and constraint.


What are your staple materials when working? (i.e. preferred paper, pencils etc.)

For a while I was really into printmaking, working with etching and lithography, but in the past couple years I’ve moved into drawing. I think there’s always been a lot of flexibility moving between those two media. My favorite paper to draw on is a toned stonehenge, and I use Blackwing pencils. 

Untitled, Graphite on Paper

Given that you work primarily in drawing, specifically graphite drawing, what is it about the medium that you find most attractive or appealing?

I’ve been having a problem with the way that drawing was taught to me at school. For the most part, it had been presented as a draft for a larger future project, which is historically true, but trying to convince myself that stand-alone drawings are enough has been really exciting.

But I also really love the immediacy of using a pencil. The material alone is so strong, with such a huge range of values contained within a single tool, that I am allowed to play with many aspects of a piece at once. Because the material can be laid down so quickly, the composition unfolds in front of me so fast that it becomes like a game or a puzzle.

Girl III, Graphite on Paper

Who are your influences?

I love the work of Brook Hsu, Caroline David, and Maren Karlson. Their work is fantastical, silly, sensitive, and a little sentimental. When I look at their work, it becomes about alternative futures for femmes, where inner worlds are made visible and unfiltered.


You recently moved back to San Francisco from Chicago – how did your time here affect your practice?

I moved from San Francisco, where I grew up, to Chicago to attend the School of the Art Institute. Going to college was a really transformative experience for me. For most of my time there I felt really alone, but in that loneliness was able to build my sense of self particularly in my practice. Now, my work is about being seen, control over the body, and who is doing the seeing. It definitely wasn’t about those things before.

Untitled, Graphite on Paper

What have you been listening to lately?

I’ve been all over the place with what I’ve been listening to. I work at odyXxey as a curatorial lead for their radio programming, so I find a lot of music through that. Some artists that I’ve been really into recently are La Timpa, Bigdog30k, Evanora Unlimited, Torus, and Yawning Portal.


There seems to be a trend, especially in drawing, towards a softer, more tonal style – do you have any thoughts on that?

I think that a softer style comes from a love of drawing. Drawing can be fast, but sometimes it requires a lot of patience, and spending that much time working to get a soft texture with graphite is something I find a lot of joy in.

Self Portrait (Girl), Graphite on Paper

What is your workflow like when making art? Is it planned out or more intuitive?

It’s all very intuitive. I’ll usually start with a very rough sketch in the notes app on my phone, but after that I go straight to drawing on the final page. Since I don’t know much about the drawing before it starts, the composition unfolds in front of me as I work. It’s really fun that way.

Untitled, Graphite on Paper

Do you have any upcoming projects that you can share?

I have a few things in the works, but I just moved into a new studio and I’m trying to settle into that space. That’s my top priority right now. But I’m also working towards my first solo show happening at Sulk Chicago in spring 2023.


Interview conducted and edited by Milo Christie.