by Rob Franklin
Art is defined as the expression of creative skill and imagination. It is something that is taken from the heart and mind and offered to the world to be appreciated for the beauty that it gives.
For Henry Hawkins, art is simple. It is life.
Hawkins has been capturing beauty of the various things that he has seen and witnessed for over 25 years as a self-trained artist. He attended the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where he earned a Bachelor of Science Studio Art and a MFA in two dimensional art, specifically painting and drawing.
Hawkins was born and raised in Montgomery, Alabama and came to Madison via New York City. He has lived in Madison since 1967. Since that time he has created a many art pieces, but his interest in artistry began far before that.
“I have been interested in and producing art since the first grade” said Hawkins. “I have considered myself an artist since that time.”
And even at an early age, Hawkins was able to capture the vivid beauty that art is.
“My first piece of art was created in first grade. Miss Lindsey my first grade teacher had us color leaves,” reminisces Hawkins. “That morning my sister Alice and I were on the way to school. The ground was covered with beautiful leaves of many colors. I loved what I saw and jumped at the chance to put what I saw to paper. I painted gold, brown, red and yellow and the most exciting were the leaves that had multi-colors on the same leaf. Miss Lindsey was happy with the results and allowed me to paint more leaves as my classmates did regular class. That morning initiated me into the world of making art and I found great pleasure I of doing art, which is still strong in me today.”
That strength can be seen directly on Madison’s North Side. Hawkins recently created a mural for Lake View Elementary school. The piece is a community mural that Hawkins had the opportunity to show the beauty and heart of the students and faculty working together.
“Murals are large works of art created and or displayed in public spaces. They were from the earliest time and today, meant for mass communication. Paintings on the other hand by their smaller size and placement inside of buildings are restricted to the people with access to the spaces in which they are hung.”
Although Hawkins’ accepted the challenge of making this mural, he admits that it is not his main forte.
“I am not a muralist. Most of my career has been as a studio artist doing painting, drawing and print-making. I am very interested in celebrating what it means to be human. My work is in private collections.”
For a studio artist, creating a mural might be a bit much. But for an artist such as Hawkins, the opportunity to capture life on a large scale proved to be a chance to show to the heart of not only the school’s community, but the heart of a man that enjoys sharing his gift.
“I was first contacted by Susan Hobart who is involved in developing so many of the great projects at Lake View around nature, from woods to gardens” says Hawkins. “She asked if I would consider doing a mural. After some hesitation and talk with staff and students, I agreed. My muse was the school community itself – they told me who they were, what was important to them as individuals and a community. In the end it was school as a celebration of learning, relationships and the fun activities that facilitates learning.”
With that being said, Henry Hawkins is a facilitator of expression. He takes the beauty of life and presents it in a manner for many to appreciate and admire. Simply put, he creates art.
Art, with heart.
Photos courtesy of Henry Hawkins