I recently had the opportunity to chat with Edmonton-based caricature artist Laurel Hawkswell… and her pup, Cooper.
Cooper didn’t have a lot to share beyond a couple of barks here and there, but Laurel has such an optimistic outlook on life that we had a lot of laughs and positive vibes going that made up for Cooper’s less-than-engaging style.
Enjoy our conversation below and make sure you check out her Daily Doodle over on Instagram. She tells me she will be doing them until at least the end of the year.
[Featured Artwork: Caricatures by Laurel Hawkswell.]
The following responses are lightly edited for length and clarity.
01. Rock, paper, or scissors?
Paper, of course. I go through a lot of paper in a year.
02. What are three interesting facts about you?
A. I don’t think it’s terribly interesting but when I’m drawing at events people seem to think it’s very interesting that I’m left handed.
B. As my sister told me once: I’m a bit of an obnoxious optimist. But I’m quite proud of the fact that I try to find the silver lining in everything.
C. I’m addicted to the Chai lattes.
03. Is art your career or a hobby? Something else?
It is my career. And I have been a freelance artist for — oh, I hate to say this, but you can tell from my grey hair — about 30 years. Very much like your wife, Meghan, when my kids were little I was still doing art. I don’t know if I could have supported the family but I did contribute to the household revenue. But being a mom was a big part of me.
I pride myself in saying that it’s my full-time job. Quite often, I would come home from drawing at a wedding on a Saturday quite frustrated. I would tell my husband that someone else asked if this was just my hobby. A few times I would respond to people saying, “Think about it. It’s a Saturday night. I’ve been drawing for three hours straight. I don’t know a single person here. Don’t get me wrong, I love doing this but if I wasn’t getting paid I’d be home with my family.”
Now, I actually have a little sign on the back of my easel that says, “I know it looks like too much fun to be my real job, but it is.” And I don’t get asked anymore.
04. What app do you use most often?
I have a love-hate relationship with Instagram. I have to admit that I sometimes have to stay away from Instagram because I’ve got a lot of artists on Instagram that I follow and sometimes it makes me feel inadequate that I’m not producing all the time. For me, Instagram makes me feel that way because I see so much fantastic art from other artists all the time. You’re just always seeing art.
05. Where did your passion for art start?
Probably the minute I was born. I honestly don’t remember ever wanting to do anything else. My grandma used to always tell the story that when I was four years old she asked me what I wanted to do when I grew up. I said, “I don’t know. Draw.” I don’t really know what I would’ve done if I couldn’t have done art.
06. What is the main medium you use in your art?
Good ol’ Copic markers and paper for doing caricatures. I also have a drawing tablet where I do coloured caricatures and some cartooning graphic work.
07. Do you have any interesting celebrity encounters you can share?
Well, I mean, we’re in Edmonton so how many celebrities are there? I have drawn Bryan Hall (long-time Edmonton sportscaster). I drew Ladislav Smid (former Edmonton Oilers defenseman) at a wedding once. He didn’t have his teeth in so it made for a great caricature. And I drew another Oiler, Jason Strudwick (also a current Edmonton sportscaster on TSN radio). It was at a Christmas house party and I remember hearing his voice and I knew who it was. As I’m drawing, I can hear him talking and I was most impressed by the fact that all he did was talk about his family, not hockey.
08. What inspires your art?
Oh gosh. Life. I try to just focus on the positives. There’s that obnoxious optimist part coming out again.
09. What is your go-to band or artist?
Can I cheat by saying anything ’70s? I’m a ’70s girl through and through. If I’m going to listen to something I generally go with John Mellencamp or Van Morrison.
10. What song or artist do you like but rarely admit to liking?
Well, I always say I hate country music but I love listening to Patsy Cline.
11. Creating the art is one thing, but finding clients is another. Have you cracked the business side of art?
I actually started doing caricatures at West Edmonton Mall. So, I was out in public and people saw me and they would contact me. Drawing caricatures at events wasn’t really that big but it just slowly grew and grew over the years. I found that the best promotion was when somebody saw me drawing somewhere. I have my business cards there because there would always be one person from that event who would contact me to do something. Whether it was one little caricature or something bigger or drawing at their event.
Nowadays, I sometimes spend too much time on Instagram and Facebook and Twitter. And I find that on those you can’t just post your art and think that people will love you and want you to do work for them. I try and reciprocate. Actually, at the beginning of the year, I started doing a Daily Doodle. My goalpost for these is one year. So, I’m really excited to see all these doodles I have at the end of the year and where they go and what comes of them.
12. Are you more productive at night or in the morning?
At night. I think it started when my kids were little. When everybody else went to bed, that’s when the rest of the world was turned off. And that’s when I could get some work accomplished. Plus, with drawing at events, a lot of them occur in the evenings; a lot of weddings will be done at midnight so I’ll come home and no one goes straight to bed when they get home.
13. What are you hilariously bad at?
Drawing buildings. Drawing anything architectural. I’m also very bad at singing.
14. What do you hope people get out of your art?
Happiness. Almost all my art is light hearted, whether it be in my caricatures or other art work that includes cartoon style graphics. I hope all of it has made people smile.