Artist Interviews 2021

Naomi Haverland  
By Laura Siebold

Naomi Haverland is a muralist, mixed media artist and painter based in Florida. She started doing murals early on in her life, and since becoming a mom, has managed to combine her parenting duties and her artistic calling. In her interview, Haverland mentions the importance of having access to a big space to accommodate big projects, her love to incorporate craft supplies as elements in her artwork and about the chance for artistic liberty as “a special treat”. Haverland’s anamorphic art, which creates an illusion of depth, has become one of her prominent styles; the artist loves how people engage with her perspective art pieces. In the artist feature, we learn about Haverland’s collaborations within the chalk art community and about her temporary struggles with inspiration before creating new works. Haverland currently works on repainting one of her most prominent murals, “My Name is Awsum”, installed in Downtown Denver.

Your art is truly diverse and plays with different media forms. You are both a muralist, mixed media artist and painter. Can you tell us when and how you first got into contact with art?

Art has always been a part of my life and my identity. I started doing murals when I was in high school. Shortly after having kids, I wanted a way to make my own money, so I advertised my murals at a craft fair and started doing small murals in homes and businesses. It’s been a gradual progression into the art world from there. 

Was there a special moment or incident in your life which made you dedicate your career to art?

No, it was definitely more of a gradual transition. Since I was a stay-at-home mom, I’ve just become more dedicated to art being a full-time job gradually, as I gained more freedom, as the kids have gotten older. Now, I’m on the cusp of full freedom since my son has graduated high school and left the home, and my daughter will be getting her driver’s license in a couple months. But until now, the kids’ needs have dictated how involved I could be with my art career. I’m looking forward to being able to travel even more now. 

Do you feel that the pandemic has limited your ability to work as an artist? Or has it worked as an accelerator instead?

It’s hard to speculate how things would be different had the pandemic not occurred. It definitely stunted any gigs that required travel. But it also led me to move from Seattle to Florida, which has had a big impact on my career that would be difficult to quantify. My daughter is still my first priority, though, so I still can’t accept all the jobs that I would like to be able to until she graduates high school. I often battle the FOMO that comes along with turning down a job – especially when I see colleagues on social media who end up taking my place. 

How much does energy and space influence the outcome of your art? How is producing art in/for indoor spaces different from producing street art? Elaborate.

Art definitely takes up space. The most difficult challenge is trying to create a piece of art indoors for final installation outdoors. For example, sometimes I’ll do my anamorphic art on tyvek or vinyl, so that the client can install it outdoors later and not have to worry about weather during the creation process. If something is going to look substantial outdoors, it needs to be fairly large – usually larger than my home studio can accommodate. I’ve ended up renting warehouse space for something like that before.  But even my typical commissions on canvas require me to have a space to work in. I’m incredibly grateful to have a room in my house dedicated to being an art studio right now. I haven’t always had that luxury and have had to resort to using the kitchen or other common areas which always seems to be a burden on the family. 

How did you find your unique artistic voice? What kind of projects do you enjoy most?

I never made a concerted effort to develop a distinct style, but according to feedback I get, people can definitely recognize my work and often say things like “that looks like a Naomi”. I think that’s a result of just following my preferences. There’s certain elements and textures that I’m continually drawn to, and I don’t mind being repetitive about them. I love depicting craft supplies like sequins, googly eyes and pipe cleaners in my paintings. On the other hand, I’m not tied down to only one subject matter like some artists are – like the mylar balloon guy who only paints mylar balloons and nothing else (and gets grumpy if someone else draws one). I wouldn’t want to become that repetitive, and I’m definitely not territorial about any subject matter.  I enjoy it when the client doesn’t mind me inserting my own style into the art. If the client ends up dictating the project so much that it doesn’t end up feeling like it represents me as an artist anymore, I’ll just not post it on my social media – especially if there is any corporate branding involved. But I’m fine with the fact that not every job is meant to be an outlet for my own artistic voice – sometimes I’m just giving the client my painting skills and labor and there’s nothing wrong with that. But on the occasion that the client gives me artistic liberty, it’s a special treat. 

Your paintings and art projects are very expressive and often blur the borders between reality and imagination. Do you think that art can help us to see beyond the visible?

I don’t really understand this question. If you’re asking if art has some sort of supernatural power, I don’t think so. But I could be wrong. I’m not really a firm believer in anything. But if you’re asking if art provides a platform to visualize things that you can’t normally see in real life, yes that’s true. I love scientific illustrations – like depictions of microscopic things, or diagrams of anatomy cross sections. I love that art provides us a way to make visual metaphors of the world. 

Your 3D Chalk Art projects are highly engaging. When did you first start experimenting with anamorphic art and how do you choose your objects and spaces for these types of paintings?

I started doing chalk art when I was living in Denver and I oftentimes worked alongside Chris Carlson, who is one of the best anamorphic artists in the country. I got to observe his process and learn about the mechanics of the process. Then, when I moved to Seattle, I realized there was no other artist in the region doing perspective pieces. So, I decided to try my hand at it. There was definitely a learning curve, but as I started to get the hang of it, seeing people’s reaction to the “magic trick” made it more and more addicting.  As far as choosing the subject matter of my pieces, it’s often a battle with the client. If they don’t fully understand the restrictions of anamorphic art, sometimes they’ll have unrealistic expectations, and I have the difficult task of convincing them of what type of design will work best for the illusion and interactability. It’s best when the client trusts my expertise, but that’s surprisingly rare.  As far as choosing spaces, that is usually dictated by what property the client has access to. Sometimes the sidewalk, sometimes the parking lot. It’s best if the area won’t be obstructed by shadows since shadows over the piece will ruin the illusion. 

Where do you draw inspiration from? Is there a specific method or place you turn to for inspiration?

To tell you the truth, I don’t know where my inspiration comes from, and it’s really unreliable. I go through a lot of inner torment when a client has already paid a deposit, and I’m committed to providing a concept by a certain date, but the inspiration is not showing up. There is definitely a certain mindset that makes inspiration more likely to appear, but I have a hard time getting into that mindset when there’s an impending deadline. Sometimes I just try to strong arm the process, by just thinking more aggressively and with more determination, and that rarely works. The best strategy seems to be thinking really hard, getting really stressed out, then giving up and walking away from it, pushing it completely out of my mind, going to sleep a few times, and then usually the idea will suddenly appear. 

If you could work with anyone in the world, which artist would you like to collaborate with and why?

I feel like I’ve gotten to work with some really great artists. I’ve learned so much from working with Nate Baronowski, Chris Carlson and Anat Ronen. I love the skill-sharing culture that has come from the chalk art community. It’s what has enabled me to keep learning and growing without investing much into a formal art education.  But, since this is completely hypothetical, can I choose a dead artist? I’d love to work with Hieronymous Bosch. I’m pretty sure he never had a lack of inspiration, so I’d love to build off of that wellspring of zany ideas. I think we could have made a pretty good team. 

We are curious what you are currently working on. Can you give us an insight into future projects?

I’ve decided to not take on any outdoor projects in Florida during the summer. It’s just too hot. So I’m working primarily in my studio between a few indoor mural gigs. I have a waiting list of portrait commissions, so I am trying to get caught up on that. There is nothing I love more than binging a whole podcast series while plowing through whatever painting is on my easel.  Right now, I’m working on a commission to repaint my most widely known painting, “My Name is Awsum”. I originally painted it in 2010. Then in 2014, it was selected to be reproduced on vinyl and installed on the side of a building in downtown Denver. That was definitely a turning point in my career, as my name started to become more recognized. Revisiting the painting has been interesting, as I realize how much of my artistic process has changed and been refined. I’ve become more obsessed with realism and less spontaneous with the process. In some ways that is an improvement, but in this case, my lack of artistic sophistication is really what made that original painting successful. Trying to reproduce that happy accident is proving to be more difficult than I expected. But I’m still excited to see the final results. 

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