Beautiful Forms: The Interest in Making Attractive Art

Interviewer: Adrienne Hudson

Artist: Haley Norton

November 29, 2016


Beautiful Forms:

The Interest in Making Attractive Art


Haley Norton is a graduating senior at Texas State, majoring in Drawing. Her work is currently being exhibited at the Texas State University Gallery and focuses on the nude female form.  She primarily works in charcoal, using photography as a tool to help her process along. The following is an interview held in front of her work at the Senior Exhibition Show:


A: Why do you choose to work with charcoal, from out of all the available mediums?

H: I really love how it looks, how it’s able to be easily manipulated I enjoying being able and encouraged to use my hands. Charcoal allows softness and layering, creating a dreamlike quality with atmospheric edges.  It’s what I primarily work with. I haven’t ventured much from it, beyond what my classes require.

A: This show has no small works, is that normal for you?

H: Yes. I lean towards larger art. I like the bigger option. For some reason, whenever I draw small with charcoal, the details don’t come out as strong. I see in big pictures. This lets me magnify the details to my set of specifics.

For instance, with Hecate (84” x 48”), I covered the wooden panels with pastel grounds, which makes a textured surface so I can actually draw on it. For Tara Coat (41” x 23”), I had all my drawings printed on fabric and then they sent it to me. My cousin’s a designer so we collaborated and made a pattern. She helped me so it all. I gave her the design I wanted. I wore it for the opening of the show.

A: Was there a specific face that you used or did you work with what you had to start from? Did you have to hire a model?

H: Well, I used my face and my sister’s, because we were there.

A: It was what’s available.

H: It was available. It was readily there. And also, only I can boss my sister around. Only I can tell to not do something or tell her to do it a different way, not like that. To a stranger, I want to be polite and it’s hard to get the shot I want when I can’t force them into the position I need. I can be rude to myself and my sister.

A: The work you’re doing right now, especially what’s being exhibited, is that based on current ideas? Or do you find more inspiration in nostalgia?

H: This is definitely current, but I do look into memory for the placement of my figures. In my artist statement, I admit my love for old Renaissance paintings. I like to take formations from the paintings when you see a gathering of women and they all have that languorous pose.

A: Are you inspired by certain artists? Do you go in search of a specific artist’s work, because you find them inspiring?

H: No, I don’t. I wish I did, but I really don’t. All the artists I like, I try not to steal from them. I do like Cecily Brown’s work. Her focus being the female figure, too. Her work, though, is paintings and they’re all very fluid, almost the complete opposite from what I do, as far as medium goes.

I like to look at anything Renaissance, like Botticelli’s Primavera, because of the positioning of the figures.

A: When you’re making the art and you have this inspiration, do you make the art first and then go back an assign meaning? Or do have this great idea of meaning and then go and make the art?

H: As far as my process, I normally take photos of either me or my sister and then digitally manipulate them with Photoshop, or any of the multiple apps on my phone I can run them through. Then, that’s when I can start on my composition. I almost always work from photographs.

A: How long does it take you to make your work?

H: On average, it honestly only takes me a couple of hours. I’m a really fast drawer, so I’m always very impatient and just want to finish right away. I mean, good work does take time, but right now, the charcoal drawings are only taking me a few hours. It’s also why I stay with charcoal. Unlike oil paints, once I finish a line, it’s done. There is no drying time. Once it’s completed, the finish is immediate.

A: Do you like to go back into your former work and then rebuild on it?

H: Yes. In fact, I did that a lot last semester. I took a bunch of my old work and reworked it, making different copies of it. Because, if I really like one thing, I’ll try and do it in a different medium or different colors. Though sometimes, I think, “Alright. I don’t like any of this. Let’s start from a completely different spot.”

A: Are the themes being exhibited with your work here the only ones you like?

H: I really haven’t ventured very far outside of the female form. I should try and find other subjects, but all the others bore me. Whenever I go into a museum or a gallery, the one thing that holds my attention is nudity. It’ll take something different for me to look at it.

A: Is the female form what you’ll pretty much always stick to?

H: For now, but who knows what doors will open. When I did Graphic Design, I didn’t do a bunch of female stuff. I did other really cool graphics, that’s why I loved Graphic Design so much. It was just too inconvenient for me to continue. Maybe, hopefully, I‘ll pursue it later. I’ve always wanted to try painting. I haven’t had the chance to properly experiment with it, but given the opportunity, I would love to.

Given the chance, I would love to become a more multi-faceted artist. I wouldn’t mind being able to do some more sculpture work that would be cool. Photography, for sure. If I had a really nice camera, I would jump on photography.

A: Out of your work, not just this exhibition specifically, but any of it, do you have a favorite?

H: My favorite is of three female figures that I did in hot pink. That’s what I really like. All my friends were a little disappointed in what I chose to show this time, because this is all in black and white. But I wanted to keep it simple.

A: So you like to experiment with color?

H: I do like the hot pink. It’s not even my favorite color, but I really love the way it looks on a body. It also stands out so well in exhibitions. It’s a definite contrast to the color schemes that are normally found in galleries.

A: How did you decide this is what’s interesting to you? Did you walk into a museum and figure out, “this is the only thing I like”?

H: From a young age, my mom has a lot of art work, along with my grandmother. My aunt, Janice, is an artist. She’s print maker and she always had a lot of nudes hanging around the house. I remember going to a museum in Dallas and they had Lucien Freud exhibited. They had his extremely grotesque nudes and they really struck me, both as interesting and in some ways beautiful.

Basically, if it isn’t naked, I’m not looking.

A: Do you intentionally make provocative material?

H: Definitely. It’s just so much more interesting. There are some things that holds my attention that aren’t entrenched in nudity, but I can’t name anything specifically at the moment. I hate making or looking at boring things. I want my work to be exciting, beautiful, and worth looking at.

A: When you’re making something, is your goal to make it provocative or is it to make it interesting?

H: Interesting is more important than being provocative. I don’t want to shock anybody. I don’t really like artwork with spread legs, made to be in your face and vulgar. I mean, those things are admittedly interesting, but I appreciate a more beautiful, soft image.

A: Do you make things that are pretty because there aren’t enough pretty things in the world?

H: No, I just appreciate the aesthetic. I used to make really grotesque things, especially in high school, but it wasn’t because of any certain meaning.  But yes, I adore the beauty of faces and the female body, especially the boobs. It just beautiful to me. There’s not any real deep, earth-shattering meaning to my work. I like the way it looks and so I made it.

A: What’s your most hated part of your artistic process?

H: Starting. When I first go into it, I always complain about how it’s not done yet. Usually, I just want it finished. It might be because I’m too impatient. I have a problem with being hasty and a little bit anxious.

A: Is there a specific part you can isolate as your favorite?

H: I’m such a fan of shading, going back and adding depth. The transformation of blankness into something realistic. Turning an idea in my head into tangible reality.

A: Ultimately, you said you didn’t want to be blocked into being an artist, to be limited by the label.

H: Getting a studio art degree is not really what I wanted to do. However, it’s what I have to do to graduate on time and I’m comfortable with it now and the possibilities it’s let me explore. After graduation, I plan on getting my teaching certificate and doing elementary school teaching, hopefully art but whatever they’ll give me. I’ll be able to do my student teaching while finishing the certificate.

A: Then why are you getting a studio art degree?

H: Well, I was Graphic Design for 2 years, and Texas State is my third school. They have you do slot programs if you want to get into Graphic Design and that would add another two years to me degree. So my adviser said, “Why don’t you do drawing?”  I didn’t go out trying for an art degree, that’s just how it happened. I don’t mind.

A: With that in mind, do you see yourself as an artist, even though drawing’s not ultimately what you’re aiming for?

H: Yes and no. I don’t consider myself an artist. Only sometimes I do. Like last night at the show, I felt like an artist. But, I don’t know. Everyone’s an artist, but I don’t consider myself a professional artist. I definitely wouldn’t want to go and try doing art as a living.

A: So is the goal to own your own gallery, since you don’t want to be, specifically, an artist?

H: That would be cool, I would not mind that at all. Especially later in life when I have the money to do so. Apparently, there is no Texas State, student-run gallery in San Marcos. I would love to set up a spot where, if you didn’t get into the juried show here at Texas State, you could come to my gallery and I’d get you in. There’s definitely a market for it here.

I would love to encourage art, either as a great investor or just a motivator.