Artist Q&A: Hayley Michelle

Hayley Michelle is an Australian artist who is creating beautiful portraits with PanPastel. We invited her to tell us about her work and her life as an artist.

Tell us about your background as an artist.

I have loved to create, as far back as I am able to remember. I was always quite the dreamer with quite an imagination, however there is a memory that I hold very vividly that I believe had quite a big impact on my love of art.  When I was around seven years old, one of my uncles came to visit the family.  I remember proudly showing him a drawing that I had just finished, and he patiently sat with me and explained how I could use my three coloured pencils to create more depth and shades by varying my strokes and pressure.  As a teenager, every minute that I was not in school, I sat with a sketchbook and pencils on my lap, absorbed in my own world for hours. At 13 I entered graphite sketches into our local annual Show Society Art Contest, and won first, second and third place.  As adulthood and parenthood took a front seat in my life, I found that my sketchbooks moved further and further toward the back of the shelf, and over time I all but forgot it was all I ever wanted to do.  Around three years ago I was lucky enough to meet someone who encouraged me endlessly and supported me to pursue my dreams of making more of my long lost love of art.  Through that encouragement, I was able to reignite my passion and made the commitment to dedicate more time to learning, experimenting with mediums and simply creating without fear of failure – something I, and many other artists tend to struggle with at times.  In the past 2 years especially, I have taken my art much more seriously and shifted my focus toward it becoming my career and have slowly developed and settled into a more cohesive style that I believe reflects the beauty that I see in the world around me.

Describe your artwork.

For the past six years I have worked as a photographer.  My true passion has always been creating scenes with beautiful women and girls, florals, pastels, dreamy, whimsical, light filled images that spark the imagination and capture the beauty of all that is feminine.  When I began to really begin creating art again as a part of my daily life 2 years ago, I knew that was precisely what I wanted to create.  I am so drawn to white light and softness, feathery, dreamy portraits that draw you in with their eyes but leave you craving more and filling in the spaces with your imagination. I want to be able to convey emotion through my imagery.  It was not until I discovered PanPastel that I was able to achieve precisely this.

Describe your creative process and how you incorporate PanPastel Colors.

I first stumbled upon PanPastel colours around 18 months ago and it was an instant connection, as though they were the one thing that had been missing from my creative process to allow me to finally begin translating to paper what I envisioned within my mind.  I use PanPastel along with Prismacolor pencils, and add a little hint of white gel pen to small highlights if needed to add a little further dimension.  I tend to lay out my highlights first lightly with a pencil for a precise edge, along the bridge of a nose, edge of the face, and then I will blend the PanPastel out from there, building up skin tones and adding shadows. I then refine the smaller intricate details with the pencils. The dreamy, hazy quality is important in my work, so I soften everything with PanPastel again at the end to blend everything to a perfectly soft, smooth finish.

Being able to blend out my work to create an almost unfinished quality is something I would not have been able to achieve before adding PanPastel to my tools. I adore the light, smooth sheen and how beautifully it blends and adheres to the paper surface and with the pencil.

PanPastel has undoubtedly helped to speed up my work process, hours spent laying down a light base for highlight and shadows have halved at least, it has also been one of the easiest mediums to learn, right from the very beginning.  The Sofft tools allow for such perfect accuracy, which actually surprised me given the intricacy of some of my work.  I mix custom shades on a separate piece of smooth printer paper with my sponge and then apply it to my work as needed. If I make a little error in judgement, which of course happens from time to time, it is easily blended out or even erases from the paper as if it were never there.  I truly love the freedom of working with this medium.

Tell us about your life as an artist.

For now, I create from my dining table in my little apartment by the sea in beautiful Phillip Island Australia.  I dream of a gorgeous little studio space someday, however I am beyond blessed to be able to watch the swans float by and even the resident dolphin playing out front through my window, right from my workspace.  I keep my pencils and PanPastels in jars within a basket that I bring to and from the table to work each day, so that I am able to easily pack it away again at the end of my work hours and keep the space for family time. This also helps me to keep my space more organised than it would otherwise be and allows me to be mobile if I want to take my work out to the patio in the fresh air on a nice day.

Who / what inspires you?

When I began to develop my artistic style, I was pointed in the direction of artists Bec Winnel and Charmaine Olivia whose work instantly spoke to me unlike any art ever had, and embodied everything it was that I was trying to achieve within my own art.  They are entirely different and unique but capture that very beautiful sensuality and beauty of femininity that I am drawn to and yearn to create myself.  I am so blessed to be able to live a creative life.  I am able to express myself and push myself in such personal ways.  I feel so lucky to be able to even have something within my life that I am as passionate about as my art, but to have it be something tangible that I am able to share with others is really very special.  One of the most valuable lessons I have learned from my journey is to let go of the fear of failure and attachment to outcomes.  There was a time when this fear would prevent me from putting anything on paper at all.  I know now that even the art that doesn’t quite go as planned is still an opportunity for growth, every hour spent creating is time spent developing, and if it is not perfect, I never even have to show it. I simply create for me.  If it reaches and touches someone else in some way, then that is yet another gift entirely.

It is my dream to be able to continue creating and growing, I am in that place where I am happy with my growth however would like to continue improving on my skills and creating more imaginative pieces all the time.

I would love to someday have my own little studio-gallery space here in my little village by the sea.

When I am not busy creating my art, I am busy with my other great passions in life, motherhood, photography and soaking in my beautiful island home.  I spend my days with my gorgeous 13 year old son Alexander, and our darling, cheeky, rambunctious bulldog pup Bruno soaking in the sun and sea, sinking my toes into the sand, devouring books and dreaming up my next piece.

Hayley Johnson  
To see more of Hayley’s work, follow her on Instagram and Facebook

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