"I'm a seventh generation Coloradan, which is part of the reason why I feel so connected to this place," explains Christian Grey Hawkins, a student at California College of the Arts who is a bit of a misfit in the Golden State, since everything he creates involves our unique brand of spunky, Rocky Mountain life. "I'm like the weirdo mountain man in California," Hawkins admits, laughing.
"Drawing and making art has always been the thing I do, and I've never done anything else," Hawkins says. A bit of a savant, he started drawing before he could talk, and taught himself perspective when he was four years old. Hawkins went from the Denver School of the Arts to college, never once entertaining other career options.
His "Hallow Lines" series, a "just for fun" cluster of pencil and pen drawings, is "very Western-inspired," as Hawkins puts it, and deals with the artist's three favorite things: aspen trees, old trains and forgotten places. "I grew up going to visit old towns and abandoned mines up in the mountains," Hawkins says of the ghost towns filling his sketchbook. The scenes are so etched in his mind that Hawkins need only "gather the feeling of all of the different places visited" in order to recreate his own inspired townscapes.
Eventually, Hawkins progressed to incorporating ghost images into the drawings. Along with white and black ink, he uses pencil to create shadows that light up when you turn the pieces, making apparitions even more ghastly when they disappear at certain angles.
Hawkins has also carved at a niche for himself doing commissioned paintings of local homes. "I only started painting in the last year, and each is better than the last," Hawkins says. He paints houses on wood panels and uses wash paint: "It is like opaque watercolor -- water-based, but very solid, and a really old type of paint." Some clients are so moved by the finished product that they cry when Hawkins hands over the painting. "It is really satisfying to do something that means so much to people," he says.
The house commissions have been so gratifying, in fact, that Hawkins, who was raised in Platt Park, began a more personal sketch series he calls "Endangered Species." "With all of the redevelopment that is happening here, I like to document old houses that are going to be bulldozed," he says. "My great-grandmother went to kindergarten in the Art Students League of Denver building. Things like that make me feel really protective of these neighborhoods."
Continue reading for more images of Hawkins's work, and information on his debut art show. Photography isn't Hawkins's "primary thing," he says, but the artist has amassed quite a collection of photos of local towns and landscapes -- even a few real ghost towns. "I've never sold a picture or displayed them outside of my website," says Hawkins. "I just bring a camera on the adventures I go on, and in a lot of the pictures you can see the hood of my car in the frame."
That car is Flint, by the way, a 1968 Ford Falcon. "I think it is a good representation of why I love the things I love," Hawkins says. "The most inspiring thing in the world to me is the idea of places and things having history." His worn-out, 46-year-old sedan has a story in every dent. "I know that for each amazing road trip I've driven, [Flint] has done ten more," Hawkins adds.
Hawkins uses film exclusively because even when using really cheap, crappy film, he prefers the depth and feel. "There is a softness to the pictures that feels very tangible," Hawkins says, noting how intensely the shades of gray protrude.
Hawkins misses Colorado when he is at school in California. "My breath is taken away so often when I'm driving around," he says. He's at home now during a semester break, preparing for a pop-up art show that will have a reception from 5 to 8 p.m. on Friday, December 5 at Pajama Baking Company. It will be his first non-school art show, and the event coincides with WinterFest on South Pearl Street, December 5 and 6, and the First Friday Art Walk.
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