This month, I’m pleased to introduce mixed-media artist Elizabeth Hawks, aka Boomer, to you all at MilspoFAN.
I had the very good fortune to meet Elizabeth last year (our navy spouses work together). As luck would have it we both live in (adorable) Poulsbo, WA. Elizabeth is a joy and an inspiration to hang out with. Her enthusiasm and sense of humor are glowing and infectious. Beyond that, she is a talented multi-media artist and designer (and a kick-ass web developer!). I am so happy to have met and befriended her, and have been looking forward to sharing her interview with the MilspoFAN community.
So, without further ado, please enjoy getting to know Elizabeth in her own words and artwork.
MilspoFAN: Tell us a little about yourself, your journey as a military spouse, and where you are today.
Elizabeth: Hello. I am Elizabeth Hawks, aka Boomer, a mixed media artist, graphic and web designer, art journaler, urban sketcher, card maker, crafty-momma. I grew up in Texas. I was nicknamed Boomer before I was born by my sister and it stuck my whole life. I finally embraced it sometime in high school. I met my husband in Austin, Texas at a mutual friend’s birthday party in a BBQ restaurant. At the time, I was a high school English teacher at the Texas School for the Deaf. When we married in 2005, we were stationed in Fort Worth, Texas. Since then, the Navy has stationed us in Honolulu, Hawaii; Bethesda, Maryland; Washington, DC; Charlottesville, Virginia; Norfolk, Virginia; and we currently live in Poulsbo, Washington near Bangor. We have three kids all born in different states: Alexis (11) born in Fort Worth, Austin (10) born in Honolulu, and Madison (4) born in Charlottesville. We also have a dog and a cat and at one point even 2 fish. We looked ridiculous moving that summer.
MilspoFAN: What other careers have you pursued and how have those experiences supported or influenced your artwork?
Elizabeth: Throughout high school and college, I worked on school publications. Then, as a high school teacher, I lead the student journalists in producing the school newspaper and yearbook. When I became a military spouse, though, I had to leave teaching behind. Moving every few years was a logistical nightmare with each state requiring different credentials, certifications, and starting school at different times of the year. So, when we moved to Honolulu, I began to take online classes to hone my skills in Photoshop. I also began to frequently freelance as a graphic designer creating posters, invitations, logos, and baby announcements for people.
When we moved to the DC area, I decided to go back to school so I could get a mobile-friendly military spouse career. I went to the Art Institute of Washington and got a degree in Web Design and Interactive Media. That same year I was hired into a federal agency as a junior graphic designer. I’m now their webmaster and a senior graphic designer. They allow me to telework full time which has been a military spouse blessing. Through this experience, I have learned so much about typography, design, color, layout, and printing technologies. All of these skills play into my artwork.
MilspoFAN: How did you become an artist?
Elizabeth: My family is very artistic. My grandmother was a painter in her later years. She painted mostly still lifes in oil. I admired her so and keep some of her framed pieces on display. My mom was a writer and is also very artsy. She’s probably the most creative of our whole clan. My dad is a superb nature photographer. My brother is a fellow Art Institute graduate. He draws amazing comic book characters and fantasy scenes. My sister, Paula Vining, is also an incredible artist. She’s good at a lot of mediums, but she’s really got a knack for watercolor. I credit her with setting me on this journey. I thought I wasn’t the artsy one in our family, but she encouraged me to start practicing art. Every year we take a trip together to take art classes and sometimes mom comes along, too ☺ Paula has introduced me to some of my biggest artistic influences. So, I think I was born an artist, but it took me a while (and a nudge) to realize it.
MilspoFAN: Describe for us your creative work and the aesthetic of your artwork? How has it evolved over time?
Elizabeth: I am a mixed media artist. Each piece uses a unique combination of collage, acrylic paint, watercolor, inks, oil and chalk pastels, water-soluble crayons and markers, and graphite. Traditionally, the backgrounds are layered with a lot of textures and vibrant colors. I often include collage as part of a base layer and I include bits of my children’s artwork into the backgrounds to make them more personal. I also incorporate a lot of mark making and small patterns as design elements. My subjects vary, but I paint a lot of birds, female portraits, typography pieces, and some abstracts. Lately, I’ve also been sketching a lot of urban scenery and including cityscapes as a theme.
MilspoFAN: Do you consider your artwork to be therapeutic? What does that mean to you?
Elizabeth: I most definitely consider my artwork therapeutic. I turned to art as a way to help me deal with my husband’s deployment. I dabbled in art before he left, but I immersed myself in it in his absence. Although he’s long-since returned home, I still use art as my outlet at the end of every day. I use it to decompress and maintain my sense of self. I use it to explore my feelings and as a way of affirmation. I often try to include positive messages in my finished art and quite literally obliterate my negative feelings in the creation process. I carry my art journal with me almost everywhere I go and try to spend any extra time I have adding marks in it.
MilspoFAN: How has your art evolved over time? How do you cultivate creativity? How do you meet other artists when you PCS?
Elizabeth: Each time we move, I read the local papers and join local online communities. It doesn’t take me long to plug into the local art community and begin to regularly meet up with artists. For example, here in Seattle, I’ve joined the Seattle Urban Sketchers*. I try to attend their monthly outings to sketch Seattle scenery. I’ve learned a lot and met some amazing people. I had no idea when we moved here what Urban Sketching was much less that this is where the international organization was founded over ten years ago!
I also take a lot of online and in-person art classes every year. I’m a lifetime learner. The people that I meet up with and the classes I take provide me with a diverse toolbox of techniques. I find myself combining things I’ve learned to create my unique voice as an artist.
MilspoFAN: What’s next for you?
Elizabeth: This year my agency has started to feature my artwork in design campaigns. It feels amazing to see my “hobby” merging with my professional work. I feel legitimized as an artist. I’ve had great feedback and requests to produce similar campaigns. I’m also doing an original art piece for a New York play. I’m finally getting paid to produce art. It’s like a dream come true.
Thank you so much, Elizabeth, for sharing your beautiful work and story with us!
Find out more about Elizabeth’s work at her blog, Life Inspired http://lifepinspired.com/blog/
You can also find her on Social media by following these links:
Instagram – https://www.instagram.com/lifepinspired/
Pinterest – https://www.pinterest.com/fluidsign/
Interst Piqued in Urban Sketching? check out the Urban Sketchers list of regional chapters: http://www.urbansketchers.org/p/list-of-chapters.html