In Conversation With: Naomi Haverland
In this Interview, we talk to one of America's most talented street artists, Naomi Haverland. Read all about her process of creation and the advice she has for young artists.
Tell us about yourself and your journey with art?
Art has always been a part of my identity. It was something that I always sort of excelled in school too. I did go to school for art, but I dropped out in a year so that didn’t really affect my art career. I began painting murals for offices, small businesses, etc, and I think that’s what helped grow my skills because I had deadlines.
That was in Utah, after which I moved to Denver and started to get into the gallery art scene. One of the turning points of my career was when I painted the side of a building in Denver, which really boosted my exposure. I do consider myself self-taught since I never had a formal art education, but in a way that’s not true either because I’m always collaborating with other artists and learning from them.
Do you have a specific process for painting?
The fact that I don’t have a process, stems from the fact that I learned on my own and never had a formal education. I just start putting color down, seeing what works and what doesn’t. It’s a lot of trial and error. I sort of stumble around and don’t really follow steps. I never feel any pressure to put down the right colors the first time, because I can always adjust it on the layers above.
I feel like a lot of beginning artists lose confidence because they don’t put down the right colors the first time, but that happens to me too, and it’s totally fine.
What’s the largest piece you’ve ever painted?
The mural in Tampa is at least 2 stories high and 38 feet long. It’s a tiger that’s roaring out a cluster of flowers, it goes along the side of a building. I wanted it to have a sort of collage feel. I was hired to do it by a pawn shop, and it was supposed to flow into their sign. I was so exhausted when I finished it. I remember driving home and thinking about the things that I messed up. But when I posted it on Reddit, it got so many upvotes and it was so crazy. I was overwhelmed with the support.
What is it like being an artist in the modern world?
I feel like it mainly all revolves around the internet, and it really makes a difference to the process of how we create art and also how we interact with other artists. Like the mural in Tampa was something for that local community but it also became a conversation for artists worldwide and gave inspiration or gave some artist an idea. It also does create competition.
You’re aware of everyone else’s success and that people are always doing something bigger and better. You also don’t see their process and their failures which give you an altered sense of reality. I’ve also seen some murals use reference images that have digital filters so that when they’re painted, they look like digital art. So that also has a huge influence on the art industry.
How much has the internet affected what you do?
I couldn't imagine art without the internet. It has a huge influence on my ideas and inspiration. Sometimes I get an idea in the middle of the night and a few days later, I’ll see it online and realize that I was subconsciously influenced by the internet or by another artist. A lot of people also use the internet for reference images but I prefer to always use my photography so that it feels like my own work rather than just adding on to someone else’s art.
What is your dream project?
I hardly ever think farther down the line ahead of my next project. I hope for COVID to be over soon, so I can interact with other artists again. My favorite thing was when I painted at the Museum of Illusions in Hollywood, and there were so many other artists there, each doing their own thing so that was very cool. I’ve always thought it would be cool to have a huge art festival with many artists coming together and painting one part of a single piece, to make something insane.
I feel like something that involves the people would also be really cool because the public loves interactive art or something that they can post a photo of later. Exclusive festivals are also really cool because people know that since the art could disappear at any time, they’re forced to appreciate it right then and there in the moment.
Is it difficult to be a street artist in today’s world?
The biggest problem I have is that street artists are expected to have this cool hip persona, in addition to making good art. I find that hard to do personally. I don’t have the type of cool personality. I personally focus on my art. Everyone sort of also has their own “gimmick” which makes their own brand and identity that goes beyond their art. I see how that is beneficial, but for me, it’s all about the art.
What is the best part about being an artist?
Being able to do what I love. I look at people that have 8-hour jobs daily and I can’t even imagine that. I feel really lucky to have a career doing something that most people see as a hobby. I love it, it’s amazing.
What is the worst part about being an artist?
Probably the unpredictability and the fact that I don’t have the same job security as someone working in a company. So financial security and not having consistent work is a downside.
What advice do you have for people who also want to become artists?
Mostly just hard work and self-discipline. One book that I read when starting my art career was The War of Art. It was just about showing up every day with your supplies, willing to make something, and not waiting around for Inspiration. Also, interact with other artists, get involved in art communities, etc. People that interact with other artists manage to accelerate their skills more so than people with formal education. Young artists definitely should not wait for inspiration. Looking for inspiration is also cool but you should be working on art in any case.