San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Julie Hawkins: In Love with Color and Shape

Third in an ongoing series on Atenas basedartists.“For painting, I need space, light andinspiration,” says U.S. artist Julie Hawkins,62, from Georgia. She is referring toher semi-open-air studio, installed on thelarge terrace of her Atenas house, about anhour northwest of San José.Hawkins’ abstract acrylics developeither on a robust wooden easel or a ceramic-tiled table created by the artist. Hervibrantly colored artworks adorn the wallsof the comfy guest cabin overlooking theCentral Valley, where she and husbandMikel spend most of the day – with theirtwo little dogs, Susie and Mookie, alwaysin tow. The couple retired here three yearsago, smitten by the country’s bountiful naturalbeauty.HAWKINS studied art at GeorgiaState University in Atlanta, where shereceived her magna-cum-laude Master ofFine Arts in 1983.“I learned to draw first,” she says.“Then school pushed me to abstraction,and that turned out to be the right thing forme.”As a child, Hawkins loved doing thingswith her hands, and remembers thinkingpainting was too easy to be something special.On the occasion of her graduate paintingexhibition, her father, a mechanicalengineer, congratulated her:“He did not understand it,” she recalls,“but he was very proud of me.”Hawkins, who has exhibited in numerousart shows in Florida and Georgia, alsotrained as a teacher. In her classes, studentsare introduced to the art of the great masters.They learn how to draw and use andmix colors, and study composition. Whenteaching, Hawkins tries to foster each student’sstrengths. She says even peoplewithout a background in artistic techniquescan access abstraction.Leah MacLauchlin, an Atenas residentoriginally from England, is one of Hawkins’students. She had never painted before startingclasses with Hawkins about a year ago.“The abstract style has been myfavorite, and playing with colors takes meback to my childhood,” MacLauchlin says.“I get lost in it; I learn to be creative.”ABSTRACTION began in the avantgardemovements of the late 19th century,and has dominated Western art since 1920.Focusing on shape, color and form,abstract art is nonrepresentational, reducingthe importance of the original subjectmatter to the creative process of paintingitself.“Shapes and colors have their ownemotional force independent of nature,”says Hawkins, who is very interested in thecontrast of opposite colors and how theyintensify each other.She enjoys doing various styles, andher geometric paintings are meticulouslyplanned; however, while working theloose, abstract pieces, she says she tries toempty her mind of any real images. Whenshe begins a painting, she says, she experimentswith dots or brushstrokes of colors,letting them take on their own energy.“It’s best not to think too hard aboutthe painting process,” Hawkins explains.“If I tried to control it, the result wouldbe superficial, and I wouldn’t get to myinner self.“The abstract style of painting is theperfect vehicle for artists to explore anduniversalize ideas and sensations. It is anattempt to expose your soul, your innermostbeing. When the artist can achievethis, he ends up tapping into universalconsciousness.”

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