Saturday, April 2, 2011

Robyn Hendrix - Watercolor

Seedlings 2, Watercolor on Paper, 10” x 13” 2010
Robyn Hendrix

Name: Robyn Hendrix
City/State: Minneapolis, MN
Website: profile:
Twitter: @robynhendrix

Robyn Hendrix is an emerging artist living in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Robyn grew up in eastern Washington State and received her Bachelor’s degree in Studio Art from Carleton College in 2005. She has lived in the Twin Cities since 2006.

Tell me about your work? What are you currently working on? How is this different from past projects?
I work primarily in watercolor and drawing to create playful, delicate imagery of quirky organic forms inspired by nature and plant growth. I use synthetic Yupo paper for my watercolor painting, which doesn’t absorb paint in the same way as regular art paper and allows me to manipulate the watercolor after it has dried to create surface texture. The chalice shaped tree or seedling forms that appear over and over again in my work came from free association line drawing that I started doing in 2006. Ladders are another recurring element and those came out of some daydreaming in which climbing a ladder or jungle gym was a metaphor for the big “journey of life,” destiny, fate, or whatever you want to call it.

Recently I’ve had some big shifts occur in my own life in addition to the monumental events we’ve seen globally over the past few months, and I see those heavily reflected in my newest paintings. The little organic creatures that show up on the paper are interacting with each other in more dynamic ways, expressing fear, aggression, vulnerability, strength, hunger, empowerment, hope.

Incubators, Watercolor on Paper, 16” x 20” 2011

"What is Art?" is certainly too big of a question to ask here, but what do you hope your audience takes away from your art? What statement do you hope to make?
The ambiguity of my designs is meant to allow room for a variety of interpretations from the viewer. Pieces that look like rocks might really be eggs, seeds, drops of water, or eyeballs. Plants might stretch their branches into the fingers of a hand crawling out of the earth or take the shape of a mouth gulping down the rain falling from the sky. I hope my paintings convey my quirky curiosity about this crazy beautiful planet of ours. I’m fascinated with nature and spend a lot of time gazing at the potted plants on my windowsill and walking around the city looking for weirdly shaped trees. I love it when you can see the tiny little bud forming on a plant that will eventually become a new leaf or stem.

Nature is so incredibly weird and mind-boggling. Just the simple fact that we all divide these tiny cells over and over to grow and heal, and digest food, or breathe the air, or photosynthesize, or whatever floats our boat in order to survive and procreate, kind of blows my mind.

What was the best advice given to you as an artist?
I’ve been repeating this mantra to myself lately: “Jump into the life you want to live.” Nobody really told me that, it’s just something I’ve been feeling really strongly lately. For a while I saw my life as something that would happen in the future, but I’ve kind of woken up and realized my life is NOW. So I decided to go live it.
Along those same lines, the How to Steal Like an Artist essay written by Austin Kleon is one thing I read recently that is absolutely spot on.

And just the other day at the Works Progress Give & Take event I had a conversation with Noah Keesecker from Springboard for the Arts who told me about the punch the shark motto that originated from a video by Nathan Ecklund. It’s a really powerful, useful metaphor for tackling the problems or tasks you dread the most by facing them instead of running away or avoiding them. Oh, and did I mention the incredibly inspiring Ted talk by Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat Pray Love?

I’m not sure any of those things count as direct “advice” but they’ve had a positive impact on me over the past month or two. Apparently I’m not as good at remembering snippets of things people say to me as I am at recalling videos I’ve watched on the internet. Sign of the times I guess.

Podlings 2, Watercolor on Paper, 8” x 10” 2011

Tell me about your working space and your creative process?
I paint at a table in my bedroom. Small space, but it’s my lovely little sanctuary. There are basically two stages to my paintings: putting down the initial shapes and design, and then after the paint dries using a sort of drybrush technique to texturize the watercolor. I’ve discovered that having several pieces in progress at the same time helps me out a lot. If I always have at least one piece already going, starting the next new painting is less intimidating. It’s a nice way to avoid the “white canvas” artist’s block and helps me keep up my momentum. Even if I get really busy and get out of sync for a week or two, I know I have something already started and can easily pick it up where I left off.

I keep a sketchbook and I do a lot of free association drawing in which I let go of any preconceived idea and just let the tip of my pen guide me to whatever that drawing wants to be that day. Then I take some of my favorite designs that come out of that and put them into the watercolors. Both the drawing and painting processes are about playing with a lack of control, since painting on Yupo is basically like creating puddles of color. You can control the shape by defining the outer edge, but you can’t predict exactly how the colors are going to blend together. Even when adding the texture, I purposefully keep my brush strokes a bit jittery and scattered, because the most interesting edges and color interactions come out of allowing for that spontaneity.

You know how they say you should talk to your plants to help them grow? I totally talk to my paintings in the same way. I ask them what they want to be, I apologize to them if I get clumsy and mess them up before they are dry, and I say “I love you!” to them over and over. Because I do. They are like my little babies, and when they get all dressed up in frames and get to go hang on a wall in a gallery, I feel like a proud parent putting her kindergartener on the school bus for the first time. All I can hope is that they stay safe, eat their carrot sticks, and make some friends.

Crushed, Watercolor on Paper, 8” x 10” 2011

Who are some of the Minnesota artists you enjoy?

Jennifer Davis
Barbara Harman
Alis Olsen
Brenna Busse
Margaret Wall-Romana
Claudia Poser
Dan Bruggeman

This one feels like a bit of a shameless plug because Dan was one of my advisors at Carleton. He has a great show up right now though at the Groveland Gallery Annex.

If I were to follow you around to see art in Minnesota, which places would we go? What would we see?
I am all over the place, trying to soak up as much as I can. I’m often at galleries like the Soap Factory, Susan Hensel, SOO Visual Arts Center, and Intermedia Arts. Co Exhibitions and Cult Status Gallery are both on my list of places I haven’t been to yet but know I need to check out ASAP. Stevens Square Center for the Arts has had some exhibits I’ve loved, and I wander around the Minneapolis Institute of Arts quite a bit too, always making a point to check out the MAEP gallery.

I’m also intrigued recently with the surge of less traditional art spaces such as Madame and the Dressing Room I can be found having conversations with great people at events like Give & Take, Salon Saloon or FEAST Mpls. Recently I’ve spent a lot of time doing paper-mache at Heart of the Beast Puppet Theater in preparation for the May Day Parade. I also get a lot of inspiration from theater and dance; I house manage for the MN Fringe Festival every year and see as many shows as I possibly can during the 9 day festival with my staff rush pass.

Where do you go online for good art resources, whether to find a new artist, or to see what is going on in the art world locally and otherwise?

MN Original
Springboard for the Arts (I was super lucky and got to be one of the artists who took their Work of Art workshop series for free last year via the Artist Development Project. Thanks MN Legacy funding! It was fantastic.)

FEAST Minneapolis

Works Progress

And of course, via all the great people & orgs I follow on twitter and facebook.

Smother, Watercolor on Paper, 8” x 10” 2011

Do you have any exhibits to promote in the near future?
Fellow artist Eyenga Bokamba inspired me to create three artworks to donate for the Art 4 Shelter benefit which is happening this coming Thursday, May 5th 2011 at Circa Gallery. The artworks are only $30, anonymous until after you buy, and proceeds go to Simpson Housing Services.

Four of my watercolors will be a part of the art exhibition at the Living Green Expo May 7-8, 2011 in the Fine Arts Building at the State Fairgrounds. Hours are 9am-6pm Saturday and 9am-4pm Sunday.

Looking ahead, I'll be showing a larger body of work September - October 2011 in a two-person exhibit with Deborah Splain at the Minnesota Women's Building in Saint Paul. This is part of the Women's Art Registry of MN Exhibition series and will be the largest body of work I've shown so far.

What other local projects or organizations are you involved with?
I am on the exhibitions committee and am also one of the Facebook and Twitter contributors for the Women’s Art Registry of Minnesota (WARM). I’ve been involved with WARM for 3+ years now and it’s given me the opportunity to network with fellow women artists at all different stages of their art careers in an empowering, non-intimidating way. The organization has a lot of room to grow, and a lot of energy. We just had a strategic planning retreat a few weeks ago that left my brain all abuzz with ideas about where we can take things. I’m tentatively working on planning a WARM-sponsored feminist art book/reading discussion group this summer, possibly on the Walker’s Open Field, so watch for news on that coming soon!

My day job is as a cook at Wayside Family Treatment center (, and I recently connected with the Bridging Minneapolis project that was awarded the last FEAST grant. They are doing a mural project in our neighborhood with the 24th Street walking bridge and I am looking forward to being a liaison for our clients to participate in that.

Robyn Hendrix

1 comment:

Jackie said...

what a charming new artist, loved the sense of humor and use of color