Interview with Molly Hawkins

Molly Hawkins mural

Last week we enjoyed a (virtual) natter with Bristol-based artist, Molly Hawkins who recently brought her wonderfully vibrant mural vibes to Twig’s new shop on North Street. It’s the perfect happy-making pick-me-up we all need right now.

Molly originally trained in Theatre and Performance Design at the Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts and was known for her beautiful work with costume, set and puppet design in pre-Covid times. The pandemic has had a huge impact on her practice, and she is increasingly becoming recognised for her large-scale, brightly coloured street art pieces that have been transforming buildings worldwide.

Inspired by narrative and form, Molly’s geometric shapes and vibrant colour palettes transform locations and bring instant joy to public spaces. We are huge fans of her work, so it was great to catch up and chat murals, colour, inspiration and the joy of art.

Molly Hawkins set design

Can you tell us what you do and what an average workday looks like?

I’ve had a job transition of late, due to the old pandemic thang…

My career used to focus predominantly on set and costume design for live performance (with the odd mural commission), but since my theatre work was cancelled, I leapt into the mural painting and illustration side of my practice. It was the leap I’d been wanting to take for a long time, so even though the world seemed a bit bonkers, I was pretty pleased to have time to doodle and paint.

I’m used to the self-employed/freelance lifestyle, meaning every workday is totally different for me. You could find me climbing a building and spray painting, or sitting at my studio desk in a digital drawing daze or slumped on the sofa dealing with admin.

My favourite workdays are definitely those when I’m on-site, meeting people and painting.

Molly Hawkins mural

What excites you most about the creative process?

I love sitting down with my music on, a cup of tea in hand and a platter of coloured, textured mediums ready to cut up and arrange into forms that will eventually end up painted on a wall.
I find the collage aspect the calmest moment in my creative process. The bit that gets me hyper and wired is when I transform my collage into a digital medium and twiddle with the colours for hours until I find a perfectly satisfying colour combination. Mmm.

Molly Hawkins mural

How have you developed your career and built such a fab colourful style?

Thank you! I realised the other day I’ve painted over 70 murals! There are some terribly cringy ones out there that I’ll never show you! I used to do a lot of little commissions for friends like painting kid’s bedrooms and garden walls – all in very mixed styles. I remember getting annoyed often as I felt like I would never find my style.

Realising I needed to be more tactile when designing really helped me to progress. I’d been working in a digital format for so long, and it just never really pleased me. Also, I’m a colour combination addict – I can’t hold a conversation sometimes because I’ve spotted 2 colours next to each other that I love. This means that walking around shops is basically a tropical eye firework party for me!

I guess these two aspects merged and now I’m happy with my approach and the style I’ve developed.

Molly Hawkins curtain

Who are your biggest inspirations?

I try not to focus too much on my inspirations, although they are so prominent in everything I do:

Keith Haring – I dream of being as prolific as Keith Haring. The simplicity yet complexity in his work is something I’ve always wondered at. I find creating simple, effective work is the hardest.

Camille Walala – She boldly embodies the Memphis Movement, and isn’t afraid to put her artwork on everything. The colourful empire she is building is beyond inspiring!

Monster Chetwynd – Her work is chaotic, colourful and energetic. She manages to merge performance art with collage, sculpture, painting and fine art. My plan is to combine my theatre background and murals soon, to make for a fun public intervention!

I often set myself the task of creating the work I wish existed in the world.

Molly Hawkins mural

Do you have any tips for any aspiring illustrator or mural artists? 

I always try to make art that makes me happy and I often set myself the task of creating the work I wish existed in the world.

A great tip for starting up mural painting is to do a few pieces for friends. It’s one big network, so once you’ve thrown up your first epic flamingo mural, more should follow on through word of mouth.

Thanks for taking the time to chat with us Molly –  It was great to get an insight into the world of murals. If you’re interested in working with Molly, check out her website.

For more interviews and insight into the world of Gather Round and it’s members, follow us on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.