Every October, artists all over the world take on the InkTober drawing challenge by doing one ink drawing a day the entire month. And this October, Loud and Alive brings you their stories.
Some of you may already know that this month isn’t just October – it’s Inktober, as well. It’s a month dedicated to artists creating and sharing their art, raising awareness to just how important it is, with a very important twist – the drawings have to be in ink.
You know the setting – you’re scrolling down your Facebook feed and you’ll have seen at least two different comics and three illustrations by the time you switch your phone off. The truth is, we are taking it for granted. We accept the artists’ works for our own pleasure, no matter how short-lived, we take it as a chance to escape what would certainly be blank walls of our minds, but what do we know about people behind them?
This is why we, at Loud and Alive, decided to shed some light on the true masterminds – the incredible artists. And one of the first people I knew I wanted to contact for an interview was Hayley, whose primary means of sharing her art is Instagram, @hayleylyn17.
I first saw her works while scrolling down a female empowerment tag, which I didn’t know even existed on Instagram. And I have been following her ever since because not only is she a great artist, but she uses her art to raise awareness about (intersectional) feminism, disability, Black Lives Matter movement and yeah, sometimes even Lara Croft.
Hayley is amazing not just for her talent, but for how she utilizes her art. She uses it to talk about important things, empower people who may not have been empowered by mainstream media, and she truly represents this new way of communication Millennials use.
While you’re talking about how social media is ruining today’s youth, are you talking about how it makes art more available? Whereas you once had to pay tickets for exhibitions (and, in case you are an artist, find a way to get an exhibition of your own) – now you can admire art for free, and support artists directly. No middle men in forms of gallery owners who take their percentage. Less fear that, despite being a good artist, you will not get recognized.
Now you can do it on your own.
Because of that, and many more things, Hayley is the person I was so, so glad to interview and while pitching the idea to her, I was keeping my fingers crossed that she agrees. We talked about the importance of feminism, Lara Croft and how art is therapeutic, but empowering as well.
So check it out!
Lana: Tell us a little about yourself, Hayley.
Hayley: I grew up in a small suburban town in Hertfordshire with my two sisters. I now spend far too much time annoying my older sister’s house guinea pigs by listening to alternative rock and drawing rather than feeding them as much as they’d want me to.
Lana: How do you feel your personal life impacted your art?
Hayley: I think it caused me to focus on art much more. I’ve had health issues, which always makes things a little more difficult or, at least, different from the way I’d hoped them to be but I’ve used my struggles to fuel something.
My family have been a big impact on my art. I’ve grown up surrounded by strong women who faced difficult situations and wanted to create images that reflected a part of the reality that I saw around me.
Lana: I’m a writer but I experienced the same thing – challenging my difficulties into creating really helps, and I find it to be very empowering. How do you feel about your process of turning a hardship into art? Do you feel that your art would have the same quality/importance if you hadn’t experienced what you had?
Hayley: I think the difficulties I’ve faced have definitely made me more aware of certain things and shaped the kinds of art that I’m interested in. I hope that it’s made me into a more compassionate person. I think that it’s lead me to want to create more empowering art – though I hope that even without facing the issues I have it would’ve been possible to still be understanding. I guess actually having some first-hand experience certainly focuses your attention on the impact people have in each other’s lives.
Lana: How did you start drawing?
Hayley: Art has always been a way to process things. I remember covering floors in pens since I was tiny but it was probably my grandmother and my mum that really encouraged me.
Things that are said to you when you’re very young shape how you view yourself and, for me it’s memories of teachers and female relatives praising my art – no matter how scribbled. It was something I could be good at.
Lana: Who are your influences, when it comes to art?
Hayley: I love a lot of feminist artists and illustrators. There are just so many inspiring people out there with infinitely different styles.
Studying art history has opened my eyes to artists like Betty Tompkins and Louise Bourgeois but equally I’m drawn to Instagram accounts like @Joannathangiah and @AMBIVALENTLYYOURS. The IG body positive community has been a huge influence on my art. Seeing people prepared to stand up for who they are is such a huge inspiration.
Lana: Ten years ago, you had to start with exhibitions and promoting your art in a very hands-on type of way, whereas today, you can get exposure by posting on social media. Did that make the “job” part of your art easier, getting instant feedback and maybe even motivation?
Hayley: I love the ability to share ideas with people from all over the world, it’s definitely very motivating. Being able to get feedback so quickly on something you’re working on, from someone you’ll probably never meet is such an amazing thing. So many artists are able to have a voice now in a way that was completely unimaginable in the past. You can create your own little corner of the internet without having to rely on outside help or the money it would take to put on exhibitions.
Lana: I saw that you like Lara Croft and female action heroes; how does the influx of female action heroes make you feel?
Hayley: Playing video games and watching action hero movies was strange; I was often made to feel pushed out. Female characters were caricatures, a distorted view of femininity. It was undermining to see an odd representation so often. Which makes the fairly recent change refreshing and long overdue.
Lara Croft is such a good example. Her transformation makes her a fully formed character – a flawed but capable human. It’s as though certain companies have only just woken up to the fact that they aren’t only selling to an dated idea of heterosexual male. I just hope that things continue to improve, the way they are within even things like Disney movies, so that generations continue to learn gender fluidity and respect.
Lana: LC went a long way from exaggerated breasts and pandering to the straight male audience to the character she is today in Tomb Raider, fully fleshed-out, and people are calling for Disney to give Elsa a girlfriend. Can it be that we are turning into a more open-minded society, and does that make you look forward to the future?
Hayley: I think, despite the obvious political figures that are around right now, when it comes down to it people are ready for more realistic representations. I really hope that that means companies like Disney create characters, including princess and princes, with varied sexualities, because why not. Why can’t there be a transgender princess or a bi prince? Though I also think that disabilities and disfigurement should be shown in a positive light.
There should be stories and images that are a positive reflection of the world we live in – representations of people that children can look to as role models and allow their aspirations to be more than some really odd idea of perfection.
Lana: What are some challenges you face when creating art?
Hayley: I think self-censoring can be an issue for me, both in the actual content of my drawings and whether I feel they’re shareable. I don’t want to be offensive but at the same time I want to be as honest as I can.
Sometimes a messy sketch can express my ideas better than something I’ve spent a long time on but I still get that voice of doubt. I guess if I wasn’t always trying to improve it wouldn’t be as fun or challenging.
Lana: A lot of your art focuses on female empowerment, diversity and social justice. Do you feel as if it helps, both you – personally, and in general?
Hayley: I believe it’s important to try to put images into the world that work against unhealthy concepts. I’m one of those people that repeatedly gets angry at the news, and adverts, things where the media seem focused on promoting different forms of hate and self-loathing.
We’re all a part of the culture we live in so I get caught up in negative thoughts of my own body the same as anyone else. I use drawing as a means to help me rethink things. I guess I want to try and unpick those lessons society teaches us about how we should look or behave.
Lana: Art has always seemed to serve an educative purpose as well, but do you think that this part of it is even more emphasized today?
Hayley: I think right now a lot of work does seem to have a statement behind it, some kind of point that the artist is fighting for. I guess it’s coming from the political world we’re living in and the way we’re exposed to information. It’s so fast paced that creating bite-sized images, like comic strips, can be a useful tool in grabbing attention and starting a conversation about some really diverse subjects.
I suppose it’s the attention span argument – not being able to pay attention to things for longer than eight seconds – though I don’t think that’s entirely true. There’s just so much information available that everyone can get a bit lost in procrastinating scrolling, so why not put some important points into art.
Lana: What are some other things you enjoy doing? Do you ever feel them seeping into your art, like with your Lara Croft drawings?
Hayley: I love practicing guitar and watching horror movies, or slightly sci-fi TV shows – indulging in my continual obsessions with things like The X-Files, The Walking Dead, Orphan Black and Supernatural. There is definitely an overlap with my interests and my art. The music I adore listening to and all the TV shows and vlogs I watch impact how I view things, as much as the books I read.
It’s important to me to be honest and express my ideas, wherever they might have come from. My taste is a part of who I am as a person and hopefully a way of making myself a little more understandable.
Lana: Seeing as we are a feminist site, I’ve got to ask – what are some challenges you think are present in today’s feminism?
Hayley: I think we face the same challenges that come back again and again when fighting gender equality. The horrid air of ignorance, that it’s better to maintain the status quo than be seen as an irritant or risk being attacked for speaking up.
But with social media there is an added pressure. We’re constantly bombarded with information and images that affect us so quickly. We’re connected in a way that is beyond anything previous generations imagined. It also means that it’s possible to see more than one side to an argument in an instant, which I think is slowly making a real change.
You’re not so much preaching to the choir on a global platform. Things can’t be hidden the way they were in the past.
Lana: Nowadays, it’s very hard to keep anything out of the public eye and very often, once a celebrity has said something problematic, they are instantly written off, with no hope of changing their ways, which brings me back to a very important question – should we try to educate even the most ignorant people or do we just give up?
Hayley: I do feel it’s important to put a counter argument out into the world that people can see both sides of an issue – that the truth of a situation is represented. Mostly so people going through it feel supported and not silenced. But when it comes to educating the ignorant I think it’s dependant on the individual.
If a person just doesn’t know something they have the resources and responsibility to educate themselves – it’s their lack of knowledge after all, they should take responsibility for their own actions. It shouldn’t be up to the persecuted, whether feminist or minority group, to spend all their energy constantly trying to teach someone, they aren’t the one who has the problem that needs fixing. But that doesn’t mean you can’t loudly discuss whatever issue might be affecting you.
Lana: Do you have any advice for aspiring artists?
Hayley: My advice would be quite simple – just keep drawing, keep creating. There are going to be times when people tell you you’re wrong or not good enough, and times when that person is you but don’t give up. It’s perfectly acceptable to do something else that lifts your mood and come back to it.
Just remember that the best thing about art is there’s no wrong answer. If you love painting then that’s a good enough reason to paint.
Also, don’t be afraid to connect with people. Get online, find like-minded people at school or college, if you can. They’ll really inspire you.
Lana: Thank you so much, Hayley! Is there anything else you would like to say?
Hayley: Just thank you! <3