Precious Substance – Episode 3 – Hayley Williams, Painting People
Hayley Williams, Painting People
Laura and Wendy interview Hayley Williams about her painting, The Miller. Hayley describes what it was like to sit for the photograph she used as a reference for the painting and reveals her process for painting The Miller’s hands.
Producer: Laura Tyler
Concept: Wendy Clough, Laura Tyler and Hayley Williams
Editor: Andy Schwarz
Logo Design: Hayley Williams
Creek sounds recorded at Black Cloud Creek, Mt. Elbert, Colorado
When I first heard of this idea of working on this parallel art making project together, I knew that I immediately wanted to do something related to the figure of Ella Yount. I’m also primarily an oil painter and I like to paint representationally which means a little more realistic, for lack of a better word, and I’m drawn to painting people, as well, so it seemed like a very natural fit.
How have you been able to come up with an imagined reality-based image for your painting?
Because I do tend to paint more realistic, I rely very heavily on photo reference especially if I’m not looking at something from life which of course, I don’t have a time machine and unfortunately we had no photos of the actual of Ella. So, that was the first challenge I did have to think through, and I knew I would probably use myself as a model. I had asked someone to take a photo of me. And sometimes inspiration happens during those moments I try to plan out some of it but leave some room for spontaneity to happen. And it was while I was sitting I had thought maybe I should face away from the camera this shouldn’t necessarily be a portrait and I think looking away from the camera it provides that sense of mystery that we have about this character.
How did you choose the pose, what did you wear, how did you feel when you were sitting, what was that like?
Oh, man. Luckily someone had given me a black dress that I thought worked really well. I had bought an apron online a vintage apron it’s not accurate to the time necessarily but it’s closer than something I would have bought today new. So I felt like it was a good attempt in creating something that at least gave people the feeling of an era. During the pose during sitting I knew I really wanted to show my hands and I had covered them in flour. I had actually sprinkled flour on the dress. I wanted to show that uh being an owner and operator of a mill especially at at time when there probably weren’t a lot of bodies available to run the mill and she was probably very involved in the day to day operations, I wanted to show that she you know she was getting her hands dirty. I also tried to show the hands were prominent in the photo because I enjoy the use of symbolism a lot and I think hands are a really beautiful symbol of a reflection of who we are or what we do since we do use our hands for so much of our tasks in our lives.
I feel like the photo I had taken turned out really well. I really like to show off the definition of the hands I think sometimes that can make them look a little cruder. Because shadows really show off all the shapes including knuckles and veins which I thought drove home the point I was trying to make even more which was that she was a hard working pioneer woman. I did also make the hands a little bit bigger than they are were in the photo. And I’m hoping that people feel this effect that they do look a little bit large and my intention with that is to draw attention to them and to also be this symbol of work of labor.
It sounds like you’re also painting a lot of drapery which I think of as sort of so classic and I know from your other paintings that you have a lot of skill and I’m excited to see the form of Ella in her dress and her apron.
I find drapery very challenging and that will certainly be a core part of the imagery with the apron especially being white since the folds are more obvious being a realist painter that stuff also gets me a little excited
So how does this relate to the title?
Precious Substance. So, I think in a couple ways, actually. One being that I know we didn’t determine what precious substance means. But if it relates to some type of life force I think a portrait is a good representation of that or at least a more literal one. So this is supposed to be Ella Yount. It’s supposed to be maybe other women of Boulder, other women of the west. Other women that had to start or run a business maybe unexpectedly in her case her husband had died tragically and suddenly, so she had to keep going with operating the mill. The second is uh precious substance in some way though I think very unintentionally in the quote that we’re drawing from that to Ella Yount it could also mean the flour that she milled. That was her precious substance. That was her livelihood.
Did you know that name of the brand of flour was Legal Tender?
Oh, yeah. That was in the article
Yes, so you’re talking about precious substance and bringing then the flour in as the livelihood and then I’m thinking about the Gold Rush years and then money it’s just beautiful how this all kind of links together.
Yeah, all those people had to be fed. I read at some point someone got $30 for a cabbage up at the mines in Nederland. People were so hungry for produce. It was definitely precious. Does the work that you’re doing for this show mark any kind of departure for you that you could see following that will affect your future work or do you feel like it kind of fits in with your other work?
You know, I’m really not a good judge of my own work. I feel like I sometimes learn more about my work from other people commenting about it. I feel like it is very me because I do Iove painting people I like painting hands as specific as that is. I’d be curious what the people have to say about my art.