Alana Dee Haynes is an artist whose work converges in the middle of several different planes of focus; illustration, photography, and mixed media. Just starting to dabble as well in sculpture and fashion design, Ms. Haynes’s work is like water; it always manages to find its way back to its source. You can very clearly see her going back to her roots in every form her art takes through the signature, delicately organic line work that she is known for. Read our interview with the artist below to find out more about how she’s gotten to where she is now.
Lara: Art and its creation is such a deep, psychological process if you think about it. Why do you think you make what you make? Where does it come from?
Alana: My hands have always been very active; I’m constantly fiddling with my hair or doodling in a notebook so the patterns I draw stop me from those habitual fidgets..even though I am still being active, I relax and just dive into someone else’s world. When I’m drawing on a photo, I’m always very careful to look at each curve of the person’s nose or the line of their shoulder and I love that process of seeing someone that I don’t know and then trying to figure them out in a different way than they are probably perceived in real life.
L: Nature vs Nurture. Do you think you were born with innate creative gifts, or do you think they were things you developed as byproducts of the creative environment you grew up in…or a combination of both?
A: I think it’s definitely both. My art is somewhat related to my parents’ work. If you match them up and compare, at first glance my work is nothing like theirs. But the harder you look; you can see my dad’s strong line work and minimalist aesthetic while at the same time my mom’s frequent use of patterns is present, as well. In subtle ways, they have definitely rubbed off on me as an artist, but I am without a doubt still my own person.
L: What do you consider yourself and why? (eg: illustrator, mixed media artist, etc.)
A: Now, at this point in my life, I guess I would probably just say ‘artist’ because I wouldn’t want to limit myself. I’ve branched out so much and in so many ways; I’ve been pursuing sculpture, painting and fashion – so much more than just illustrating photographs.
L: What do you look for in the things you want to illustrate, be it a 2D or 3D object? Any specific criteria?
A: Usually a lot of surface area is preferable in a technical-way…space for me to go over and change things to my liking. Not necessarily negative space, but uninterrupted space without hair or any type of obstacle that my eye might perceive as a creative problem. Also the size of the space is important as well, if the subject is too tiny I won’t be able to do anything because the nibs on the pens I use can only get so small. Most importantly, however, on a deeper level whatever I’m working with will just speak to me and I’ll be able to see what I’m going to do.
L: Where/when do you feel most inspired?
A: Usually I make all my work in my bed. I tend to sit with it in my lap, usually in the morning right when I wake up, fresh from dreaming. It’s nice to immediately start moving my body in a slight way after so many hours of being motionless.
L: Why don’t you find yourself shooting very much anymore? Is there anything about illustrating photographs that aren’t your own that you think might help along your thought-process/work flow?
A: I enjoy collaborating with people. It’s always interesting for me to see each person’s unique style because it opens up so many creative roads to go down. I’ll work with one photographer and my style will be totally different as opposed to if I were to be shooting because I know I’d get totally bogged down. First of all, I don’t have that many styles of photography and second of all, I’d probably know the person that I’d be drawing on and I’d focus too much on wanting to make them look good rather than doing what I actually want to do. It would just end up being a whole weird psychological thing like, “I made this thing and now I’m ruining it but I’m not actually ruining it because this is what I like to do…”. So ultimately I think just having access to a variety of images that I was not involved in making along with not knowing the person in the photograph makes the whole process much more manageable and fun for me.
L: You grew up in Brooklyn, correct? What do you think growing up in New York City has done for you, both as an artist and a person?
A: Red Hook, Brooklyn to be more specific…in New York there’s so much art, everywhere. Street art, galleries, public art installations that you’re bombarded with relentlessly and I feel that that’s what has really helped me create my own path. All the exposure from such a young age really forced me to make work that I feel like I’ve never seen before. And then also just having spent my entire life in such a unique environment where millions of completely different people are all mushed onto this tiny island together; this must have had some effect on me while making my work over the years.
L: Due to this particular flow that you’re illustrations have, I’ve always wondered whether or not you’re the type of artists that has to have music playing while you work? If so, who/what do you tend to listen to?
A: Well I basically live under a rock when it comes to new music, hahahah. While I work, I typically listen to stuff like old Pearl Jam, Jimi Hendrix and Led Zeppelin…I also really like Otis Redding…and then also Aretha Franklin and Adele, Amy Winehouse; mainly just music that tells a story. Music is optional though, I don’t need it to be playing while I work like some people do.
L: What are you currently working on?
A: I have a solo show coming up named “Alter”. It’s with Apostrophe NYC on August 5th at MANA Contemporary in Jersey City, where I currently have a residency. I have a ton of weird plexiglass pieces laying around my studio right now, they are what I’m currently working on for that…you’ll have to come to the show to see the rest…
L: To wrap up, what has been an especially memorable highlight so far for you in your career as an artist?
A: Probably when Juxtapoz Magazine reached out to me, that was a real “woah” moment. I don’t think I actually realized what it was back then, though. It was like 2-3 years ago, I was so young and excited, hahaha. It was a very cool experience and definitely will always be a milestone in my career.