Heather Drayzen Interview - The Hopper Prize

Heather Drayzen

Heather Drayzen on opening a recent exhibition, finding glimmers of light & beauty in ephemeral moments, & summoning a psychological energy.

How did you get into making art?

I started painting and drawing regularly in my junior year of highschool. I transferred to an art magnet program that set me on my artistic path. I grew up with a family that made things—my mom would decorate cakes by drawing on them and my aunt would put on craft shows. However, growing up in San Antonio in the 1990s, the arts were not offered as a regular program in my district. I had little exposure to artists and didn’t really have any idea of what art was exactly, so that high school art program was mind blowing for me. A big shout out to Jennifer Janak, my art teacher! We are still in touch–she literally changed the course of my life forever by accepting me into the program with little experience and taking me under her wing and opening a new world for me. She invited art school reps and alumni from around the country to our small school and that’s how I learned about SVA and ultimately how I came to New York.

What are you currently working on?

I recently opened my first two person show at My Pet Ram in NYC with artist Julia Blume!

My paintings follow the larger narrative of my life.

Heather Drayzen

What inspired you to get started on this body of work?

In 2019, I experienced a health scare–this, combined with the pandemic in 2020, cultivated an urgency to document my life, memories, and relationships. Everyday moments in my daily life like eating a slice of pizza, a candle lit on New Year’s Eve, or taking a walk with the pups inspire me. I love finding glimmers of light and beauty in these ephemeral moments. My work sits between figuration and abstraction, and I render descriptive elements with varying levels of information to summon a psychological energy.

Do you work on distinct projects or do you take a broader approach to your practice?

My paintings follow the larger narrative of my life rather than being project based. I consider each painting a vignette, and when viewed together, they reveal the feeling of a life lived along with a genuine emotional history. I allow ideas to evolve intuitively from one painting to the next. Intimacy, light, color and touch are my guides.

What’s a typical day like in your studio?

I wake up, make coffee, write in my morning page journal, and either clean first or sit in the studio and quietly look at my paintings until I feel my eyes have adjusted and I know my next move. I mix an extra large palette once to twice a week to keep the momentum going so I don’t have to stop to remix. With each painting, I tend to start with a color field often by rubbing paint into the weave of the canvas before moving onto a loose drawing/underpainting. I work in batches of three to six paintings at a time. This keeps me from over working and allows time for the paint to dry in between sessions. I often listen to podcasts, audio books, or lately a song on repeat. I’ve found that painting in two hour bursts works for me with breaks in between sessions. I’m on sabbatical this year so my pace is much more leisurely and I’ve incorporated more drawing into my practice as well as handbuilding ceramics. When I’m in full time teaching mode, I paint in the mornings before work when I have the most energy and on the weekends.

Who are your favorite artists?

SO MANY! This list could go on for miles but here is a brief overview:
Pierre Bonnard
Edouard Vuillard
Berthe Morisot
Edvard Munch
Odilon Redon
David Hockney
Elizabeth Peyton
Keith Mayerson
Jennifer Packer
Aubrey Levinthal
And of course, Joshua Drayzen, and so many of my artist friends from NYC Crit Club inspire me daily

Where do you go to discover new artists?

Instagram and I regularly go to see shows at various galleries in New York. I learned the other day that there are roughly 1400 galleries here!

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