January 23rd, 2022
The work of Utah artist Havoc Hendricks seems, at times, beautifully paradoxical: detailed yet minimalist, powerful yet understated, grand yet subtle. From the luminous colors and textures of his geode works to the intricate line patterns of his mountainscapes, each one of his works strike this balance masterfully, and seemingly, effortlessly.
In our first extended interview with the artist, we discover how these works are as richly complex and marvelously paradoxical as the artist himself. Throughout our conversation, we discuss what first inspired his unique style of work, how his “outsider” approach to art creation has given him an edge, and how his lifelong quest for novelty keeps him pushing himself and his work to greater and greater heights.
Gallery MAR: How did you first determine that you wanted to make a career out of the arts?
Havoc Hendricks: I grew up in an environment where I didn’t realize that anybody could really be an artist. I grew up in Idaho Falls, and there were no art galleries I was aware of, so the only artists that I knew existed were in movies, like Andy Warhol. Those artists were always associated with New York in my mind, so I thought, that could never be me.
So I never pursued a career as an artist. Instead I pursued a whole lot of other careers that I hated: they were not creative and they were not artistic. When I was in grad school, I was studying this program that I hated, called Business Consulting. I could only mentally cope with it because I thought, well, I hate it, but out of everything, I hate it the least. I thought that this was what I had to do if I wanted to make money in life.
As I was studying for that degree, I would come home from school and practice my side hobby, which was spray painting. I did it to reduce the anxiety and the negative emotions that I had from school. So I started practicing spray painting more and more to cope, and because I started doing it so much, I accidentally got good at it. My neighbors and my friends would see the things that I was making and ask me to paint them something, or they would want to buy something that I had already painted. That totally caught me by surprise. I started thinking for the first time that maybe this was something that I could pursue and eventually turn into a source of income.
When I realized that, I decided to not continue with my graduate program, even though I was getting straight A’s. I thought to myself, “I would rather be poor and happy than rich and miserable.” I didn’t care how long it would take me to perfect this craft, I was going to take it seriously. I got day jobs that were palatable enough that I could make enough money so that I could practice this painting craft after work every day. I ended up painting every day after work for 4-5 years.
“It’s been one of the most amazing and shocking discoveries of my lifetime, that I was capable of developing this strong sense of patience.”
– Havoc Hendricks
At the time, my wife and I were in a small rental property and the only space I had to paint in was our living room. In order to fit a canvas in there, I had to push all the furniture against the walls. Even with just one canvas on the floor, I had to walk around it heel-to-toe. Fortunately, my wife was extremely supportive. At the same time that I was practicing painting, she was practicing photography, so we were in it together. Happily, she is now also a full time artist, as well.
After years of doing that, I was able to raise my prices. I was then making as much money painting as I was in my day job. It wasn’t a lot, but it allowed me to drop my day job and paint full-time.
Gallery MAR: You said he started your art practice with spray paint art. What led you to the style and media you use today?
Havoc Hendricks: Well I used to be a very impatient person, and I was aware of that. I purposefully chose spray paint as my medium because I thought it was the fastest medium to use. The paint dries in seconds, and you can cover a whole canvas in minutes and have your “masterpiece.”
However, it just so happens that every time I put a little more time and effort into a piece, that piece got a better response from my collectors. This was the case every single time, for years. So now I’ve landed in this place where I now make art that takes a lot of time and effort and attention to detail. My work involves this micro-awareness of everything in order to make it as perfect as possible. I fought that style at first, because I thought that I was too much of an impatient person. I thought that it would be torturous. However, those feelings eventually got replaced by feelings of pride and joy over what I was creating. Yes, it’s a lot more effort and time than I had planned on, but even I couldn’t deny the end results. It was worth it. It is worth it.
Gallery MAR: What an incredible challenge life threw at you as an impatient painter to then be tasked with painting highly detailed works. So do you consider yourself a more patient artist now?
Havoc Hendricks: 100%! Honestly, it’s been one of the most amazing and shocking discoveries of my lifetime, that I was capable of developing a strong sense of patience. I would never have thought that that was possible.
Gallery MAR: You describe your work as “detailed minimalism,” which would sound like an oxymoron if it weren’t so accurate. What does this descriptor mean to you?
Havoc Hendricks: Every time I think about that, I have this immediate flashback. It’s not a generic flashback, it’s a very specific flashback to when I was in elementary school, and I was laying on my bed. I grew up in the ’80s and ’90s, without the Internet, so there were a lot of times where I did nothing as a kid, because there was nothing to do. I would lie on my bed and stare at the texture on the ceiling of my bedroom. I would find things in the texture, like faces and animals, and I would map out this diorama on my ceiling. Even decades later, I can look up at the same ceiling and see what I saw then. It was very creatively fun for me.
Gallery MAR: I love this idea that boredom fueled your creativity at a young age.
Havoc Hendricks: Yes, it forced me to focus on the micro details everywhere I was. Most of my childhood, I would just walk by myself through the fields and creek by my house. If I found something like a candy wrapper on the ground, I would study that candy wrapper so intensely, because it was the coolest thing I found that day. Sometimes I would find a new insect I had never seen before and I would just watch it. I would stare at it for minutes on end, or I would go down to the creek bed and stare at the water and think about how it was simultaneously different and the same, nonstop, forever.
“For me, personally, that’s part of what makes this work so exciting, because I’m always discovering new things.”
– Havoc Hendricks
Gallery MAR: It’s funny that you describe yourself as an impatient person then, because it sounds like you’ve always had a knack for detailed observation.
Havoc Hendricks: I think the reason why is that, even though I am super observant as a person, I also have this innate characteristic where I crave newness. I don’t care to see the same thing twice. For instance, if I saw that same candy wrapper the next day, I wouldn’t give it even a second. I’ve never watched a movie twice. That’s not an option for me. I would rather watch a bad movie that I had never seen before than a really great movie that I had already seen.
Gallery MAR: That’s so fascinating! I suppose you have no comfort shows then. Going back to your long treks through nature as a child, I know that nature plays a large role in your work. Could you talk a little more about that?
Havoc Hendricks: I have always felt that no painting is going to be as incredible as nature itself. So, because I have so much respect for nature and because I will never be able to paint nature realistically as beautiful as nature itself, I tend to lean more towards the abstract. That way, at least I can add something to the conversation rather than just parroting it. I can feel like I succeeded in that version of the mountain, or the geode, or the moon.
Gallery MAR: Well we just love your interpretations of nature. It seems like you use quite a variety of different media to create your abstract landscapes. Starting from your spray painting roots, how did you discover these different media and how do you feel that they have informed your style?
Havoc Hendricks: When I first started my craft, I had a vast inferiority complex because I did not go to art school. I thought that it was going to give me a disadvantage, because I thought that your art school education was directly related to how people would view and accept your work. I have found that that’s not true at all.
However, I didn’t know that when I first started out, and I was intimidated by it. I looked for ways to compensate for that. I thought “well, I can’t learn the things that others are learning because I’m not in art classes, but it might give me an edge to teach myself things that they are not learning.“ So I dedicated myself to finding and trying new elements and tools for painting. For instance, instead of going to the art store to buy supplies, I would go to Home Depot and look through their construction aisles for a tool.
Gallery MAR: It’s kind of an “outsider” approach to art, which is quite fascinating. What kinds of new elements, techniques, and tools have you discovered with that approach?
Havoc Hendricks: Through trial and error, I found a lot of things that do not work, and I found a couple of things that do work incredibly well… like, shockingly well. One thing that’s really interesting, take spray paint for example, is that you kind of think that all spray paint is the same. There are some brands that are cheaper and some that are more expensive, but I’ve discovered that no spray paint is better or worse than another, they’re just all completely unique. Spray paint is a combination of a chemist’s formula of different ingredients, so you can get the same color blue spray paint from two different companies, and they will always look different from each other. Those two spray paints will have different chemical reactions to the weather, so one might be a little thicker than the other, one might dry a little darker, one might change more in the sun.
Gallery MAR: What do you find to be the greatest advantages of working this way?
Havoc Hendricks: It’s encouraged me to take an almost scientific approach to painting, learning how all of these different elements perform in different conditions and temperatures. For example, if I’m painting in the summertime, I will get a completely different result than in the winter time. There was one time when I was using a particular paint, and it was drying too fast. I wanted to work with it when it was wet, so I found that I could only create these particular kinds of paintings in the winter, outside, when it was just above freezing. So I would be decked out in all of my snow clothes, standing in the middle of the yard, with a table, making these paintings. For me, personally, that’s part of what makes this work so exciting, because I’m always discovering new things. That’s become a requirement for me.
Gallery MAR: What are the greatest challenges you face with this approach?
Havoc Hendricks: One of the greatest challenges is that I have to wait at least a whole year to see if the new elements and techniques I’m using are viable before I feel comfortable offering them for sale. If I’m using a new element from the construction world, then I won’t make the work available for purchase until I know for certain that it will hold up over time and that it won’t change when the temperature changes throughout the year.
That’s one of the ongoing challenges of being an artist who searches for new things. If I confined myself to what other people have already discovered, I would not have this problem, but I also feel I would be taking away one of my greatest advantages as an artist, which is discovering and presenting to people something that has never existed before. I feel like that’s a contribution that little old me can make to the world of art in my short lifetime. I can work to discover a few things that could actually be phenomenal.
Gallery MAR: We’ve certainly never seen anything like your work before: it has such a unique quality to it, and it sounds like you actively strive for that. We know you’ve been hard at work this season preparing new and exciting works for your upcoming show at Gallery MAR, “Steady As We Go” with Santa Barbara artist R. Nelson Parrish. How do you feel that your work harmonizes with Parrish’s?
Havoc Hendricks: The first time I saw Nelson‘s work, I was an immediate super fan. To this day, I feel like his work is some of the coolest work I’ve seen in my entire life. He has truly found a style that no one else has. Within his media, Nelson is the master, in my opinion. I’m extremely lucky to be a part of this show with him. I almost can’t believe it.
“Before Gallery MAR, I felt that all galleries were the same, but Gallery MAR’s unique and incredible with their relationship to their artists. They encourage me to be my best self and to constantly discover and progress.”
– Havoc Hendricks
Gallery MAR: What does the title of your show, “Steady As We Go,” mean to you? How did you come up with that title?
Havoc Hendricks: Nelson came up with that title, but for me, it resonates very strongly. Up until I became a professional artist, I felt like my path to get here was full of uncertainty. It was also full of hope, but definitely uncertainty. I knew from the beginning that the only way that I could make this work as a career was if I played the long game. I knew that becoming a professional artist wouldn’t happen in a year, it wouldn’t happen in even two or three years. All the artists that are amazing and renowned, they have been at their craft for 10 to 20 to 50 years. I was aware of that.
To me, “Steady As We Go,” symbolizes my own path to being an artist. It gives you the mental fortitude to ignore the doubts and the uncertainty and do it, as steady as possible.
Gallery MAR: I think a lot of artists, and a lot of non-artists, can relate to that notion. So what can we expect from this new show? Knowing what we know about you now, can we assume you’re creating something quite new?
Havoc Hendricks: Yes! I’m working on new resin works, partly because I’m showing with resin artist Nelson, and partly because I’m showing with Gallery MAR. Gallery MAR’s pretty unique and incredible with their relationship to their artists. They take the time to truly look at my work and give me a whole lot of food for thought. For example, it can be really simple, but every now and then, Maren will encourage me to try something new. She’ll say, “hey for this new show, you can do something you’ve never done before.” That’s super enabling and amazing, because it does push me. In other words, Gallery MAR encourages me to be my best self and to constantly discover and progress.
So I made this new piece just for the show that is a combination of other ideas that I had been working on. It’s a circular piece with the moon on the top and the mountains on the bottom. The mountains are actually made out of tape, the remnants of nearly 20 other paintings that are already in peoples’ homes.
I use a lot of tape for my work because a lot of my paintings have these white borders. I feel like the white borders help to contain the chaos and give the works this really elegant refinement. When I make these borders, I use painter’s tape, which I then peel off once the work dries, so the actual painting that I am making spills onto those pieces of tape every time. In the past, I’ve thrown the tape away once it’s lived its life, but I was always kind of bummed about it, because of the coolest tape I’ve ever seen. I finally started saving it with the idea that maybe I would think of something to do with it. Then one day, it finally clicked. I decided to use all of this incredible painted tape to make the topographical lines of the mountains. Afterward, I covered the whole work in resin so that the tape would be permanently sealed. So now, a tiny piece of other paintings are all combined into this one painting, like the one ring to rule them all.
Gallery MAR: What a great idea and a beautiful final result! We’re also so glad to hear that you have had such a great experience working with us at Gallery MAR.
Havoc Hendricks: To tell you the truth, before Gallery MAR, I felt that all galleries were the same. I knew that there were minor differences between galleries, but I just thought that a gallery was a gallery. I have worked with a lot of galleries before, and I had come to the conclusion that galleries were just not doing it for me and my career. That’s when Maren found me. When she first reached out to me, I was skeptical about joining another gallery. However, I had never shown in Park City before, and I thought perhaps it could be worth it. So I said yes.
Then Maren came and visited me, and I met her in person. I could immediately tell that she was unlike any person I’d ever met before in my life. Her energy and her obsession with recognizing and championing good stuff was incredible. Maren is so focused on people and on good art. She just so happens to also be great at business, but because her focus is on the people and the art, I feel like it positions her to be what she is, which is… unparalleled. She is so good in the role that she performs, and I could feel that when I met her.
All of a sudden, I went from being skeptical about joining another gallery to realizing that this could be incredible, and it truly has been. And it’s not just Maren, but Eileen and Victoria, too. All three of them stay in contact with me and always have great advice and feedback to offer. I feel like we are truly on a team. I don’t think that other artists at other galleries feel that way.
Gallery MAR: So with this team in your corner, what are most looking forward to going forward?
Havoc Hendricks: Wow, well, maybe this is anticlimactic, but ever since I became an artist, time ceases to exist, and I’ve only lived in the moment. I just focus really, really hard on doing my best today with what’s on my plate. Generally speaking, I have found that if I hyper-focus on my day to day work, then the overall work accomplishments increase in scope and grandeur as a natural side effect. In my case, it’s been true that everything I do seems to steadily lead to bigger and more rewarding artistic opportunities.
Gallery MAR: Well speaking of living in the present, what are you currently most excited about in the studio?
Havoc Hendricks: Honestly, I am very excited to do more sculpture work. I’ve done two sculptures out of wood, and I think that they are incredible. There’s enough of a connection between them and my other work that they don’t seem out of place, but the skill set required to make those is so different from what I’m used to. It’s really exciting for me to expand my skill portfolio by learning how to do these things. I just got a chainsaw to help make larger works, and I’m really looking forward to that. I’m also looking forward to working with resin more. My first resin work had no imperfections, so that’s given me a lot of encouragement. If it’s already great on my first one, what will my 10th one be like?
Gallery MAR: That’s so great to hear! Well I know we’re all excited for this upcoming show and for whatever lies ahead for you and your work. Thank you so much for your time and insights, and thank you for being a part of our Gallery MAR team.
Written by Veronica Vale