- Associated Press - Saturday, May 28, 2016

HELENA, Mont. (AP) - You might have seen Hailey Henrikson in the front window of Imagine Design during the Spring Art Walk, working her magic with charcoal and a sketch pad.

That was the second Art Walk show for the talented 17-year-old Helena High School junior. Her first was at age 11.

She recently took a first place award in painting and drawing in the annual Youth Electrum art show at the Holter Museum of Art, the Independent Record reported (http://bit.ly/1TKpMFh).

Henrikson’s been doing art for as long as she can remember, recalling that she likely started out drawing on walls.

“I love charcoal - the blacks and white,” she said, “and acrylic paints because they’re so vivid. And I love drawing other people’s faces from different cultures, who I haven’t seen yet but want to.”

Her award-winning charcoal drawing, “Magwa,” is an arresting portrait of an elderly woman with vibrant eyes and a richly wrinkled landscape of a face.

“I think it was her eyes at first,” said Henrikson of what sparked the drawing. “I wanted to draw them out and see what they told me.”

“I take photos and put them together to make them unique,” she said of the faces she creates. She might take a face from one photo, hair from another, and then add different clothing and surroundings.

Different cultures particularly catch her eye.

“I make up scenarios,” she said. But she doesn’t share these because she wants each viewer to make up their own story.

“I hope to see all these things I draw,” she said, adding that she particularly hopes to travel someday.

“I like bringing in other cultures to Helena,” she said. “We’re so closed off here.”

She likes exploring beyond the world of cowboy boots and Western landscapes and wants to give viewers “an out-of-Helena experience,” which she jokingly compares to “an out-of-body experience.

For Magwa, it was her wrinkles that were most challenging. But Henrikson forced herself to focus and sat down to work - suddenly it was four hours later.

Oddly enough, she says that staying motivated is her biggest challenge. “Hailey you’re going to do this,” she’ll say to herself. “Pick up a pencil or brush and start doing stuff. Sometimes that’s what I have to do because I’m feeling so lazy.”

“I start with the eyes first,” she said of her portraits. “I’ll put more effort in.” Once the eyes are there peering out at her, she’s hooked. “Fine, fine … you win.”

For a charcoal sketch like “Magwa” it typically takes two weeks, working two to three hours a day, she said. She estimates she spent around 30 hours on it, since she likes to take weekends off and hang out with her friends.

“I have this problem with obsession,” she admitted. “I get so caught up in the moment.”

She’s largely a self-taught artist but has soaked up as many art classes as she could at Helena Middle School and Helena High School.

Henrikson also loves to draw animals and landscapes. “I like mixing it up.”

And while she’s critical of what she calls her lack of self-discipline, her art teacher, Marty Scanlon, couldn’t disagree more.

“I’ll tell you now, art is her passion. That’s all she does. She’s constantly working on her own projects, so she’s really self-driven and self-motivated. She does it all the time. She’s constantly drawing. She’s constantly using her sketchbook. As far as art, it’s become more than a hobby for her … it’s an addiction. She’s just passionate about it.”

“It’s a God-given … natural talent,” he added. “She could actually make a living doing this. I really believe she has a bright future.”

“She’s very honed in with charcoal and with pencil. Her paintings are amazing too. … I always joke with her, ‘you don’t need me - you’re well ahead of yourself. Keep pursuing what you find interesting and aesthetically pleasing - just things that bring you joy in creating.’

“She’s got a relentless pursuit of perfection,” said Scanlon. “She really has an amazing eye for detail.

“In the 20 years I’ve taught, she’s probably one of the most gifted kids I’ve come across and there’s been some dandies. She’s one of those kids, she doesn’t need drive and motivation from a teacher. She’s very self-driven.

“It’s just a pleasure coming across kids like this to watch them grow on their own terms. … It’s so fun working with kids who are so excited about it.”

___

Information from: Independent Record, http://www.helenair.com

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