Local artist makes oil paintings comes to life

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This painting by Hailey Cairns shows one in a series on dancers. Valley News/Lexington Howe photo

Local artist Hailey Cairns, 26, was placed in an art class in high school that she didn’t really want to be a part of at first.

“Somehow I got stuck there,” Cairns said, adding that her teacher, Mr. Pinch, would come over during the class and tell her how good her drawings were.

“I didn’t want to be there, but after days and days of being in class I started to realize that I was pretty good at it, and I started to enjoy it,” Cairns said. “It flourished from there.”

One of her favorite things to draw are faces and oil paintings.

“I tried to do a series on dancers, something beautiful in a dark world,” Cairns said in regards to an oil painting on canvas she had done.

She doesn’t have a lot of free time to paint what she wants, but usually works on pieces that she’s commissioned by others to do.

Cairns received her art degree from Biola University and has a double minor in psychology and theology.

“I’m going for my masters in psychology just so I can do something with that, because having an art degree is kind of hard to find jobs,” Cairns said, laughing.

Cairns has done over 100 paintings so far.

“I did a mural for the first time; that was cool,” Cairns said. “It’s in a distillery. It’s huge. It took a couple months; that was my first one I’ve ever done. It’s part of Galway Downs, and it’s called Galway Spirits.”

At the time of painting it, the distillery wasn’t open yet so she would go in to paint during the day and sometimes at night.

“We were taking interviews for a mural we wanted to have done,” Jackie Peck said, who is an assistant distiller at Galway Spirits, which is owned by Ken Smith.

Hailey Cairn’s mother Dawn Cairn suggested her daughter paint the mural and that if the distillery didn’t like it they would paint over it and not charge anything, considering it was Hailey Cairns’ first time painting a mural.

“She finished the mural in 30 days,” Peck said, adding that Cairns did it all freehand.

“It looks like you’re outside,” Peck said. “She painted the background of Galway Downs.”

“She’d even climb up to the top of the scaffolding,” Peck said.

The mural is 20 feet high and 50 feet wide, he said.

Peck said it’s one of her favorite things in the whole distillery.

“We were watching her, and she decided to throw in a couple of hot air balloons as well,” she said.

Cairns did two paintings for a sports recovery center in the valley.

“Her stuff is real life; it portrays action,” Craig Johns, who commissioned her for the paintings, said. “They’re action pictures that she characterized in oil paintings, and they really jump out of the picture.”

Johns has known the Cairns family for years.

“I got to see early work of Hailey’s before she went to art school: charcoal, a lot of drawing, followed by her progression into art school in college,” Johns said. “We’ve have two (painted) so far with three athletes featured in them.”

When Cairns has time to paint some of her own ideas, she said she mostly paints people.

“My grandpa is schizophrenia psychotic, and I like psychology so I wanted to do a series on him,” she said. “He always sits on the same spot on the couch, smokes a cigarette, has his little beer or alcohol and he’ll put a lighter on top of the cigarette pack, and he has to have it set a certain way and if it’s not, if it’s moved, he moves it back,” she said. “He’s just not all there so I thought it would be interesting to paint him.”

Smaller paintings may only take a day, while larger ones can take weeks, Cairns said. Her artwork is currently on display in her parent’s shop, Stitch and Prints, and she can be contacted through Facebook at Hailey Dawn Cairns.

Peck said she is excited to see where Cairns’ work takes her.

“She’s probably better than she thinks she is,” Peck said. “She’s a phenomenal artist.”

Lexington Howe can be reached by email at valleystaff@reedermedia.com.