Exploring the mind-bending (and often miniature) world of Haley Cowan’s art

by Nick Gonzales

Since you-know-what descended upon the world, we’ve been spending a bit more time on social media as we continue to socially distance ourselves from the rest of the community. But that doesn’t mean we’re not engaging with local culture.

[image:2]One of the nifty things about social media (yes, it isn’t just for distracting and/or misinforming you) is that you sometimes stumble upon people creating cool stuff in your community. That’s how we found out about Haley Cowan’s paintings — randomly discovering them on Instagram.

Operating under the name Painted Panty Art, Cowan primarily paints but also draws. “PaintedPanty” is her gamer tag, and she thought it would be “kind of fun and different” for her art’s Instagram page (which is @paintedpantyart, naturally). What made us stop and check out the art, though, was her apparent love for bright contrasting colors and frequent dips into the world of geekery.

[image:3] Cowan has lived in the area her whole life and is currently an engineering student at Fort Lewis College. Her interest in art is at least a little bit genetic.

“I’ve always liked drawing,” she said. “My dad actually went to the Fort, and he got his degree in art and education. So I think I inherited some of that. I’ve always liked doodling and sketching, but I just started getting into painting a year or two ago. I wanted to try to push myself and challenge myself.”

[image:4]Her art isn’t necessarily made for public consumption — at least, that’s not what its primary purpose is.

“I have a lot of anxiety and it helps calm me. I can focus solely on my art, whether I’m sketching or painting, and it’s just a calming feeling for me. I can be peaceful in that moment,” Cowan said.

[image:5]A significant number of her paintings are simple, focusing on eyes or feminine figures, and also small – something that feeds into both her growth as an artist and her use of art as therapy.

“I like tiny details and most of the mini canvases I do — there’s not a lot to them, but I like trying to paint something smaller instead of having a bigger canvas where I have more room. I feel as if I challenge myself as an artist to try to keep it in a smaller space,” she said. “I can do them in just like 15 to 20 minutes, maybe half an hour if there’s a little bit more to them. They’re very quick and they’re very easy to do. So instead of spending days on a bigger painting, I can just spend a little bit of time and get that scene in satisfaction.”

[image:6]One of the works that first caught our attention, and told us that she might be a fellow nerd, was her painting of British punk comic book character Tank Girl. From there, we noticed that in addition to some cool originals, she’s also borrowed inspiration from computer games, Dungeons & Dragons, and Hayao Miyazaki films.

[image:7]“My parents had older superhero comics, so I grew up reading those. I didn’t play a lot of video games until I got older. And then as far as D&D goes, my boyfriend got into it just about a year ago, and they wanted me to play. So I started playing with them and really enjoyed it,” she said. “Things I enjoy, I like to paint.”

Nick Gonzales

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