Meet Hayley Patterson, Professional Doodler and Weirdo Girl
Hayley Patterson is the artist behind the Soonness puzzle Doodle, a cartoonish explosion of colors, wacky faces, and distinctive details. I sat down with her via Zoom to chat about everything from family life to influences, her process, being a “weirdo girl,” her collaboration with Soonness, and more.
Hayley describes herself as an artist who specializes in all things weird, wacky, and unique. I wanted to know what shaped her into that kind of artist, so we dug into her upbringing and early influences. She is a lifelong New Yorker who grew up with a twin sister and another sister who is three years younger. Her parents always encouraged creativity and pursuing what they were interested in. Hayley says, “They weren’t the type of parents that were like, ‘You gotta get a job in a technical field.’ They were like, ‘If you wanna draw, you should draw. If you wanna write, you should write.’”
The family also includes a 16-year-old tabby cat named Darla who made an appearance during our interview. She is named after the character from The Little Rascals. Although it was the shelter that named her, not the family, it’s very fitting that they ended up with a cat named after an old television character.
Photo above: Hayley's Cat Darla
Hayley’s parents, especially her mom, always had a lot of older shows and movies on at the house. “We definitely grew up with TCM [Turner Classic Movies] on all the time, watching old movies,” she shares. Some recent watches include I Love Lucy and The Goodbye Girl, a Neil Simon play that was adapted into a movie released in 1977.
Since Hayley and her sisters were always watching or reading stories from TV, movies, and books, she says, “We were always making up stories because I think we were so immersed in that. Creative writing and play acting, playing games where you had to act things out.” And Hayley was always drawing.
FINDING HER CREATIVE VOICE
It wasn’t until high school when Hayley even started considering drawing as a career possibility. She had to think about college and what to major in. It hadn’t occurred to her that she could do anything art related until someone asked, “Well, what do you like to do?” So she thought, “I like cartoons and animation, so maybe I’ll go to school for that.”
Hayley earned her degree in Animation and Illustration from the State University of New York (SUNY) Fredonia. Hayley recalls, “It was the first time I was really surrounded by artists and it was so nice to be in that environment and get to hone what kind of art I wanted to do.” She went through a bit of a personal journey during art school, coming to terms with not being “ashamed of doing cartoons or doodling for a living.” For her degree, she had to learn fine arts, painting, and realistic drawing. She explains, “You kind of have to learn the basics, you know, and I’m not technically amazing. But I found it was so much more fun to just doodle whatever I wanted. And if it's what I wanna do, I'm just gonna try to do it and make sure people understand that it's not stupid. Yes, they're little cartoons, but I mean, people like cartoons, so, you know, what's the problem?”
Doodling has also been an important part of Hayley’s process of embracing her likes, quirks, emotions, and insecurities. Part of owning her uniqueness and encouraging others to do the same was creating “Weirdo Girls!: A Coloring Book” which she self-published on Amazon.
Photo Above: Hayley's Coloring Book "Weirdo Girls!"
Hayley defines “weirdo girl” as: “a little girl or teenager or whoever does whatever she wants and doesn't care about what anyone thinks. Maybe she has sort of a quirky interest. It can basically be anyone really, ‘cause everyone kind of has their own likes and dislikes that some people might find to be out of the norm.”
Hayley also often draws very distinctive and prominent noses on her characters. She shares that this comes from having a dorsal hump nose and growing up feeling self-conscious about it. And now, she says, “I put it in my doodles all the time. It's just a way to make the face more interesting, and in real life, it makes the face more interesting, too. It's my way of embracing it and just not caring anymore.”
Photo Above: Different noses in Hayley's drawing
DOODLE TOONNESS COMES TO SOONNESS
In 2022, Soon Cho of Soonness came across Hayley’s art on Instagram and invited Hayley to submit for an upcoming PNP (Pick N Preorder) event. Puzzlers would pick and preorder the designs that they wanted to buy, and only those that met the minimum order amount would be made. Hayley created a new piece for it, which she more or less had free rein on. She did want to make it very colorful to be more fun to puzzle and added a little Easter egg for puzzlers (have you found it yet?).
Photo above: Doodle Puzzle by Hayley Patterson
Hayley is a puzzler herself, and no surprise - she likes puzzles that are cartoony and detailed with sharper lines. She prefers 1000 pieces as she can finish them quickly enough that she won’t get bored. She has self-published a few puzzles of her other art, but she’s excited that her PNP design made it to production and her art is on a puzzle as high quality as a Soonness.
There are so many fun details in the Doodle puzzle, but we wanted to highlight a few for you:
- Hayley appears in the puzzle. The girl in the middle with the stars on her sweater is a version of her. She owns that sweater.
- The yellow house at the top is her house.
- The girl in the upper left with the red hair and hat is a nod to Anne of Green Gables. Hayley’s twin sister and mom are huge fans and have read and watched every version of it, so she often puts a variation of Anne in her drawings.
- One of Hayley’s personal favorites in this piece is the albino kid with bunny ears (towards the bottom left with blond hair and red eyes).
A PEEK BEHIND THE CURTAIN
I wanted to know how Hayley’s art comes together, so I asked her about her inspirations and process. She often has a movie or show on while she’s drawing as a way of turning her brain off and letting things emerge.
She says, “Letting my brain turn off to do it is really important to me. Because art school really tries to teach you that you need to do things a specific way, to have the composition perfect.
And that's great and I learned so much and I use all that information that I learned. But with the doodles, it's so important to me to just do the opposite of that so that I'm not worrying about being technically amazing and just kind of do whatever I want. Because I feel like you need the yin and yang to be creative.”
Hayley often works through her emotions through drawing. She says, “I like drawing kind of crazy sometimes, maybe grotesque sort of faces and happy, sad, mad - whatever emotion comes to mind. I've had some issues with my stomach in the past couple months, so you might see I've put some lower intestines in my drawings just ‘cause I'm thinking about it a lot.”
In terms of tools and mediums, Hayley mostly uses Photoshop these days. In the early days, she did everything with a sketchbook and pen, and she still sometimes uses watercolor. She learned how to use digital tools in college and likes that it looks crisper and cleaner. And she can easily undo mistakes.
Hayley cited a few specific artists as influences and general favorites, including Keith Haring, Picasso, and Van Gogh. She says that Lee Krasner, the abstract expressionist, was a big influence. When it comes to illustrators, Jan Brett and Tomie dePaola, who have created art for a number of children’s books, are major inspirations.
Hayley has already had her art on a wide variety of mediums and platforms, but there are still some things she’d like to do in the future. She did some work in After Effects (digital visual effects and motion graphics software) when she was in college and would like to get back into it more. She’d like to create some motion graphics with her style and add movement to her doodles. Someday, she would love to do an animated cartoon. These days, she wants to continue creating prints and products for her shop, and she’s working on another coloring book.
Cats are my favorite pet. When I was a kid, my favorite animal was a giraffe.
Dream travel destination?
Florence, Italy. I wanna see the art. Or Dundee, Scotland. It's where my family's from.
Favorite ice cream?
I don't really crush on celebrities that way but I’m obsessed with older Hollywood actresses. Katharine Hepburn, Shirley MacLaine, Dolly Parton, the whole cast of Steel Magnolias. I also love Jimmy Stewart and Jack Lemon.
You don’t shy away from creepy or dark, but what’s too much for you?
I like drawing fun creepy or fun horror pop culture things. I don't like demonic things or gore.
Things you could talk about for hours?
Old movies, the Oscars and the Academy Awards, movie trivia, Stephen King books, nineties alternative rock.
Other interests besides art?
TV and movies. I play the guitar a little bit. I like reading, hanging out with my cat, and just being with my friends.
Get to know the Author: Joyce Yoo
Joyce is a puzzle instagrammer and writer. Since she hasn’t yet figured out how to become a paid, full-time puzzler, she is working as a voice actor and career coach. She lives in Las Vegas with her Puzzle Husband with whom she has made several independent films. She believes strongly that grown ups should play, too – not just kids – and her favorite ways to incorporate play into her life are through puzzles, board games, party games, and creative expression (especially with humor infused).