Camille Hayes paints at Sigh in July in Athens, Georgia. (Photo/Jason Born)

From the perspective of an outsider, the world of creatives can be easily split into successful professionals and everyone else. But this doesn't remotely scratch the surface of the wide variety of engagements one pursues on their journey to becoming a full-time artist. No one’s journey to success embodies this more than Camille Hayes, the public relations director at the University of Georgia’s Hugh Hodgson School of Music.

Hayes was not remotely aware of her artistic potential until her junior year of college, despite the hundreds of creative indicators resurfacing throughout her childhood. While at the time she herself was unaware, in retrospect, art was the obvious outcome from day one. 

Art from the start

Since she could grip a crayon, Hayes was constantly drawing. As a child, Hayes would doodle in her free time or when dinner party engagements became uninteresting. 

“I would sit there and look at whatever it was and start drawing it over and over and over until I could get it down to what it looked like,” Hayes said. “Illustration was ingrained in me from a young age."

Raised in Athens, Hayes was friends with the daughters of Jack Davis, the artist of the unanimously adored UGA cartoons. She developed a correspondence with him, becoming “pen pals,” as Hayes described it. Hayes didn't realize the magnitude of the relationship until enrolling in the Lamar Dodd School of Art years later

Hayes remained indifferent to her creative talent for much of her early education. While she possessed a consistent appreciation for art, her two main focuses were theater and soccer. 

Honing her skills

Even then, Hayes recalls being voted to create all of the game day posters and homecoming banners. Outside of school, the majority of her friends were members of bands and in constant need of logo designs and gig posters, which Hayes did entirely by hand. Despite such a heavy investment in the arts, transforming her hobby into a sustainable career never seriously crossed her mind. 

“I had this weird disconnect … yes I can do all of these creative things and draw this way and design this way, but it’s not what I would’ve thought was my life’s path,” Hayes said. 

Hayes entered college at the University of Georgia, planning to major in public relations. She soon switched her major to advertising which changed the trajectory of her life.

During one of her classes, Hayes was assigned to create a layout for a magazine focusing on music, which finally combined two of her life-long passions. 

“My junior year it occurred to me, like ‘oh this makes sense … why am I not doing art or design or anything,’” Hayes said. “I think I was the last person to realize that this is what I should be doing.”

Much of Hayes’ artwork came from her participation in live paintings, where artists would go to gigs and concerts with their materials and create works based on how the music moved them. While the majority of artists would arrive with half-completed pieces or initial concept work, Hayes always preferred to start with an entirely blank canvas, letting the raw essence of music inspire the entirety of the piece. 

These instantaneous works of art were compiled into Hayes’ graduating exit show in 2015, after two and a half semesters of pursuing graphic design before switching to studio art. While her peers displays included pieces from their previous art classes, Hayes' live paintings where the predominant feature of hers, setting her apart as an artist. 

Life as a professional designer

After graduating, she was hired by Uber Prints and worked in its arts department, both polishing her clients ideas and refining her skills as a designer. She then moved to Atlanta where she worked in a professional graphic design position before returning to Athens as the director of public relations at the Hugh Hodgson School of Music.

“I enjoy taking one concept, taking that conceptual brand, and putting it all over everything that’s needed … environmental signage and merch,” Hayes said. “That’s kind of my sweet spot I feel like.”

Hayes was able to express her full potential in brand design during her partnership with the Athens Orthopedic Clinic Twilight Criterium’s bike race, where she designed every aspect of the event from the Jumbotron to the T-shirts and hats. She was also hired to design its 40 Years of Gears anniversary, a package they were so impressed with that she has been commissioned to do it again for the 2020 event. 

“She is extremely talented and has a clear idea of who she is as an artist,” Ashley Travieso, event director of the Athens Orthopedic Clinic Twilight Criterium said. “I like that she can marry what her clients want and not lose her point of view.”

Travieso was impressed by Hayes' live paintings and her ability to put the environment onto a canvas. As such, the bike race was “a way for [Hayes] to show her love of Athens, for what makes Athens unique, and for an event that really is defined by the city it’s in,” Travieso said.

As a professional artist and designer, Hayes is currently located in the Tiny ATH Gallery, an exhibition and office space she created to host her own clients as well as the work of artists in and around the Athens community.