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Tuesday 16 July 2024

Erin Hanson, daring to express one’s inner artist

Can we really live off our art? Erin Hanson took up this challenge ten years ago, when she decided to fully dedicate herself to her passion and not to pay attention to what other people think. Today, as an internationally recognized artist, she wants to encourage creators to dare and follow her path. Throwback to a journey which shows that with determination and willpower, everyone can become a professional artist.

With two galleries under her belt in California, four assistants, regular orders and a style taught in art schools around the world: Erin Hanson is today a successful artist.  Yet, making art her profession was not part of her professional plans, but rather an incomplete childhood’s dream.

When she started taking drawing classes at the age of 6, it was a no-brainer.  Acrylic, oil painting, watercolor, pastel, charcoal: she uses everything in order to reproduce what she sees, amazed by nature’s beauty and the possibility of enhancing it. But as a teenager, her world came crashing down. A choice had to be made for the future, leading her on a safe track away from the uncertain paths of an artist’s life. Holding her early vocation back, her doubts led her to bioengineering studies, a course she found more reassuring. Yet, barely graduated, she knew she did not want to go any further in this area, but she also did not have any plans for the future. “I graduated college without really knowing what else I was going to do. I was completely lost“, she remembers.

Erin Hanson, Motion of Ocotillo, 2016, oil on canvas, 152.4 x 182.8 cm, Private Collection.

Back to creation

At that time, Erin Hanson was not painting anymore. In her quest for identity and future, she gave up her artistic activity. After more or less enriching professional experiences, she finally decided to trade Los Angeles for Las Vegas. During a hike in Red Rock Canyon park, while observing the spectacular landscape of these red rock cliffs, her childlike soul resurfaced. All of a sudden, the undeniable desire to paint comes back to her. She promised herself: not to give up on creation and produce one painting per week.

“I try to capture the emotion of the landscape”

Since this wake-up call, the American artist does not let go of her paintbrush, and roams the natural parks of Nevada, Arizona, and Utah, in search of landscapes to paint. Her purpose is not only to reproduce, but also to capture the moment, the light, the color. She explains: “My art has to go beyond photography, has to show what it was actually like to stand in front of a sunset. I try to capture the drama and the emotion of the landscape.”

Erin Hanson, Radiant Light, 2019, oil on canvas, 91.4 x 91.4 cm, Private Collection.

To do this, she developed an oil painting technique and created her own style: Open-Impressionism. Like the Impressionists painters from whom the name is taken, Erin Hanson wants to immortalize the fleeting impressions of light on the landscape. However, the artist does not paint outdoors, but rather in her workshop, from photographs. It may seem less spontaneous, but it is because she attaches a great importance to the preparation of colors beforehand.  She pre-mixes them, create shadings that she strategically puts on her palette, somewhat as a legacy of her scientific studies. She laughs about it “I’m a kind of control freak when I paint. It’s funny because my style is so loose but it’s loose because I planned it out.” Her color management and technique make her work unique and different from the Impressionists, who mixed colors directly on the canvas. Erin Hanson does not superimpose her colors. She uses her blends to create wide, spaced flat tints that never overlap.

Erin Hanson, Santa Rosa Embrace, 2018, oil on canvas, 152.4 x 91.4 cm, Private Collection.

“You should paint what is important to you and you’ll find people who want what you’re painting”

Today widely recognized, this specific style has contributed to the painter’s success.  But not only.  For her, talent and plastic skills are not enough to earn a living as an artist.  It requires willpower, determination, boldness, and above all, a lot of practice. On her personal blog, she created a heading especially designed to encourage her readers to get started as professional painters. She imagined a study program, inspired by her personal journey, to become an artist. There, we can find lessons and practical homework to realize progressively at home. What for? To paint as much as possible in order to develop one’s creativity and find one’s own style. She wants to show that there is no point in trying to imitate what is already being done at the moment, and that it is rather necessary to cultivate one’s uniqueness. She affirms: “You should paint what is important to you and you’ll find people who want what you’re painting.”

Daring to show oneself

Beyond this creative aspect, it is also essential for her to dare introducing one’s work in art festivals and markets as often as possible. She could observe that, contrary to what one might expect, it is easy to sell one’s paintings. In fact, there would be a great demand from buyers, especially in times of crisis such as what the whole world is going through today. She explains: “People are drawn to art, in time of needs, in time of emotional stress: they want to be surrounded by beauty and remind all the happier days in the past.”

Painting prolifically, not neglecting the commercial aspect of creation and asserting oneself in front of the stage: these are the secrets of success, according to the internationally recognized artist. If Erin Hanson had not dared to take up painting again as a professional activity ten years ago, she would not have fulfilled her childhood dream. By thumbing her nose at her fears of the past, she was able to become the artist she is today. By proving that is it possible to earn a living by painting, she hopes to encourage creators to get started professionally, and who knows, perhaps inspire a “new generation of Impressionists” like her?

Erin Hanson, Cypress Fog, 2019, oil on canvas, 127 x 101.6 cm, San Diego, The Erin Hanson Gallery.
Translated by Cindy Hurtaud

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