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Waterway Arts Festival featured artist Erin Hanson excited about festival

March 17, 2018

The Woodlands Waterway Arts Festival will feature the bold and vivacious oil paintings of California-based artist Erin Hanson, whose blend of modern and classic Impressionism has been the founding of Open Impressionism.

Hanson began expressing herself through art at just 7 years old. She attended a private school where her mother was an educator, and her art teacher let Hanson use any medium she wanted. She experimented with oils, acrylics, pens, pencils, and other mediums.

“I think a lot of children love to paint when they’re really young, and I guess I was a little more into it than other kids,” Hanson said.

When she turned 10 years old, Hanson came across the painting “Irises” by Vincent Van Gogh. At the time, she also happened to be planting irises in the garden with her mother.

“We were planting some actual irises and I remember thinking as a little kid the ones in real life weren’t as pretty as the ones in the painting. That’s when I realized art could be more by capturing another layer of reality than what you see with your eyes,” Hanson explained.

Two years later, Hanson went to a mural studio across the street from her school and asked to be an apprentice. She ended up working in the studio-learning about scaffoldings, mixing paints and other artistic styles for the next four years until she graduated high school at 16 years old.

Hanson said she originally wanted to be an artist, but she was told by many others that making a living out of art is too difficult so she decided to get a degree in bioengineering. Her father was a computer programmer and she grew up on science fiction so she loved science and thought building spacesuits would be an interesting career.

“To me, working for NASA, I thought, would be the most exciting thing ever,” Hanson said. ”(But I) got into college and realized it really wasn’t as exciting as I thought it would be.”

After obtaining her degree but losing interest in bioengineering, Hanson once again turned to art, particularly oil paintings.

“When I decided to get back into art, I wanted to focus on oils because all my favorite artists worked with them,” Hanson explained. ”(Oil paintings) have texture and color and vibrance. I’ve always loved oils. I figured if I’m going to get good at a medium of painting it might as well be oils.”

Ten years ago, Hanson said she made a decision to complete a new painting every week. This has given her the opportunity to look back and see how her artistic style and skills have developed over time. She added that the key to being a good artist is getting the brush and paint to cooperate with a mental image.

“The way I see it, an artist is only as good as they can create what they are seeing in their mind. If I have a mental picture of what I want the painting to be, and I can get the paint to turn out the way I want it to, I’m a good painter,” Hanson said. “Now whether other people like it or not is a different matter.”

All of Hanson’s paintings are inspired by nature and feature natural elements such as trees, wildflowers, desert rocks and lakes.

“It’s all inspired by the outdoors. I grew up hiking and backpacking. I lived in Los Angeles and to me escaping the city to be outside was the most fun I could have,” she said. “Ever since I was a kid I’ve been painting nature.”

Hanson regularly explores national parks and goes on photo safaris to remote areas. Hanson said her favorite aspect of painting is being able to capture small moments in life for eternity.

″(I love) that satisfaction of recreating one of those perfect beautiful moments that you see outside and recreating that in a painting that will never go away,” she said. “This is my opportunity to recapture those feelings and share it with people. Other people may not have the same moment I experienced but they’ll connect with it (in their own way).”

Hanson’s broad brush strokes and modern painting style has helped to create a new genre of art-Open Impressionism. Hanson coined the term after being asked by numerous art enthusiasts what category her style fell under because it wasn’t quite impressionistic but it wasn’t abstract, either.

“It’s kind of expressionistic, it’s kind of abstract. So it’s kind of a blend of all those so I came to a more open, modern look at impressionism. My strokes are broad and wide and traditional impressionism, like (Claude) Monet, used small and overlapping brush strokes,” Hanson explained. “It also has connotations of the wide outdoors because all of the paintings are inspired by the open air.”

Hanson said she often receives emails from teachers requesting permission to use her art in their classes, which she gladly allows.

“There’s not really a lot of contemporary Impressionism. (There’s) abstract and other forms but not many Impressionists,” Hanson said. “I’m hoping to bring back a movement.”

When Hanson first heard that she would be the featured artist at the 2018 Woodlands Waterway Arts Festival, she was thrilled.

“I was so excited and so honored. I won first place in last year’s show, which is how they pick for next year. It was like two pieces of amazing news together,” Hanson said. “That I get to represent such a high quality festival is such an honor.”

Currently, Hanson is working on a series specifically for The Woodlands to showcase at the festival that will feature pine trees and sunsets.

“I’m coming up to The Woodlands so I’m doing a whole series inspired by The Woodlands and hill country area,” Hanson said.

The Woodlands Waterway Arts Festival is scheduled for April 7 and 8. Go to www.thewoodlandsartscouncil.org/festival/ for tickets and more information. Hanson is scheduled to speak during the festival. To learn more about her, visit www.erinhanson.com.