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Interview With “Open Impressionism” Artist Erin Hanson

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I wrote about Erin Hanson's work in a recent email. It was a popular one. She's a remarkable landscape artist based in California. Her work has a distinct style she calls "Open Impressionism". I'm pleased to have her answer a few questions about her life, philosophy, and work.

Erin Hanson, Tahoe Dawn, 2018
Erin Hanson, Tahoe Dawn, 2018

Q: I understand you are deeply inspired by van Gogh. Do you have any less known Impressionist inspirations?

I love the Canadian impressionists The Group of Seven. I have also been inspired by Japanese brush paintings (which I often emulated in college), and some of my other favorite artists are Georgia O’Keeffe, Edgar Payne, and Andrew Wyeth. 

I get my daily inspiration directly from nature, however. The beauty of an early dawn illuminating a National Park, quiet and calm in the off-season, is one of my favorite inspirations. I also love painting California wine country and rugged coastal landscapes. I am inspired by the shifting light and colors during the golden hours, the abstract shapes of unique tree formations, and glorious skies bursting with color. Impressionism is a great style to capture the feeling I get when I am out of doors: the loose brush strokes, impasto paint application, and vibrant colors perfectly express my love for landscapes.

Erin Hanson, Sedona Vista, 2020
Erin Hanson, Sedona Vista, 2020

Q: Which current (living) artists inspire you?

Are you familiar with Jim Lee? He is an amazing comic book artist (Batman, for example.) His pictures have such motion and sense of just coming alive, like he just painted it on the spur of the moment, and it came out perfectly. I got into comic book drawing when I was in college, and I like to think that my style of Open Impressionism carries on some of that sense of immediacy, clean lines, and strong compositions.

Erin Hanson, Aspen Forest, 2020
Erin Hanson, Aspen Forest, 2020

Q: What is your preferred medium? Do you experiment with others?

I only paint in oils right now. Of course when I was younger I practiced with any medium I could get my hands on: pen and ink, charcoal, watercolor, watercolor pencils, pastels, oil pastels, and acrylics. When I was a teenager, I worked nights and weekends at a mural studio, and we created giant 40-ft acrylic paintings that were hung in restaurants and casinos around the world.

My favorite medium has always been oil, however. In fact, I began painting in oils when I was 8 years old. I love carrying on the tradition of the early impressionists and other masters by using the medium of oil. There is something very satisfying about the texture, smell and hues of organic oil paint.

Erin Hanson, Coastal Sherbet, 2019
Erin Hanson, Coastal Sherbet, 2019

Q: Your landscapes are wonderful. Have you done any portrait or still life painting?

I have painted many portraits and still lifes, but my main focus has always been landscapes. My love for hiking, backpacking, and rock climbing keeps me outside in beautiful locations, and I find more inspiration in the natural world than anywhere else.

Here is a link showing a series of floral still lifes I did a few years back, for a Mother’s Day exhibition I had in my gallery:

https://www.erinhanson.com/Portfolio?col=The_Floral_Show_2019

Erin Hanson, Irises in Vase, 2019
Erin Hanson, Irises in Vase, 2019
Erin Hanson, Sunflowers, 2019
Erin Hanson, Sunflowers, 2019
Erin Hanson, Floral Medley, 2018
Erin Hanson, Floral Medley, 2018

Q: Do you have a preferred brand of paint and brushes?

Winsor and Newton Artist Oils and Blockx are two of my favorite brands of oil, and I use a variety of brushes to capture different textures.

Q: Do you have any advice for aspiring artists?

I always tell aspiring artists that the best way to create your own style of painting and learn how to overcome the barriers in painting is very simple: create (and finish!) one painting every week. These do not need to be large paintings, but the act of actually finishing one painting a week (yes, 50 paintings per year) will teach you more about painting that you could ever learn from an instructor. You should aim to complete a few hundred paintings before you start to worry about what your “style” is.

My second piece of advice is: do lots of art festivals. This is how artists learn how to sell and market their paintings. I believe there is a market for any style and subject matter; it is just a matter of connecting up with art lovers who are looking for that type of art. Doing lots of art festivals will make you into a competent businessperson, as well as an accomplished artist, and you will be able to start making a full time living as an artist.

Q: Do you have any business advice for those looking to go professional?

I have put together a series of articles I have written to help artists figure out how to make a living as a professional artist. You have to learn all sorts of aspects of running a business, like designing a website, creating promo pieces, book publishing, financial planning, print making, framing, promotion and marketing, etc. If you are willing to learn and eager to work hard, I am sure you will be able to make a living as an artist.

https://www.erinhanson.com/resources

Q: What is your favorite art book?

Composition of Outdoor Painting by Edgar Payne. This beautifully written book contains everything an artist needs to improve their skill and create their own style of painting.

Q: What do you enjoy outside of painting?

I love to listen to audio books (which I always do while painting), and I love hiking and exploring National Parks. I have a daughter who is 20-months old, so of course I spend a lot of my free time with her. She loves to draw and paint too, and she holds a pen just like an adult and creates little detailed squiggles. It is the cutest thing in the world when she wants to paint on her easel right next to me while I paint.

Erin Hanson, Aspen Groves, 2018
Erin Hanson, Aspen Groves, 2018
Erin Hanson, Monsoon Sky, 2019
Erin Hanson, Monsoon Sky, 2019

Q: Do you ever feel trapped in your own success? (i.e. The need to paint in the same style you are known for.)

Luckily, I am fortunate to paint in a style of painting that is uniquely my own creation. I love to paint in Open Impressionism: the bold, loose brush strokes are expressive and alive.  Since I have always painted the way I want to paint (and not the way I thought someone else wanted me to paint), I have never lost the joy in creation. I always push myself to become better and better, capturing new effects of light and striving to make my paintings more evocative and emotional.

Erin Hanson, Light Over the Hills, 2013
Erin Hanson, Light Over the Hills, 2013

Some More of Her Work

Erin Hanson, Pine at Angel's Landing, 2020
Erin Hanson, Pine at Angel's Landing, 2020
Erin Hanson, Turquoise Foam, 2021
Erin Hanson, Turquoise Foam, 2021
Erin Hanson, Windy Skies, 2009
Erin Hanson, Windy Skies, 2009
Erin Hanson, Seven Sisters II, 2008
Erin Hanson, Seven Sisters II, 2008
Erin Hanson, Mustard in Abstract, 2020
Erin Hanson, Mustard in Abstract, 2020
Erin Hanson, Dancing Cypress, 2020
Erin Hanson, Dancing Cypress, 2020

Thanks for Reading!

A huge thanks to Erin for taking the time to do this interview. I always find it pleasing to see an artist creating good work and doing well.

Feel free to share with friends. If you want more painting tips, check out my Painting Academy course.

Happy painting!

Signature Draw Paint Academy

Dan Scott

Draw Paint Academy

84 comments on “Interview With “Open Impressionism” Artist Erin Hanson”

  1. This is a wonderful article about an amazing artist. Thank you so much for showcasing her, it has been an eye opener

    Reply
  2. “I am fortunate to paint in a style of painting that is uniquely my own creation. ”
    Yikes! Has this person ever been to a museum?

    Nice decorative work but her paintings are hugely derivative, not that there is anything too wrong with that, it is just her arrogance that makes it a sticking point.

    Reply
    • Hello Mr. Arthur Piscanelli,
      I’m a hobbyist painter, so I may express my personal impression from the works of Ms. Hanson and your comment.
      I’m living by a different profession, I’m a consultant and when I negotiate to sell my services I tend to expose my best points, advantages, and added values I can give to my customers.

      Let me think that Ms. Hanson expression may be more marketing-oriented than self-elevating as a style creator.

      When you need to live with the genuine works of your hands, it is normal to underline what you believe are your artifacts.
      Have you never been to a vineyard to buy the farmer’s wine?…
      for him, it is the best ever whine ..

      Have a nice day.
      Daniele

      Reply
      • I agree! Derivative… ? There is nothing new under the sun…Impressionistic? Realist? Abstract? Pick your poison. Someone will take apart an artist for whatever reason they can dream up. Let’s see their work, I would hope they are not afraid to publish. I for one, would not be taking cheap shots at their work. If I didn’t like it I would not comment, because creating a work of art is reward for the artist and a delight for it’s new owner… Have a little heart people.

        Reply
    • Always a jealous downer who needs to insert his idiotic opinion and try to bring down someone more talented than himself. Arthur is the one who is arrogant. How dare he criticize her?

      Reply
    • I wouldn’t call her work “hugely derivative” because well… at this point everything is derived or learned from something else and there is nothing wrong with that. Also calling her work “decorative” is an unnecessary insult.

      But I do think the remark “a style of painting that is uniquely my own creation” _is_ arrogant, just because she gave it a name is “uniquely her own creation”? Go online and see the work of artists she mentioned like the Group of Seven (https://thegroupofseven.ca/), of course Van Gogh, Brad Teare (https://bradteare.com/gallery/), even watermedia artist Stephen Quiller and many others then come back and tell us she’s justified to say that.

      I really like her paintings, and she’s more talented than I am for sure but that is beside the point.

      Reply
    • Bah. Humbug. Read Dickens. Here style, certainly influenced by others as she willingly admits, is beautiful, evocative and joyous. I am starting my first really large canvas in oils of a view from my kitchen. It’s a big deal for me. I have painted in watercolor, colored pencil, acrylics and now found the courage to try oils. I found the question & answer very informative. Edgar Payne is amazing. Take a breather on your heavy handed critique. Set back and enjoy.

      Reply
    • The arrogance belongs to you, sir.
      Is it also necessary to be so mean. My impression of this platform is that we are here to support each other as we grow and continue to learn as artists, not tear each other down. The artist clearly acknowledges that she is deeply inspired by Van Gogh, and although there is a strong reference to Van Gogh’s style in her work, I also see an obvious departure from his work. Art is subjective and opinions are a dime a dozen. Learn to practice kindness.

      Reply
    • Indeed. Know many museums on the West Coast have a variety of work. There are many Impressionist and Post Impressionist paintings in most large cities, especially museums in the Eastern cities. Mary Cassatt was instrumental in getting large collections of paintings by Impressionists. She knew the people with money to spend and frequently encouraged them to big.
      Erin’s work falls into the Post Impressionist and Current South West Schools, not
      Impressionist. When Gauguin and Van Gogh began showing their work was shocking. They also leaned into the Fauves, the group as critics called them. Fauve means “wild beasts” reflecting the wild colors used in the paintings.
      And, yes, art historians would call it Derivative, an insult to the purists. At this point one has to ask, what isn’t derivative?

      Reply
    • I am not altogether convinced that the other comments on here that find angst with your critique are on spot. I adore your reference, has anyone been to a museum?
      I have been to plenty, CHICAGO’S ART INSTITUTE to The Uffizi in FLORENCE and everywhere in between. I am not an art snob. Based on history, to me, I conclude that your candor should be appreciated in as much as the art, it’s creator and it’s honesty confirms. Indeed if one critiques the evolution from the renaissance to the Impressionist, all critique should be allowed to confirm the obvious….evolution of the arts. This would be a natural evolution. I have seen this kind of work everywhere and in between. If it works for the artist and the client so be it, Both parties are satisfied.

      Reply
  3. Thanks for sharing this interview, I found it helpful as a beginner/intermediate and I love the vibrancy of her work. Is anyone quite unique? it is very Van Gogh in style, but what a style….

    Reply
    • Une toile par semaine vous semble exagérée?
      Je pense que tout dépend du temps qu’on dispose pour peindre. Peut être 2-3 heures par jour en moyenne suffiraient pour le faire, non?

      Reply
  4. Different, Colorful and Individual style of Erin Hanson, which is impressive. She’s not arrogant at all, but explaining her thoughts and method, which maybe different from others. Even her advices are helpful.
    Keep it up.👍✌️💐

    Reply
  5. Thank you Dan, and Erin Hanson!! Great interview! It was exactly what I needed to work harder and enjoy more of painting. I am not a professional artist, but have sold several pieces. I too love vibrant colors and tend to lean toward impressionist style. Thank you so very much for your article!

    Reply
  6. How purely rude and hurtful for the responders above to call the artist arrogant, asking if she’s ever been to a museum or saying they don’t like her work. Comments like that are what is wrong with society today — you damn sure wouldn’t insult someone to their face in person. Have some couth. Immature, jealous, self righteous comments have no place here. And yes, I’d say that to your rude faces in person because your parents would be embarrassed that you need a lesson in manners. Good grief. Thanks to the author and artist both for putting themselves out there. I for one appreciate the effort and talent!

    Reply
  7. I have watched her work evolve over the years. I can see growth and maturity emerging. She is very prolific and has taken her work as a colorist in a lovely direction.

    Reply
  8. Loved the paintings. Loose and bold is what I enjoy doing most! For past 15 years, I’ve been doing watercolor. Now I know how much I miss oils.

    Reply
  9. Thank you for sharing your time and experience with us. Having lived in Southern California and traveled around to some of the parks depicted, bravo. They reinforced memories. I live in West Virginia now and our state just received a national park status for the New River. That would make a beautiful painting! Keep up the good work.

    Reply
  10. Gerry Wolkowski Mar. 8 10 am (Toronto)

    Thank you, Mr. Erin Hanson, for sharing your depth of colour, the life of the paintings and your passion for work! Each painting POP’s with life.

    Will enjoy reviewing your work here for a fourth time.

    Reply
  11. Thank you for this article on Erin. I enjoyed learning more about her and seeing more of her beautiful work. I have admired her paintings for a few years now!

    Reply
  12. Thank you for introducing this artist and her work which is so vibrant. Her sense of colour and movement is inspiring. I am just starting out with painting and I also do some needlework. Looking at Erin’s pictures makes me want to create tapestries in a similar style.

    Reply
  13. Thank you so very much for sharing .I know your work and love your work I paint in oil I live on Vancouver Island colour , light , challenging, I love painting outside . We have so much more rain , dark cloudy skies. Always loved the rugged shores and California country . Thank you for sharing

    Reply
  14. She has been one of my favorite artists for a few years. By the way, she still has a gallery in California but she moved to Oregon a couple of months ago and opened another gallery there.

    Reply
  15. I really love her work. Thank you for introducing me to Erin Hansen. When I saw the first painting in your interview, my heart skipped a beat, and I thought, “Oh, here’s someone who loves the Group of Seven”. Then the first thing she said in reply to your question about influences was she loved the Group of Seven. I have always admired their work and would love to emulate the rhythmic patterning and brilliant color of their works. Erin is a gifted inheritor of their tradition.

    Reply
    • Before reading any text and seeing the first picture I immediately thought of the Group of Seven too! Erin’s paintings are beautiful and I love her style but I have recently seen many others painting in this style too – I think the Group of Seven have suddenly become very influential! Not a bad thing – I would love to be able to paint as expressively as them and Erin Hansen, but I know that will never happen!

      Reply
  16. Thank you for sharing your interview with Erin Hanson. It gave me a better understanding to paint what I love rather than trying to paint like other artists.

    Marcia J.

    Reply
  17. Thank you, Dan. Erin’s paintings are so colourful, and full of movement. Finding my own style is elusive as I keep coming back to detail,… trying to paint realistically what I see from a photo. I feel like I am just copying. Thanks again for providing a variety of styles for us to contemplate.

    Reply
  18. I was very excited to see your interview with Erin Hanson. As for the rude comment above, I assume it is made from insecurities in that person’s own abilities. It is sad to see a so-called artist tear down another in such a mean-spirited way. We should be lifting each other up. I love Erin’s style and hope to one day travel south to see her work in person!

    Reply
  19. Wow ! Thank you for sharing this interview with us . I think her work is truly inspiring. I really like the colors and the brush strokes.

    To read the artist comments on her work and advices is just great. It just gives us the right amount of energy to keep practicing !

    Reply
  20. Her style is not one I aspire to. However. Her vibrant colors and composition are inspiring me. Museums , art galleries and art fairs are all good opportunities to get new ideas for incorporation onto your own art

    Reply
  21. Erin Hansen has found solutions to a few problems, for instance, there are no dead spaces between objects. The canvas is filled with activity and energy yet the result is not noisy. I can see that she is inspired and having a good time painting and living. I feel lucky to have been introduced to her work.

    Reply
  22. The first painting “Tahoe Dawn” was timely as I just started painting a snowy Mount Baker scene. Gave me some ideas. Thanks to Erin and Dan.

    Reply
  23. Thanks, I love Erin’s work. It is very fresh and stylistically her own. It is natural that we all have influences and learn from other artists. That’s how the Old Masters learned for Gosh sakes, from copying the works of the great art and artists around them! I appreciate her advice on completing paintings and selling at festivals. My mom did that for forty years, and made a very good living for her family and herself once we had all graduated from college.

    Reply
  24. I love Erin’s art , it’s alive ,thank you for sharing makes me want to go back to oils, the interview was very helpful Thank you

    Reply
  25. Erin’s work thrills my heart and soul. It is so alive. It is an upward call for me since her inspiration is mine…I want to create beauty and share that, and the accompanying emotions, with everyone. Not every painting can do to me what Monet, Van Gogh and Erin Hanson do. It excites all the molecules inside stirring me to follow and create.

    Reply
  26. Dan this is a great article, I enjoyed Erin’s art. I am so grateful for your generous sharing of art information.

    Reply
  27. Informative as always Dan , thanks for doing the research for us . Anyone who loves Van Gogh would appreciate this artist . I was destroyed by a critic once who told me I had too many”tics” on my paintings and they were too busy yet look how beautiful Hanson’s paintings are with all her “ tics” . Congratulations on being yourself

    Reply
  28. I truly enjoyed looking at Erin Hanson’s paintings. She handles color expertly. She applies a colorful splash yet all her strokes make sense…not an easy thing to do. I can see the Van Goth influence but Erin has enhanced the pureness of colors. Outstanding perspective. Her paintings have life and very positive vibes.

    Reply
  29. Me gusta la obra y el estilo de hanson, Creo que hace lo que quiere. lo vende, triunfa, disfruta con lo que hace. Nadie somos perfectos. Si digo que su estilo pictorico me satura un poco, se repite demasiado. y no veo esa atmosfera que refleja la mañana o la tarde o el frio. Un primer plano.medio o de fondo. No le veo perspectiva al paisaje, da la impresión que todo esta en el mismo plano. Si que tiene un estilo propio y reconocible.

    Reply
  30. Great article. I love her paintings. They are very different from my “style.” She gave some very good advice about completing one painting a week. I have yet to succeed at that, but something to work toward. Thank you.

    Reply
  31. Thanks Dan for a nice, informative interview. I really like her paintings.
    Also, her advice about not only painting but also completing one painting a week is sooooo good!!!
    I still have many paintings never finnished :(( When I start painting again, I’ll keep this advice in mind!

    Reply
  32. Thanks Dan for introducing me to all these artists and for your great advice. From Erin Hanson I will take away the idea of trying to finish more paintings, perhaps even one a week!

    Reply
  33. I love Erin Hanson’s work. Any time that I research starting a new painting, I find myself emotionally drawn to something she has painted. This article is inspiring. Thank you so much.

    Reply
  34. As a Canadian I am familiar with (and love) the art of the Group of Seven. When I visited the coast of southern California I was struck with the movement of the trees and the water, the landscape starkly outlined with light and shadows, so like the Arts and Craft stained glass windows so prevalent there. How similar the views were to landscapes in some parts of my own country. Despite the fact that the vibrant hues are so different from my northern clime there is a synchronisity that cannot be denied between nature and landscape and the manner in which the various artists have represented it. I admire Erin’s work greatly and I think Dancing Cypress in particular is an exceptional work of art.

    Reply
  35. Thank you Dan for sharing this interesting interview and for these beautiful and amazing pictures.
    I love Erin Hanson’s paints and style. Her vibrant colours and composition are inspiring me so mush.

    Reply
  36. I love this work and admire the style! If you don’t care for the style just move on and share your God-given talent to the great outdoors…alone.

    Reply
  37. As always, Dan, you bring us new and interesting perspectives and information. I like Erin Hansen’s work very much. I think I even like her still life’s more than the wonderful landscapes. Thank you for sharing this with us.

    Reply
  38. I think Erin’s art work is very beautiful, and bold and expressive to each subject and painting she does.
    I love her work and enjoy looking at each painting, which I find very inspiring.

    Reply
  39. I agree the work is most enjoyable. However, it falls into the Post Impressionist School, not with the Impressionist. Her work morphs from VanGogh to Gauguin. She is influences by many of the Southwest artists whose work I’ve enjoyed.
    I admire the spirit.

    Reply
  40. Does anyone know if this is the same Erin Hanson that writes poetry as well? If so, then she is gifted in more than just painting.

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  41. Erin Hansen is a person and an artist who deserves recognition and respect. From early childhood, she followed her dream with discipline and confidence. She is an inspiration to many artists of all ages, even those, who like me, are older. Her success is deserved and her achievement is there for all to enjoy. I’ve been following Erin for a few years.
    She has her own style, she is obviously inspired by great artists like Van Gogh.
    Aren’t we all inspired by artists before us who paved a way for our eyes to be opened?
    I applaud her hard work, her beautiful paintings, her spirit, her tenacity, her love of life and her healthy, grounded values in all that makes life good, very good.
    I applaud her success as an artist and as a business person, not an easy achievement.
    We need more people like Erin Hanson and Dan Scott on this planet.
    I will keep painting every day because of people like Erin Hansen. And because of so many other artists who’s hard work, passion and accomplishments I admire…
    Thank you Sargent, Egon Schiele, Van Gogh, Rothko, O’Keefe, Gauguin, Peter Hagen, Carol Anthony, Albert Oehlen, Richard Schmid, etc. etc., etc….
    We are blessed if we can create and paint. I support all who strive to add beauty to this world.

    Reply
  42. Thank you for showcasing other artists. I do like her work, but still don’t quite understand what “open impressionism” is. I wonder if she has a process video. Eye opening – thanks again!

    Reply

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