Erin on the Front-Page of Yamhill County's News-Register
"Successful California artist moved her home base to McMinnville"
Friday, March 26, 2021
"People don’t just like Erin Hanson’s color-saturated landscapes.
They love them, snapping them up before the oils are dry and
keeping Hanson busy planning, mixing colors and painting".
- Starla Pointer, Yamhill County's News-Register
It was a brisk afternoon at the very edge of a memorable Oregon winter when Starla Pointer of Yamhill County's News-Register came to visit our brand-new Oregon gallery location. Construction was still very much in progress on the 18,000-square foot gallery. To call it a gallery is oversimplifying the production facilities spanning two 9,000-square foot buildings.
Hanson's new football field-length facilities boast a gallery showroom, her expansive private art studio, a nursery for her young daughter Sierra and her niece Piper, a room dedicated to a behemoth 3D scanner, a woodshop for print production, a warehouse for book fulfilment and promotional publications, and a plush office space for her 6 (and counting) gallery staff. Reporter Starla got a chance to get a first look at what was to come and speak with Erin personally as they touched on matters ranging from 3D textured replicas, to her 22-month old daughter and what really makes this art icon tick.
The Erin Hanson Gallery, Oregon, is now open and has already had a rush of eager visitors from near and far.
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Driving from her new home in Amity to her studio in McMinnville, landscape artist Erin Hanson notices daffodils and oaks, green fields and hills, moody sky and rainbows. “I see 10 or 12 paintings every morning,” said Hanson, an internationally known painter who uses a unique technique she coined called “open impressionism.” At first she simply appreciated scenic views. But since a hike in Red Rock Canyon inspired her to record her impressions on canvas, she can’t help but “see the world in a whole new way,” she said. Clouds over water. Shadows stretching from branches. Sunshine through leaves.
“Endless paintings,” she said. As a landscape painter, she said, “my job is to bring that beauty back” to her studio and record it on canvas so others can enjoy it. Hanson said her open impressionistic paintings are not like photos, nor are they intended to be. They are visual depictions of the feelings she experienced when looking at the roiling waves or the rising fog or the final rays of daylight slipping away.
“I choose what part of a scene I want to focus on, maybe dramatize part of it, to remind people,” she said. Possibilities are limitless, she said. “We live on a beautiful planet,” she said, shuffling through a thick stack of photos she’s taken of views she couldn’t resist. She uses her camera as another set of eyes, she said; another way to remember her inspiration. Many of her photos were taken on her solo hikes. “Some of the most powerful moments are when I’m alone at dawn in Zion or some other natural park,” she said. “Just me, the birds, the insects... I can spiritually connect.”
Hanson’s style is related to that of post-impressionists, such as Van Gogh, but it’s entirely her own. About 15 years ago, she developed open impressionism, which uses wide brush strokes that never overlap — assembled more like a mosaic than a typical painting. The results may look impressionistic, but they are carefully planned and executed.
“It takes a lot of skill to paint loosely,” said Hanson, who so far has finished 2,500 landscapes using open impressionism. Her colors are intense; perfect for capturing autumn leaves in Kyoto or a riot of blossoms at the Woodburn Tulip Festival. She mixes them herself from five basic hues, light and dark blue, red, green and yellow — in abundance before each painting so she doesn’t need to mix more partway through her work. She stores her palette in the freezer overnight between sessions to keep the paint fresh. Later, leftover colors are often used in her next painting.
Before she lifts her brush or mixes her palette, Hanson has each painting entirely planned out. Once she begins, she works from dark to light, adding shadows first, then mid-level tones, and finally “the fun part... that beautiful light.” She’s done with a painting when it matches the image she created in her head before starting. She may squint at the seemingly finished painting, or snap a picture with her cell phone, to ensure everything’s right. Then she adds her signature as a final approval.
“I try not to care what others think. I judge according to my plan,” she said. Hanson was born in Portland in 1981. In the 1970s, her mother had lived in the Delphi commune in Yamhill County, a forerunner of what is now Sheridan’s Delphian School. Hanson and her three brothers attended a similar Delphi program in Los Angeles, where their mother taught. The education she received there taught her to read and learn on her own, she said. “It helps me keep learning and applying what I learn to real life,” said Hanson, who graduated from the high school program at 16.
When her daughter, Sierra, was born in 2019, she knew she wanted to return to Oregon eventually so the young girl would be able to attend the Delphian School. The coronavirus closures and subsequent switch to online sales, which led to Hanson’s strongest year ever, helped her decide to make the move right away.
Sierra now is 21 months old. Her cousin, gallery manager Amy Jensen’s daughter Piper, is 14 months. In the new headquarters, the girls have their own playroom near Hanson’s painting studio. There’s an art area, of course, and Sierra already is adept at holding a paintbrush.
When Hanson herself was that age, she recalled, she loved drawing pictures of her cats and house, or creating stick figure people. Her mother kept every piece of art she produced, including her first oil painting of a purple chair on which a cat sat. The 5-year-old already knew she wanted to be an artist, and she felt satisfied by finishing that purple painting. “I was a very hard worker,” even then, she said.
While she attended the Otis College of Art on a scholarship, she still didn’t yet consider art as a viable career. Interested in robotics and aerospace, as well, she earned a degree in bioengineering from the University of California Berkeley. Engineering carries over into her work today. Not only does it feed her interest in technology, such as the 3D printing she’s using to create near-perfect copies of her originals, but it also underlies her painting process.
“I completely visualize the painting, create the image in my head, before I mix my palette,” she said. “It’s very structured. I paint like an engineer.”
Hanson works in a wide variety of sizes, from several feet tall to a line of “petites,” originals about the size of a piece of notebook paper. “I do a whole range, because people collect different things,” she said. She is open to commissions, as well. People may ask for a painting of a certain landscape or provide photos for her inspiration, as one family did with pictures showing a favorite scene in the Alps.
One customer flew her to Japan. This year, another is sending her to Mendocino, California, for a commissioned painting. “Travel is definitely a perk,” she said. As much as she enjoys traveling and hiking, Hanson never turns down a chance to spend time in her studio. “Painting is always enjoyable,” she said.
She joked that she’s cut back on her painting hours since her daughter was born. Before Sierra arrived, she regularly spent 70 to 80 hours in the studio, painting seven days a week. Now she knocks off at 8 p.m., rather than 11 or midnight, and is “trying” to take a day off each week to hike, cook or pursue other interests.
But she’s always looking and planning, never far away from her art.
“Painting is my passion. It’s so amazing to me,” she said.
She appreciates the business side of her work, too — designing websites, for instance, is another creative outlet, she said. She learned business basics, from marketing to shipping merchandise, when she created her own jobs after college, running first an eBay store, then a storage unit auction business.
It wasn’t until she moved to Las Vegas and started rock climbing in Red Rock Canyon that she decided art could be her career. “That first morning in Vegas, I started painting,” she said, recalling how essential it was to capture the feeling received from climbing."
All her possessions, including the supplies she’d been using in her painting hobby, were still packed in her orange pickup. Instead of carrying boxes of clothing and kitchen supplies into her new apartment, she grabbed paint and brushes and set out to improve her skills. Hanson set a goal of completing one painting a week. “The hardest thing was finishing,” she said. “It’s easy to start a painting or a project; it’s harder to finish.” Those first 50-plus paintings “turned me into a professional artist,” she said, although she continued working day jobs for four years.
Hanson took her batch of paintings to a show in Valley of Fire State Park. Buyers responded immediately. “I sold four oil paintings to the same person,” she said. “I was ecstatic.” That buyer attended her first art festival a month later and bought more. “My first collector,” she said, noting they now have more than 30 or her originals; several other collectors have more than 10 each. For the next 12 years she spent most weekends selling at festivals and events, including the Salem Art Festival and other venues in Oregon. She added solo exhibits, her own galleries and a line of prints and products. Hanson said she finds it easy to make a living as an artist. “People love to buy art,” she said. “I can’t make art fast enough!”
Her advice to future artists is to follow her lead. “You need to do a painting a week,” she tells them. “Your style will develop when you’re painting a lot.”
Not everyone responds to Hanson’s work. Art is subjective. Some people favor paintings of big-eyed children, others like dogs playing poker; some want realistic portraits or abstracts that are open to a variety of interpretations. “Artists have to develop a thick skin,” she said, as well as self-confidence. “The best thing you can do (in the wake of criticism) is to go out a flourish and prosper.”
And she has, since many people enjoy her landscapes and open impressionism and techniques. She is happy with her own work, both the process and the results. “My paintings are all my little babies,” Hanson said. Some of her work hangs on the walls of her home. Most of it has been distributed to people throughout the U.S. and the world, either as originals or prints, books or calendars. Hanson doesn’t mind seeing them go. “I know they will be seen and loved every day,” she explained, “and I get to paint more.”
New gallery expected
to attract artist’s fans
People don’t just like Erin Hanson’s color-saturated landscapes. They love them, snapping them up before the oils are dry and keeping Hanson busy planning, mixing colors and painting.
Last year, her business — original oils, traditional and 3D prints, coffee table books, multiple versions of annual calendars and her new magazine, “The Impressionist” — earned $2.5 million in revenue. When her two California galleries, in Carmel-by-the-Sea and San Diego, closed temporarily because of the coronavirus pandemic, she turned to selling online and had her best year ever.
With the online surge came the realization she didn’t have to base her business in California anymore. She kept the Carmel gallery, but moved the rest of her operation to McMinnville. Aaron Baker Construction finished the interiors of two 9,000-square-foot buildings to Hanson’s specifications.
The buildings at 1805 N.E. Colvin Court now hold all aspects of her business, from planning to painting to printing as well as storage in a warehouse managed by Garrett Robinson of McMinnville.
Hanson and her company wanted to bring everything under one roof. “It’s quicker and easier to control,” said gallery manager Amy Jensen Hanson, who goes by Jensen for business purposes. She is Hanson’s sister-in-law, as is Linda, the business manager. They and their husbands, Hanson’s brothers, moved to Yamhill County with the painter. So did Hanson’s parents. Controlling the quality of her project comes naturally to Hanson, Jensen said, explaining the painter is a perfectionist. For instance, she designed the molding for the frames used with her paintings, and, in her blog, advised collectors what colors to paint their walls in order to best display her work.
To give customers more options and make her prints stand out, Hanson purchased a huge scanner used for creating 3-D images. The scans go into a 3-D printer, which lays down multiple layers of paint to create textured prints that capture light much as an original oil painting does.
Printing is currently done off-site, but soon will be done in McMinnville, as well, Jensen said.
The 3-D prints are so good, she said, that even staff members have to closely examine to make sure they aren’t actual paintings. One way to tell: prints are on board, rather than canvas. “They really can fool people,” Jensen said. “2-D prints are beautiful, but 3-D captures every nook and cranny. Erin’s vision as an artist really comes through.”
Jensen said the cutting-edge technology offers a satisfying option for buyers at less cost than originals. The 3-D prints range from about $1,000 to $1,500, or up to $5,000 if they are quite large. In contrast, a 30-by-40-inch original might run $13,000 or more.
Hanson’s work is available through her website, www.erinhanson.com, as well as being on display in her galleries. The new McMinnville gallery will draw customers from all over, Jensen said. “People will come here to see Erin’s paintings,” she said, “especially when her collections are released two or three times a year.”
A grand opening event is planned for 2 to 6 p.m. Aug. 14. However, local customers and visitors will be able to see it sooner: Jensen said a “soft opening” starts this week, with the gallery open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. For more information, go to the website or call 503-334-3670.
ERIN HANSON has been painting in oils since she was 8 years old. As a young artist, she worked at a mural studio creating 40-foot-tall paintings on canvas, while selling art commissions on the side. After getting a degree in Bioengineering from UC Berkeley, Erin became a rock climber at Red Rock Canyon, Nevada. Inspired by the colorful scenery she was climbing, she decided to paint one painting every week for the rest of her life. She has stuck to that decision ever since, becoming one of the most prolific artists in history. Erin Hanson's style is known as "Open Impressionism" and is now taught in art schools worldwide. With thousands of collectors eagerly anticipating her work and millions of followers online, Hanson has become an iconic, driving force in the rebirth of contemporary impressionism.
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