INTERVIEW WITH HANNAH OLSON
A new year, a new overall. My interview with Hannah Olson.
I met Hannah through work, and I first saw her artwork when we had a game night at her house. Beau fell in love with her painting that was hanging in their TV room. The painting is brightly colored with vibrant red, hot pink and gold. The focal point is a seahorse with delicate, feminine human legs. He couldn’t stop talking about it. For Valentine’s Day that year, I bought the painting from Hannah and it has been the star of his TV room ever since.
Hannah is someone I would describe as having a really strong spirit. She is unapologetically herself and from what I have witnessed, seems to have mastered the elusive art of living in the now. Anyone can see that Hannah is a beautiful person – always put together, well-dressed and is SO good at doing her hair in fancy updos on the daily (so jealous of this). Her art is also beautiful. But in a raw, unpredictable and limitless kind of way. She spends most of her evenings in paint covered overalls creating these masterpieces in her studio on the water between the Aurora and Fremont bridges in Seattle. Something that I love about Hannah’s art style is how open she is to being experimental and embracing the freedom to explore new possibilities of what her art can look like. She is so naturally talented and just kind of gets it. I have loved following her journey as an artist and was so excited to do this interview with her.
Steph: Will you tell me about your recent breakthrough moment you had as a wedding photographer?
Hannah: I swear the craziest shit happens in my life. It’s so weird. Ryan and I were sitting in Discovery Park with a bottle of wine, the whales were out in the water, and there were multiple impromptu weddings going on. We tried to scoot away from everybody but one of the couples came up to us and I thought they were going to ask us to move so we weren’t in their pictures but they asked if we minded being witnesses to their wedding. So there we were, watching them get married and I was like, “Ryan – who does that girl look like?” and I kept trying to remember where I knew her from. When I was signing the wedding papers I finally said “you look so familiar.” The bride said she was an actor from New York and that her husband was a photographer. The only pictures they took were Polaroids so I asked if they wanted a picture on the phone and was telling them how to pose and stuff. When we were parting ways, I finally said, “I know who you look like! Kate Moss!” Turns out it was Julia Stiles. The first actress that pops up when you google “Julia actress.”
What is it like being a 20-something artist in 2017?
I would say there is a better chance of getting my stuff out there before having to die. In the last year alone I want to say that I have done over 50 paintings. Being in Seattle, I thought it was going to be pretty easy, but there are so many talented people out there that it is pretty overwhelming. I feel like you reach a point where you figure out your style. Lots of people have their niche, but I have so many things I like to paint. I go from making abstract art to wanting to paint all of the breeds of salmon. Technology is almost bad in a sense because it opens my eyes to so many things and it is easy to get lost. I started to carry a journal around and it is easier to capture my ideas. I carry colors around with me too, but they do explode all over your purse, so that’s real. There are warnings on the pastels that are like “this can give you cancer” and I’m like, “Dope! Well now it’s in my makeup!”
Do you feel like you have a mentor or creative community?
I have some mentors as far as people helping me with networking and connections. Having a career outside of art has been helpful for networking. As far as a creative community, I feel like I am sort of a free bird in that sense, I don’t really have a lot of artist friends. My family is pretty artistic though. My aunt is a wood shop teacher and is a glass artist. When my uncle bought my Buddha painting he told me that some of his first art was hanging in a hotel. Weeks later I had the opportunity to have my art in the new W Hotel in Lincoln Square Expansion, it was kind of crazy. I have a really creative family, just no one pursued it as a career.
Do you ever ask for opinions on what you are working on?
All the time.
Do you ever get your feelings hurt?
Never. I think it is kind of comical only because I have a career outside of art so I have always taken art as kind of a joke almost. When I ask people what they think, I always argue against their opinions and ask “why” a lot to try to get their reasoning out of it. It doesn’t hurt my feelings ever. When I ask for Ryan’s advice, I usually do the opposite of what he says and he knows that. I love it when people give me their opinions, but I am a pretty stubborn person so I am really never going to change what I want to do. Sometimes I paint something and I am like “This is the one!” and no one really likes it, and then I will paint something I don’t like and people go crazy for it. I love it when people give me their input, I encourage it.
Do you ever feel like you are juggling too much between full-time job, your art, boyfriend, friends, working out, family, etc.?
Oh my gosh, yes. It’s honestly hard. I hate being on a schedule and I hate routines. Sometimes I just need to break the routine but it is getting more difficult to do that. I have taught myself to always work, because you aren’t going to get anywhere if you don’t. I made a bet with Ryan about painting 30 days in a row, so over the last 6 months it has been ingrained in me to just come straight to my studio after work. I utilize every hour of my day. I wake up in the morning and go to work. On my lunch break I am buying supplies, packing up a painting, drawing something up, fixing my website, or responding to people, and after work I am fighting traffic to get to my studio. Then I am painting here until 7:30 or sometimes really late, go for a run, forage for food, go to bed and do it all over again the next day. Ryan and I also have a really social life and lots of events with family, and this and that. I love it though, I love how fast paced it is. It gets boring when I don’t have anything to do. If I didn’t like it, I wouldn’t do it, and I love it, so I do it.
Do you ever get nervous releasing your art into the wild?
No. I love it, it gives me butterflies in my tummy every time. I’ve always wanted to do a thing where I am like “I’m working on a series and it is super-secret” – but I don’t have the patience to wait because I am always so excited to post my art. One day…
What was the inspiration behind the new style I have been seeing in your paintings?
There is this girl I follow who is super cool who has been inspiring me a lot lately, along with some other local artists. Honestly I am all about color right now. It is so frustrating when you can’t make something look good because of the colors. When I can’t get the color right I get really frustrated, I call it a block in my throat, it’s like hitting a wall. Living in Seattle has helped me a lot, there are so many retro colors to be inspired from. A lot of local Seattle companies are inspiring to me. Rapha the biking company in Capitol Hill, I love their style and colors. The consignment stores around here are also inspiring for me. I use everything around me, and am constantly asking myself why colors around me look good together.
What is your favorite La Croix flavor?
Berry all the way. For sure.
Do you consider yourself an introvert or an extrovert?
It definitely depends on the day. I am extroverted in my social skills – I could literally talk to a brick wall for hours. But I get in very introverted moods where I just want to be left alone. When I am painting, I typically don’t like to be hanging out with people. But in social situations, if I am networking, I have no problem talking to anybody. It just depends on the day.
Alright, I think this is going to be the question that I ask everyone that I interview for my blog.
I hope you like it.
I like it.
What is something that really matters to you?
Happiness in general. Not just my own happiness. It’s a feeling that I wish everybody could have. When my paintings make someone happy, that is the best feeling in the world.
This is the first of many weekly interviews, so I hope you enjoyed it! Hope your day involves a burrito. XOXO