Erin Hanson: Modern Impressionist

Thanks to Jane we now know about John Russell, an Australian Impressionist of remarkable ability and experience amongst the the masters.

Staying in the Impressionism genre, I am bringing you the works of Erin Hanson, an American artist, a Modern Impressionist from San Diego who is recognised as having created a new style of painting: Open Impressionism.

Enchanted Forest by Erin Hanson (1)

Erin Hanson’s artistic style has been inspired by painters such as Vicent van Gogh, the Group of Seven, the early California Impressionists and Japanese Art. Before we start to look at Erin’s work, a little about the Group of Seven who were a group of Canadian Painters who believed that Canadian art could be developed through direct contact with nature. Some of the members came from the Beaver Hall Group we talked about in a much earlier post. This is what I love about the art world- it is all connected in some way. It’s a giant dot-to-dot-painting!

So let me show you a selection of works by Erin Hanson so you get a feel for her view of that part of the world she paints. Let's start with paintings where the sky is dominant.

Hanging precariously and horizontally from red sandstone, hundreds of feet above the ground, may not seem like it would inspire the creation of beautiful oil paintings, but that is exactly what happened with Erin Hanson. After a lifetime of experimenting in different styles and mediums, it wasn’t until Hanson began rock climbing at Red Rock Canyon that her painting style was consolidated by a single inspiration and force of nature. 1

Here is her painting of Red Rock Canyon.

Red Rock Canyon by Erin Hanson (1)

And some more of her beautifully magnificent mountains for you to appreciate.

It is wonderful to get a little closer to the thinking and techniques that artists use. Erin is very generous in explaining how she paints.

I create vivid, impressionistic oil paintings that capture the feeling of being outdoors. All my paintings are inspired by backpacking and hiking trips I have done across the Western states. My technique is done with expressive color and loose brush strokes, in a wet-on-wet technique known as alla prima. Alla prima comes from Italian, literally meaning "at first attempt" and is loosely applied to any painting that is done in a direct, expressive style.

I extensively plan out my paintings before I start painting with a brush, working out compositions and color combinations that will most effectively capture the drama of the landscape. I work with a limited palette of 4-5 colors, which I mix into a wide variety of hues and values appropriate to the scene I am creating. When it comes time to paint, I try to get the painting "right the first time," using as few brush strokes as possible to capture the immediacy and emotional movement of a landscape. The French term for this application is premier coup. You can see the texture of every brush stroke in my paintings, since I do not layer or thin my paint with turpentine. The result is an impasto oil painting that has additional depth and movement from the thick texture of the paint. 1

Below is Crystal Maples which I have magnified so you can see the intricate shapes and juxtapostion of colours that combine to make these startling paintings.

What is also distinctive about the paintings of Erin Hanson is the movement she creates. You can see this in the above painting and below are a few more examples where the colours and lines seem alive and in dance mode.

Trees naturally figure prominently in the works of Erin Hanson. They come alive in all kinds of ways illuminated by colour and formed by lines that express the narrative of their experience and growth. Crystal Grove.

And in stark contrast Erin Hanson’s desert images come alive with the excitement of tonal colour as you have never seen before. Desert Fins.

I would love Erin to come to Australia and for us to experience her interpretation of our desert. I am sure we would be delighted.

Does having buckets of artistic talent mean that Erin found it easy to achieve this level of creativity? Not so.

I quote here from an interview with the artist conduced by by Anna Gragert on October 22, 2015. Erin said:

I went to a small private school, where I graduated high school at age 16. For 10 years at this school I had the same art instructor. Aside from valuable lessons in technique and theory, the most important thing I learned was to open my eyes and draw objects as they really were, not draw my assumptions about them. We did a LOT of drawing and painting from nature and still life, and I did hundreds of repetitions of drawing my own face in the mirror or drawing my own hand holding the drawing pencil, drawing itself on the paper (M.C. Escher style). It was all this practice painting realism that allowed me to eventually simplify the complexity of what I was seeing and develop the minimalist approach that I have today. 2

For my American subscribers, The Erin Hanson Gallery is located in central San Diego, off Miramar Road, in San Diego’s design district. Open to the public Wednesday – Sunday
Erin’s Facebook Page: The Erin Hanson Gallery
Check out Erin's website: