Interview With Painter Hannah C. Heyer

The placards in the local art museum my sister and I were wandering through recently were not that large. A person had to get up fairly close to the art work in order to read them. We both have the personality that when we like a picture, we are going to stop and read the placard. We want to know about it. It isn't enough just to say “How pretty,” and move on. Who painted it? What is it about? If you are in the mood to go to an art gallery, and hurry through it, we are not the people you want to go with.

In fact, at the museum mentioned above, my sister and I were reading one of the placards when a museum staff member stepped toward us nervously from around the corner and said, “Please, stay at least a foot back from the art work. Thank you.” After his curt redress, he retreated. My sister whispered to me her insistence that we were the required distance back and then some. I agreed. And anyway, we were only reading the placard, hands at our sides like well-behaved school children.

Well, the artist in this interview creates works that would make me stop and read the placard. Even if a well-intentioned but crusty staff member stood ready to remind me to stand the obligatory distance back. :)

Hannah C. Heyer

Eli-ness Your Highness
Side note from Wendy: Can't you just hear the baby giggles?

How would you categorize your art? Could you describe it?

My art is representational: working in both oils and watercolour, I focus on portraiture/figurative art and landscapes, with emphasis on detail, place, and season.

What makes art appealing to you as a consumer of art as well as a creator of art?

I love beauty. :) I love art with a sense of place, that draws you in and makes you feel a part of that place. I admire great detail and realism, and also more impressionistic art that gives the feeling of a place or time while remaining simple and leaving room for the viewer's own imagination. I'm also a big fan of various styles of illustration.

What inspires you to paint?

Life. Light. Trying to recreate and share a part of what I find so meaningful. My biggest influence artistically is what's around me, what I've observed and continue to observe. Woods, the land, the sky, people, faces...

Moonrise Over the Mississippi

Are there any artists who have inspired you?

I feel kind of behind on my knowledge of art in general, but as I continue to learn I'm discovering amazing artists, past and present, and they do challenge and cause me to work harder and improve my own art.

Are the people and landscapes that you paint familiar to you?

In general, yes. If something or someone is familiar to me, I have more of an emotional response and I think that shows in my work. It's not simply facts, it has more feeling. But of course I can play with that: elements of familiarity in a different context. Most of my work is a combination of memory and imagination.

Uncle William's Farm

Rain Will Come

How do you go about determining the subject of a work?

Often the subject is determined by the season. As I'm writing this, we're transitioning from summer to autumn and I want to capture the feel of these bright, colorful days, and what the light is doing this time of year.

What makes you feel you have completed a work? What elements are in place?

Sometimes it's obvious it's complete, sometimes it is because it has to be, and sometimes a piece might never reach that point. I'm working on a painting now that I started in May, and I don't know if it's any closer to being completed!

Are there media that you favor, oil over watercolor, etc.? Is there a medium that you like most?

Oils and watercolor alternate as my favorite. I also enjoy ink, and use acrylic when I have to. I tend to do more oil painting in summer, and more watercolour in winter.

How did you get started? What was your "ah-hah!" moment?

I've always drawn or painted, and more or less knew I wanted to pursue art. I started selling silly little hand-drawn cards at the local farmers' market when I was 9 or 10, and when I was older I began experimenting more with acrylics, watercolour, and oils and doing occasional commissions.

For a long time though I was so aware of the "impossibilities" of an art career, and lacked direction, and it wasn't until 2007/2008 that I knew I needed to just dive in. I think there were lots of little"ah-hah" moments over a long period. Over the past 4 years, as I've given more time to painting and learning and gaining skill my focus has become clearer.

I love doing what I do.

How would you describe finding the balance between creating your work as a scheduled regimen and when inspiration hits?

No matter how enjoyable it may be, it also takes a lot of time and perseverance to paint. I try to paint or sketch something nearly everyday-- something I've seen or been thinking about-- but that isn't always possible. Sometimes if it hasn't been going well, it's harder to want to paint. But the more work put in, the better and more satisfying the results -- and the more ready I become to act when inspiration hits.

The Studio Space

Do you have any tips for organizing a studio, or any other observations to pass on to other artisans about time management, organization, etc.?

Oooh, I need work on all of these! Do other artisans have any tips for me?

I like to have a space that I enjoy looking at-- even if it looks like a mess to other people! Leaving some work out makes it easier for me to jump back into it whenever I can. I'm used to having a very small area in which to work, and making use of vertical space is key. Shelves!

I also find that making lists of things I need to do, even little mundane things, can help a lot in organizing my thoughts and, as a result, my time.

Could you tell about the process, the story of how this picture came to be?

Third Position

I love the violin. This particular young woman has such an intense look when she plays and I really wanted to show that. I started with a paint sketch from life, and also took reference photos, and had a few little follow up moments with her when it was nearing completion to fix some issues in the face and hand.

While I love color, a monochromatic painting can really bring the focus to form, and especially the face, and that's what I tried to do with this piece.

I noticed in many of your pictures, there is an emphasis on the sky and the cloud formations. The clouds are painted in great detail and vary from one another in type. Did you have to study cloud formations to paint these pictures?

Mine is a great place for cloud-watching. :)
(maybe this is why I need help with time-management...)




How long does a project typically take for you to complete?

Anywhere from several hours, to several months.

Do you ever paint from a photograph or do you create all of your paintings "en plein air?"
I occasionally take and use reference photos, but not often. Most of my painting is done from memory/imagination or sketches or studies. I do love plein air painting, and I think it helps me notice things better, and gives me more to draw on later.

Maple in Winter

If you don't mind me saying so, there is simplicity in your paintings. They are focused. And yet what you put in your pictures is painted with great care and detail. Would you mind speaking to that?

I guess that's just the way that I see. My eyes are always drawn to where the land meets the sky, and then small things that give texture and character, like dandelions going to seed, or lichens, or bark and branches.

I am thinking of "Dandelions" and "Late July" among others. These are landscapes with no people present. Would it be correct to say your pictures show a love for the land?

Yes. :-)

New Round Bales

I noticed that both "Third Position" and "Man and His Guitar" are paintings of musicians. In your landscapes, my impression is of quiet. They are very peaceful. In the pictures of the musicians, the people in each picture seem to be about to perform. If I am right, did you set out to create pictures that 'feel' silent and pictures that 'feel' like music is in progress? I found it interesting that your pictures are visual, and yet there is sort of a subconscious audio element. I wondered about that.

Ooh, I like this! It's so fun to hear your take!

For me, painting is, in a way, a form of storytelling. Whether or not I can articulate it, or if it carries over to the viewer.

There is a certain quietness to many of my landscapes. But to me, it is a quietness filled with wind, grass, birds, fragrances, and a sense of the season and all that fills it. With people, a rejoicing in life. A hint at thoughts and emotions. And yes, music!

Thank you, Hannah. It was a pleasure learning more about you and your work!

To see more of Hannah's work, visit HannahHeyer.com or stop by her Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/HannahCHeyer

All images in this interview are used by permission, are property of Hannah C. Heyer and are copyright protected.