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Marc Hanson, The Translator

We began showing Marc Hanson’s pieces in June of this year and it’a taken no time at all for him to become a highly sought after artist. If you read our blog from a few weeks ago- referencing Marc and fellow Plein air painter Dottie Leatherwood, you will know that Marc is above and beyond the quintessential painter. He truly lives and breathes his art and his process, but not just as a professional artist… as a human, down deep in his roots.

Anyways, I’ll let you find out more for yourself.

Here is the continuation of the joint interview from Dottie Leatherwood and Marc Hanson- Marc Hanson’s correspondence.

A little bit of background- where are you from and how did you get into art?

"I was born on a USNavy Sea Bee base, Port Hueneme, California and found myself at 6 weeks old in Fairbanks, Alaska! That’s sort of been the course of my life since, living in many places and attending as many grade schools as there are grades (8), and nearly as many high schools as there are years (3) due to being the son of an Air Force family. During all that travel, including a 4 year period living in Norway, my father always had watercolors, oils, pen and ink, or some sort of drawing materials in hand because he really wanted to be an artist as a kid, but chose the USAF due to his love of airplanes and flying. So that was my exposure at an early stage. It was always around, something that was normal to see at the dining room table any time he was home. As I approached making that same decision in life, what to do, I had that, but also shared his love of wildlife. He was a wildlife biology student in college and I took a similar course, thinking I might become a wildlife veterinarian or biologist. I followed that interest for about 3 years in college, taking art classes along the way, but eventually felt the pull towards the aesthetic side of birds, in particular, and decided that what would fit me best would be to become a bird/wildlife illustrator.

So I applied and was accepted into the Art Center College of Design’s illustration program in Pasadena, California. I spent 5 semesters there, and then left to work in the illustration field in Sacramento, California. After about a year, I made a life changing move and packed up my beat- up car and moved to Minnesota, where many of my relatives had come from, including my dad and my grandmother. I was invited to stay at my grandmother’s house for a while until I could get things going. She lived in the small Mississippi River town of Wabasha, just down river from a major wildlife gallery and publisher, Wild Wings, Inc.. It didn’t take long before I began to hang around there and see what I needed to do to improve my skills with painting wild things. Eventually I met the owner, and they invited me to show with them, which turned into a 25 year relationship of them selling my bird paintings and publishing the paintings as reproductions. At the same time, I was commissioned by The National Geographic Society, along with 9 other illustrators, to illustrate a new book they were publishing, The Field Guide to Birds of North America.

After those 25 years of painting primarily birds, and being an avid conservationist, I turned my attention and brushes toward painting the landscape exclusively. My interest in nature shifted from the specific creatures to the wider view, the pristine natural landscape itself, and the need to share the beauty I saw in it, since much of it was, and continues to vanish. My interest in painting grew from more than being an “illustrator," to sharing the beauty of the landscape and all of its moods, in my paintings of it. I’m still working towards communicating that essence of the landscape, in my work today. It is what I paint.”

How did you settle in the Lowcountry?

Dottie (Leatherwood) is from here and is the reason that I am here. She shared her love for her home area with me early on in our relationship. I could see how special it was to her through her thoughts, but mostly in her eyes, so there was no reason not to think that everything she loved about it would be easy for me to love too.

And that’s exactly how it has turned out, and what I am so grateful for! Although I grew up a lot on the West Coast, over seas, and in Minnesota (and about 6 other states), I’ve always lived near water of one sort or another. I am an avid fisherman, LOVE eating fresh fish from the sea, and also grew up hunting, and with a love for the outdoors. Living on the coast of Georgia, amidst these beautiful salt marshes and beaches, the life style of the coast, it’s history and all, made the move to the Lowcountry, the best move ever! I feel very lucky to be here painting this place I call now call home.”

What inspires you most about being an artist?

“It’s hard to pin down what the most basic inspiration is because being an artist has never been a goal, it’s just been a part of my life, the essence of who I am really. It is how I see life around me; it influences my choices every single day of my life and it has [ever] since I can remember. Even before becoming my grown up life, as a kid I remember being absorbed and lost by a pencil and a piece of paper, losing hours beyond count during the day on a regular basis. I truly believe that if you’re an artist, any creative type, it’s in you from the beginning and you either act on it, or not. It’s such an incredible way to go through life, seeing nature as a painting. Seeing it in ways that those who aren’t of the artistic mind’s eye, don’t. Nature, and all that makes it up: light, color, shape, sounds, and smells, is what drives my art spirit, causing me to want to share what I feel about it.”

Obviously, you’re a landscape artist- where is your favorite place to paint from and why?

“I would say that there’s not really a “favorite place”, but painting where I live

and roam on a daily basis is the most inspirational place to paint to me. I’ve traveled to many places to paint, abroad and in North America, and that’s enjoyable, sort of like being on a holiday. But painting my home ground gives me the most satisfaction because I’m most sensitive to it, and steeped in the process of learning how to understand it... [more] than anywhere else.”

How do you know when your piece is finished?

“In almost every painting, there comes a time when I’m at my easel without any idea of what else to do. I’ve checked off all of [the] required good aspects of design, drawing, color, etc.. Most importantly, I realize I’ve said what I wanted to say and there’s nothing else to add.”

What is the most important thing art, or being an artist, has taught you about yourself?

“I would have to say that the ability to endure and persevere are the two major lessons about myself that being an artist has taught me. Being a painter is a life long process that is only possible if you are able to keep focused on it, despite all of the hurdles it sets up in front of you. Any artist will tell you that it’s not an easy road to follow, many parents tell their kids not to try, which is a very sad thing. If you live a life as an artist, making your way and earning your living from it, you are going to have to sacrifice a lot, work harder, longer hours than anyone else around you does, including harder than those artists who you most admire (because that’s how hard they’re working too), and understand that the goal is not immediate. The goal is a lifetime filled with the joy of being creative, of living a life where you use your own means to share how beautiful (or not, in some cases) you think the world around you is.”

Who, or what, has been your biggest artistic influence?

“I wouldn’t be an artist, most likely, were it not for my father. He wanted to be one, as I mentioned above, and always had me involved with an eager sharing of advice and materials. He didn’t teach me to paint, he exposed me to a love of drawing and painting. Since then, as I’ve grown up as a painter, there have been many others who’ve given me inspiration and guidance. I’ll name three who were major influences in my thinking and practice as a painter.

The first is Louis Agassiz Fuertes (1874-1927), an early 19th Century bird painter and illustrator from Ithaca, New York. He is one of the best painters of birds that has ever lived and I wanted to be him when I was young.

The next painter is the recently deceased Richard Schmid (1934-2021), who I was able to study with a couple of times and who had a huge part in the rebirth of Alla Prima Plein Air painting of the landscape and figure.

My all time artist hero is the Spanish painter, Joaquin Sorolla y Bastida (1863-1923), who was [such] a prolific painter- who painted wall size paintings from life of his home in Spain. He was years ahead of his time in his use of paint and color; a master of the figure and evoking emotion in his work.”

How has your practice changed over time?

“The main change in my painting has been the move from relying on photographs and [the studying of] skins of birds as a reference for my paintings, to the joy of painting the landscape from life. Painting from life is where the soul of my work lies; where the visual truth in nature is more easily understood. Working from photographs is still a necessary step, especially when painting situations that are extremely fleeting, those that only exist for that push of the shutter release button. But it’s always more of a guessing game in the studio when working from photos than painting from life.”

Professionally, what is your goal?

“To continue to challenge myself to paint work that’s closer to the vision that I have in mind when I begin a painting. As simple as that sounds, that is the life long challenge that continues as the ‘carrot’ on the stick out in front of me. And to keep working.”

What can you not live without?

“Aside from the people in my life who I love, not to be too morose, my sight. That said, if I lost my sight, I’d try taking up a musical instrument since I’ve always wanted to play but haven’t ever taken the time to learn.”

Here is a quick preview of some of Marc's newest pieces. His entire inventory can be viewed on his portfolio page on our website.


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