For this month’s Fine Art America Presents, we filmed and interviewed artist Erin Hanson at her gallery/studio space in Glendale, California. Erin Hanson’s work is inspired by the Southwest desert and California landscape which she coined as “Open Impression”. In her interview below, she discusses her beginnings as a painter, how she uses Fine Art America as a selling tool, how she blends together art and science, and gives advice to other artists.


What is your schooling background and how does bioengineering play a role in your craft?

“Well, I started painting when I was a little girl about 4 or 5 years old. I have had the same art teacher from age 6 to age 16 when I graduated high school. He taught me drawing and painting still life and animals. I learned oils, acrylics, watercolor, ink, and charcoal. I always wanted to grow up to be an artist. When I signed up for my school application at age six, they asked what you wanted grow up to be. And I wrote, artist and scientist. I have also always been very interested in science, biology, math, how things work, and physics. While studying art my whole life, I also was interested in science. And, I actually got my degree in bioengineering from UC Berkeley and it’s funny because they kind of blend together naturally for me. There is a science behind art and there is a science to beauty and how to capture that beauty in a canvas and two dimensional surface. And so I think they blend easily.”

How does hiking in the Southwest influence your art?

“I got back into painting about 8 years ago when I moved to Las Vegas and started rock climbing. I camped my first night there at Red Rock Canyon when I set up my camp, it was pitch dark and I woke up the next morning to do a plein air painting of the landscape. So in the morning I hiked up the hill and it was 5 am and I had my canvas and paints, and the sun rose over Red Rock Canyon and it was just mind blowingly beautiful. It was these red cliffs with white stripes and then it was whole 13 mile loop road going and winding through all these canyons. And there were red cliffs on the other side. I thought it was just going to be very flat and grey. But here was this beautiful canyon there. And I decided that I would paint that for the next few years. I did a painting every week. So I would climb during the week and paint on the weekends in addition to my other sources of income. That is what got me back into painting. So from there, I explored Utah, Arizona Desert, and I was just addicted to red rock desert. Because it is the most beautiful landscape on the planet. The way it catches the light, multifaceted color, and turns pink and purple, blue, and yellow. It is just very paintable landscape.”

“And after that, I moved to California and started getting into Paso Robles landscape, which is the complete opposite of what I was used to painting. I saw these beautiful rolling hills, all rounded, perfect little oak trees. But just the same way I saw in the desert, California scapes catch the light and if you catch it on the right time of day you see these majestic purple mountains in the background and these buttery green hills with yellow and pink glimmering off them. So then I became addicted to California scapes. Now I’m kinda split between painting. I kept my California state where I grew up in and the desert scape where I go to explore.”

How did you find and what is your favorite feature?

“I have been using Fine Art America to sell prints for at least 3 years, and I love Fine Art America! It is the greatest tool ever invented for artists. In fact I teach a lot of art marketing workshops for artists to learn to promote their own work and I’m always telling them to put their work on Fine Art America. it is a brilliant selling tool because it allows the buyer to see how their print is actually going to look. In terms of sizing of the frame and the canvas and it gives you a three-dimensional look on the print. So you can see exactly how your print is going to look before you buy it.

“I do a lot of art festivals and I sell my work in my own gallery. I like to have the opportunity to not have to keep in stock all these different sizes of every painting that I have. I have a stock of 300 or 400 hundred paintings that are already sold. And I’m still selling prints off the work I created. Fine Art America lets me print them in any size that the customer likes. They can do them large or small scale, greeting cards, acrylic, metal, canvas, and even paper. They can get it rolled in a tube or fully framed. It really gives a customer the ability to choose exactly what they need for their home.

“Another thing I love about Fine Art America, they actually show you which colors go with the painting that you’re selling. So if your painting is very blue dominate or has greens, oakers in it, it shows you those exact colors on the side bar, which is great for interior designers. You can make sure the painting is going to go with your color scheme in your home. It works great!”

How do you market yourself as an artist?

“Well, I probably sell most of my original oil paintings through art festivals and through my current collector base. I also do a lot of gallery events. I have my own gallery in Los Angeles and I work with other galleries throughout California and the United States. I do a big show up in Paso Robles every year, which it is coming up this October. It’s nice to be able to meet customers in person, so they can actually see my paintings. My work is very textural and very colorful. And its very exciting for them to see it in person, they way it glimmers off the oils.

“I have a great story about a Fine Art America Print. I was delivering an original oil painting to a customer of mine in the Palms Springs area, just a few months ago and I brought the painting in the home and I looked at the wall and I saw my own painting hanging on the wall and I turned and there was another of my paintings hanging on the other wall. And I was like, I could have sworn I sold this to someone in Texas and this one to someone in Austin a few months later. And I thought, Did I sell this to the wrong person? I was confused. And I swore I did this one in a 40″ x 36″ and that looks like a 40″ x 30”. And low and behold, they are just canvas prints. But they were so good that they fooled the actual artist, thinking that they were the original painting.

“A little tip for anyone that is buying a canvas print, put a spotlight on it. If you put a spotlight on a canvas print, it looks real. Because in my prints, I capture the actual texture of the oils, so you’re actually seeing little shadows in the print. When you’re hanging it on your wall and you put a spotlight on it, it looks like it is casting little shadows from the spotlight. Until you go totally horizontal and you look at it eye on it, you see it is actually a flat canvas. Otherwise, any other angle it looks totally textured. Amazing! It fooled the actual artist.”

What business advice would you give other artists?

“I love helping other artists expand their business. I think it is wonderful that artists can create such fantastic work now and actually share it with the world. Its not like a hundred years ago, where you had to share your art through word of mouth, through mentor, or galleries/ art museums exclusively. Now we have the opportunity to actually share our work through the internet and reach millions of people who would have never have heard your name in a previous lifetime. Artists can sell their work through their own website, they can sell prints through Fine Art America.

“Art festivals are a fantastic way to sell original work because the art festival is responsible for all the promotions, and show set up. They are reaching a very loyal following of the local residence. You might have 10,000 people come through that show looking to buy art. And they come year after year and they purchase art. They are not coming just to kill an afternoon, they are coming to buy art. And you just show up with your booth, hang your paintings, have your prints, and you sell your work right directly to your customer. They have an opportunity to talk to you and to learn about your creative process and how you do your work, and how long you have been painting, etc. And you can be there on site to answer all of them.”

What shows do you have coming up?

“I travel all over the United States to art festivals. I go to as far east as Texas and as far north as Seattle. And I do a lot of shows in California, especially the California desert, Palms Springs area. As well as the California coast. I just did a show in Beverly Hills, and I have one coming up this weekend in Hermosa beach and the weekend after in Loyola. And later this summer I’m doing one in San Diego. I’m also driving up to Bellevue, Washington and down to Salt Lake City to do a show. So I travel all over. I have a giant van, that fits my whole show set up and can take about 30 paintings with me when I go on the road.”

Click here for some of Erin’s past festivals and shows.

How is selling online different than in the real world?

“If you are selling your work online, you want to create an experience where the buyer feels he/she is in the presence of the artwork. However you can engage the collector, where they feel like they can actually touch the painting or see it in a different light. Its great to have like a three dimensional look on a print or a painting and you can see the light changing on it. It reminds me of the business card site now, where they show the cards and they angle it and the light reflecting off of it. And it really feels like you’re there. Or like Zappos, buying a pair of shoes and you see a person walking on it or picking it up, looking at it. Its all done on video but it allows the buyer to feel really confident they are getting something that they have already experienced. Fine Art America, again is a great example of that, because they show how it actually looks in the frame, you can see it at an angle. You can see it canvas wrapped or with a black edge or with a mirrored edged wrapped. You want the customer to be very confident in what they are getting.”

Can you tell us about your technique and the style of painting you coined?

“This is one of my newest oil paintings and I just photographed it and posted it up on Fine Art America. The title of the print is Indian Wells. It is a painting of the Palms Springs area. And you can see with the lighting here, little ridges that cast little shadows in the paint. See how the ridges cast shadows in the paint. That is what the eye perceives as being texture. As long as you can capture that in your photograph, when you create a print of it, you are going to see texture. I see people all the time at my art festivals, go up to my print bin and touch the prints and look at it from the side, and they really think there is texture on it. And they ask, are these enhanced giclee? Not just a flat photoprint. And really it’s just a tribute to this modern technology giclee printing, which just means it is a word that a french marketer just made up to mean photoprint. It’s using the same technology as your inkjet at home, they have little cartridges cyan, magenta, and yellow ink. It prints back and forth down a piece of paper or canvas. And that is what a giclee is. The printing quality is just incredible. It is a great way for modern artists to print their work, because you can print a one off of a print. So if you wanted to buy this, you just buy one of them and the artist does not need to print 10,000 of them, which is how it used to work with lithography. Now you can just print a single print that is just as good or if not better than the finest screen print of the past.”

“This is a painting I am currently in the middle of. This is a painting of a little reservare in Paso Robles in Morro Bay, called Whale Rock. I painted this reservare at least a dozen times and I have seen it in different seasons and different lighting. I feel like there is a unique angle to be had, unique approach to capturing this beautiful area. I have a unique style, this is a style I have been developing for 20 years since I started painting in oils. I have always been a fan of the classic impressionists as well as plein air painters. I have always been fascinated when a painter can paint a tree in three brush strokes and have it turned out perfect. How is that possible? I have always had a minimalist approach to painting and using three brushstrokes as possible. I do my work wet on wet, so I work from dark to light. Here in my piece I’m laying out the darkest areas of the painting and then I’m going to work lighter and lighter. The last part of the painting will be the lake and the sky and how that is reflected. You can see I premix my palette here. Here are all my darks, midtones, and lights have been mixed out ahead of time. So when I’m painting, I can just paint and really throw the paint around and create amazing texture.It is a stain glass mosaic approach to the work, where I’m not overlapping paint, I’m laying the paint side by side. I call this style Open Impressionism.”