Q&A with Hannah

When did you first take an interest in art?
Ever since I was old enough to hold a pencil. As a child, I filled numerous binders and sketchbooks, drew pictures for family members, and, of course, doodled in my school workbooks!

What inspired you to take art more seriously than just a childhood hobby?
When I was 12, my family visited the Huntington Library in San Marino, CA. Seeing Sarah Siddons as the Tragic Muse, Pinkie, and The Blue Boy all in one room was quite amazing to my young mind. I still remember looking at those paintings and thinking, “How did they do that?!” Portraits from the 18th century fascinated me because of the realism of the faces and texture of fabrics. I wanted to be able make my art look alive like that.

At what age did you begin formal art instruction?
Believe it or not, after high school! As a homeschool student, I was accustomed to being a self-learner, so I borrowed dozens of art books from the library. That taught me the importance of being an observer. When I began formal instruction, many of the foundation principles were already familiar from observation, but learning how to start from the beginning and apply them unlocked my confidence.

When did you decide to pursue art as a profession?
After my sister and I began working on our picture book, I discovered how much fun it was to put words into action by way of illustration. The more children’s illustrators that I studied – Tasha Tudor, Garth Williams, and Robert McCloskey, to name a few – I realized that this was how I wanted to use my gift of art.

What inspires your art?
Just about anything – a good book, another piece of art, a rainy day. Many times I’ll finish a book and immediately begin a picture based on a favorite scene or character from the story. Or music – if I’m already working on a drawing, I listen to music that gives the mood that I’m trying to portray in my art. Movie soundtracks are especially effective.

Who are some of your favorite artists, and why?
N. C. Wyeth – the way he captured light is incredible. His depth of historical research, accuracy of depiction, and how he portrayed action really bring literature to life for me. From him I learned to loosen up, and not think of every picture as a staged snapshot, but as a blink in time.
Norman Rockwell could draw any body doing any thing in any setting, and it was perfect. Especially the realism of his pencil drawings; they might as well have been photographs. You might say he didn’t let any opportunity go to waste: the simplest, everyday things could create the necessary elements to make a picture worth a thousand words.
And Trina Schart Hyman – she was much more than just a children’s illustrator. Her depictions are so believable, especially her Arthurian retellings. How she could place people in either a great medieval hall or out on the windblown English hills is fascinating to study. I love how she tied so many things together in one picture – rather cluttered – in a clean, creative sort of way. Again, her works taught me to not be so much of a perfectionist; to throw in all sorts of little details that make it seem like a real place with real people, not a set. I also began to think more about perspective and placement of subjects and objects — it’s fascinating how little tweaks can make a huge impact on the feel of a picture.

What tools or techniques do you use?
I use mostly 2, 4, and 6 B graphite pencils, but I enjoy experimenting with other weight and material of pencils, charcoals especially. For digital artwork, I usually find that my finger works better than a stylus.

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