Erin Hanson: Modern Impressionist

Erin Hanson’s artistic style has been inspired by painters such as 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 Blog. (Wikipedia). This is what I love about the art world- it is all connected in some way. It’s a giant dot-to-dot-painting!

What I love even more about the art world is finding a new artist whose works capture my attention and trigger a Wow-this one is special. Lately I have despaired when viewing exhibitions but Erin Hanson has lit up my mind and I can only hope that some of the young Australian artists study her works and style. Radient Sky is a good place to start. I find Erin’s style so different and so captivating.

Viewing the gallery of Erin Hanson paintings is like attending a banquet where every single one of your favourite foods is present and you dont know which one to start devouring first! Every one of her paintings is a feast of vibrant colours and a skilled juxapositioning of shapes to create a composition which holds the viewer transfixed in wondrous appreciation.

Nature is the essence of Erin Hanson’s paintings and as described in her biography: Rock climbing among the brilliantly colored cliffs of Nevada and Utah, watching the seasons and the light change daily across the desert, provided endless inspiration for her work. In these beautiful surroundings, Hanson decided firmly to dedicate herself to creating one painting every week for the rest of her life. She has stuck to that decision ever since and has for the past decade been developing a unique, minimalist technique of placing impasto paint strokes without layering, which has become known as Open-Impressionism. As other artists began emulating her painting techniques, Hanson was credited as the pioneer and originator of this contemporary style. (ref:
Here is another of her fantastic paintings, this one titled Vista at Bryce which is in Utah.

I can study Erin’s painting for ages -the more you look, the more you see. Patterns, tonal changes in colour are emphasised in Winter Vineyards.
Contrasts dominate in Seven Sisters.
Amazing subtlety of colour and shape form the Big Sky.

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. (Ref:
Here is her painting of Red Rock Canyon.

Quoting Erin’s words from an interview gives you an insight into her technique and how she sees the world: Open-impressionism is a contemporary blend of classic impressionism and modern expressionism, with a plein-air-style technique. These oil paintings are created wet-on-wet, without layering, relying on the vibrant underpainting for a transparency effect. Open-impressionism is all about capturing impressions of a landscape, memories and fleeting glimpses of color. I am not trying to re-create a photograph, I am trying to get my viewers to open their eyes and see their world a little differently. I want people to look at the San Gabriel mountains, when they are stuck in their car during 5pm traffic, and see the amazing range of purples that appear when the sun starts setting, and the brilliant oranges and sherbet colors in the highlights. It is easy to zone out and not look around, but I am often surprised at how truly beautiful Los Angeles is. (Ref:
And here are a couple of examples to show how Erin perceives mountains.

What is also distinctive about the paintings of Erin Hanson is the movement she creates. I find her Windy Skies wonderful.

And note the movement in the clouds propelling the remarkable shapes and colours in the Hero Image today which is a diptych titled Burst of Clouds.

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.

Delicate Blooms Gnarled Trees. Emerald in Shade. Color Rise.

The image shown below would be my favourite Erin Hanson painting of trees, titled Forest Deep.I haven’t been so excited about paintings of trees since I was introduced to the woodcuts of Cressida Campbell, an Australian artist we will look at along the way.

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. Desert Flowers. Desert in Color.

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.

The message I perceive from viewing Erin’s paintings is that in nature everything has its place. No one feature is more important than another even if it is much larger than its surroundings. The trees, the rock faces, cliffs, vegetation, clouds - all dance together in this incredible kaleidoscope of colour and shape created by this master painter. I am sure you will be enchanted by the harmony of colour and shape in Aspen Groves.

And likewise in Big Bend Ocotillo.

To complete today’s feast of paintings we can enjoy Erin’s perception of the sea in Highway 1.

And three paintings inspired by colourful sunsets and dawns as rendered in Acadia Dawn.

Dawn Showers Crystal Dawn

Now that you have tasted the offerings in this banquet, return to look at all the images presented today and take special note of the way Erin has captured the light in her compositions. Sometimes the light is barely touching the surface of the elements and in other works it is dominant. Take a little time to study the way she has mastered the light in Super Blooms and note the subtle use of shade.

In 2016 Erin produced a series of paintings on the colour Orange, exploring how it can be used in different landscapes to create emotional impact. (Ref:

Very soon Jane and I are going to explore the use of colour in paintings and you will enjoy seeing Erin Hanson’s Orange series and learn more about the role colour plays in art and in our lives.

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.(Ref:

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:
(Source for Images: Please note that all images that appear on this post have been taken from Erin Hanson’s website.)

In the next Blog we continue the influence of Van Gogh which has extended as far as Gippsland, Victoria. You are about to meet a remarkable artist who loves to paint birds and has a very special connection to Vincent Van Gogh!

But in the meantime Jane and I are taking a couple of days rest. You will get some light reading to keep you in touch with the World of Art.

Anne Newman

Oil Painter in realistic genre style, predominantly buildings and people. To continue the discussion contact Anne on or phone +61 407 516 522

Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

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