Interview with Hannah Baker
Interview with Hannah Baker
We interview Hannah, she gives us an insight in where her art career started…
I suppose it all began when I was a child. My grandfather was a great artist (though not his full time job) who exhibited work in local galleries in Dorset. I used to love watching him in his studio and every so often he would let me loose in there to have a go with his paints, brushes and paper. His brother was one of the English Heritage artists - a very accomplished watercolourist. As I got older I became very interested in Tennis and from the age of 9 started training to be a professional player. I still always loved painting and sketching and was always encouraged to do so but when one is playing as much tennis as I did, there is little time to do much else! Fast forward 16 years or so, I came home one evening and felt utterly bored with life and was saddened by the fact that I hadn’t done anything art related in years, it was in this moment that I decided to be an artist - I felt that this was the only way to to ensure I painted regularly. From that point on I spent all my free time painting - I couldn’t imagine my life without art now. I studied books on technique, spent a huge amount of time visiting different galleries, attending private views and practicing - purely self taught.
How would you describe your style in terms of techniques, mediums, materials you use etc? What are those specific features that make your work unique and original?
My favoured mediums are Oil and Charcoal, both fantastic to work with.
Increasingly scale is becoming a significant aspect of my work, I have been creating a number of 1M x 2.5M charcoal drawings and feel that charcoal landscapes of this size are not something you frequently come across.
I always try and work in a manner that is as loose and bold as possible, with lots of texture (undoubtedly the best features of oil paint are richness of colour and the ability to naturally build texture). Energy, movement and atmosphere are elements that I always want to convey in my work, the blend of clear subject and form with artistic licence. My paintings are semi abstract, although it didn’t start like this. I used to copy photographs line for line and set up still life scenes but as time went on I felt that was too restrictive and it wasn’t giving me enough freedom to show something different.
Which creative medium would you love to pursue but haven’t yet?
I love ceramics! I would like to do some working with clay, porcelain etc at some point.
How does your creative process look?
It looks like a mess! The whole process from start to finish is a chaotic one really and I always manage to get paint everywhere. I have no idea how to be a neat and tidy painter!
Everything I do is derived from a sketch done in a particular place. I very occasionally use photographs for a little reference but as I have no interest in painting something that looks like a photo, I don’t spend much time looking at them to inform/direct my work.
Using a large decorating brush or palette knife I tend to get straight into a piece with with whatever medium I am using, as I feel this method lends itself to creating work that has a more spontaneous feel. I definitely avoid initially sketching out a composition on canvas first as it makes my work too tight. I use a fairly limited, earthy palette as I feel it best represents the natural world.
Do you have a studio space? If so what does it look like, are you organised or creating an artistic mess?
I do have a studio space, located on the top floor of Highgate Contemporary Art on Highgate High Street. It isn’t massive but gives me enough room to work comfortably up to two meters and has large windows providing plenty of natural light. I imagine to most it looks rather untidy but I have my palette, brushes, knives etc all organised in their specific places. So, definitely an artistic mess!
What is your greatest inspiration?
It is very difficult to single out one source as being my greatest inspiration. I mean the landscape generally inspires me but it goes rather deeper than that. Painting is like breathing, it is just something that I have to do in order to function so regardless of anything, I always want and feel inspired to create art.
Who are your biggest influences; people, movements, styles you looked upon while establishing your visual language?
The impressionist and romantic painters definitely inspire me, the first has got to be Turner, master of atmosphere also Constable’s oil sketches, particularly his cloud studies were something that I spent much time studying.
Joan Eardley, Melita Denaro and John Virtue are three other artists whose work I love. They all create work of great atmosphere and movement.
Can you describe the evolution of your style over the years? Are there any important phases in your career you would like to highlight?
I think my style has certainly become much looser over the years and much more abstract. I’m also less concerned about making mistakes or doing something wrong which I think is a result of being more confident in my work. A couple of years ago, I had an oil painting commission that was to measure 140 x 300cm and to be one canvas, rather than a diptych or triptych. Until this point I hadn’t actually painted anything that I would consider ‘successful' on a canvas larger than 60x60cm as I always preferred working small. Doing that piece really opened up a whole new world for me and without doubt provided me with the confidence to create the work that I do now.
Which project, exhibition, artwork etc. do you find most significant in your work so far? Can you single out some important milestones in your career?
The commission piece was definitely significant, I learned so much from it but there have been a number of important milestones from, getting work into my first gallery to having my first solo show.
What are the messages you’re trying to send to the viewers and what are the responses (feelings, questions, thoughts…) you hope to provoke?
I don’t really create work with a starting concept about how I want the viewer to respond more, I create something based on a place that evoked something in me, that had a moment of light, weather or atmosphere creating a certain mood that I wanted to capture. If someone can stand in front of one of my paintings or large charcoals and say that it evokes what I felt, then great, but I also like the variety of response and emotion conjured in the viewer. I feel that what someone gets from looking at a piece of art has to be personal and I’m not keen on absolutely dictating what the response should be.
Finally, what are your plans for the future (this year and in general)?
The main goal, which I think applies each year as well, is just to keep painting and exhibiting work, trying to develop what I do and really seeing where it takes me.