Once upon a time, I found myself at Sharply, an awesome men’s clothing store in Seattle (seriously, check them out!). As I walked around, I noticed the walls of the store were adorned with these beautiful pieces of art. Inquiring about the artist, I soon learned a new name, Hannah Olson. As What’s Up NW’s motto is to share all that is cool that resides in the PNW, I contacted Hannah and asked if I could interview the fellow blonde and share her story with our readers! May I present to you, Hannah O. Olson!
Tell us about you! Where are you from, what was life like growing up?
1 9 9 1. Born to be wild. I grew up in the best place on earth, the Pacific Northwest. Raised by my beautiful Mom and Dad who always spoiled me by keeping our family close to the water and a hop n a skip from the mountains. My family was always doing things outdoors. My dad taught me to do a lot of things that he loved, at a very young age. I learned how to ski before I could walk and I was riding stand-up jet skis before I could swim. I grew up with three older brothers on top of that so nothing really phases me. I won Most Artistic of my graduating class and didn’t go directly to college after high school. I was having troubles deciding what to be when I grow up. It was a tossup between a marine biologist, professional skier, cowgirl, and of course an artist. A year or so after graduating I decided to go back to school and get my pre-reqs out of the way. I was always enrolling in as many art classes as I could without my dad noticing that I actually didn’t need any more art credits. I ended up failing a lot of these classes but still kept going. It wasn’t until my last art class I took that I knew I wanted to be an artist. My teacher was ruthless. Every assignment I turned in I failed and was told to try harder. It came down to our last art subject which was with acrylic paint that I fell in love with art. There was something so attractive about the thickness and texture of the paint and being able to have this sort of “flow” while painting. Not only that but comparing it to drawing, messing up is not a thing. Each canvas is like a book. Whenever I don’t like something I will just paint over it giving the canvas a story of its own through layers of paint. When I turned in my assignment I finally got an A. after that I walked out of the classroom and haven’t been back since.
A couple years after this, I moved to Seattle and got a job with GLY Construction. I work a full time job as well as a full time art career. I am lucky to work for such a great company that has given me such support in both careers and opportunities to network and share my art with clients. The last project I worked on was the Lincoln Square Expansion in Bellevue where you can see my art hanging in the Lakehouse, Civility and Unrest and I recently finished up on two murals located on the 2nd floor of the residential tower.
Is there anything specifically about the Pacific Northwest lifestyle that inspires you?
EVERYTHING. I love the lifestyle of the PNW. I feel like if there was one place on earth I should be it would be here. I am sometimes a very introvert person so my favorite thing is getting lost in the mountains or fly fishing in the middle of nowhere. There is nothing more peaceful than the silence of snow or the sound of a running river. Pure bliss.
What around you inspires you most when you are creating a piece?
Creating outdoors. My studio is right on the water in Seattle and being outside on my dock in the sun painting while boats go by is inspiring to say the least.
What made you decide to pursue art as your life passion?
I was told I had the gift to create. If I told someone they had a gift to create then I would hope they would believe me and follow their passion.
What’s it like when your pieces are displayed in a gallery, a show or at a store like Sharply in Seattle?
Freakin awesome! I meet so many unique people in Seattle through networking and the Sharply crew has definitely been one of my favorites. the company is ran by girl bosses and it is very inspiring working with people with the same drive. when I see my art on the walls of a Seattle location I can’t help but smile and think of the hard work it took.
What artists from the past or present inspire you the most?
Anne Lilly is amazing! she is totally opposite of my style but she thinks like an architect so I love it. I met her at the Seattle Art fair and a gallery was representing her art as a kinetic sculptor. I can’t even explain her art you just have to look it up. She is amazing and it takes her sometimes 2 years to finish a project. She is genius.
Chihully. Once again opposite of my style but I think glass work is a very hard talent to have. I worked a little with glass in my past because my aunt was a woodshop/glass art teacher so I would go to her classroom and do whatever I wanted. I heard of Chihully through my mom because she got to know him through a couple of friends. He invited her over with them to tour his house and paint with him and even swim in his amazing glass blown pool. I get angry talking to my mom about it now because I can’t believe she didn’t invite me. Thanks mom.
What are your favorite pieces to design and create?
Acrylic paintings or murals. If I had the choice between the two, I would definitely choose a mural. I love it when I have so much space to fill. I really want to paint a mountain painting on a building in Seattle I just need to find a wall.
Since this is What’s Up NW, what are your favorite Northwest places to hang out (eat, drink, chill, have fun, etc)?Top five places:
1. Any ski resort. I love skiing all day and heading to the lodge at the end of the day for a nice cold beer and good company. I grew up skiing before I could walk so it brings back so many good memories and feels like home when I head to the mountains.
2. Hanging out on any boat. Wake surfing/ fly fishing/ sailing. I love it all.
3. Food: The Lakehouse located in Bellevue has the most amazing food. Chef Jason Wilson has a talent to cook and incorporate all sorts of food in an amazing way.
4. Getting lost in the PNW mountain ranges. I am always backpacking and waking up to some breath-taking views.
5. Home: Gig Harbor is a little piece of heaven and a step away from the big city so it is nice to go back and see the fam.
Are there any charities that are near and dear to your heart that you work with and why?
Bar Church– My two good friends introduced me to Nate and Amy who started Bar Church. They are truly good people! Bar Church is a church aspiring to create a safe place for people of all backgrounds to explore spirituality through the lens of Jesus while actively working together to tangibly make the world a better place.
#Hashtag LunchBag– my girlfriends fiancé started this with one of his closest friends. #HashtagLunchbag is a humanity service movement dedicated to empowering and inspiring humanity to reap the benefits of giving through the use of social media. They create and use bagged lunches, complete with love messages, as a vessel to spread this love and share their experiences to inspire others.
What are you looking forward to in 2018?
I am looking forward to celebrating my new year in Thailand and heading home for a fresh start. I have been over in Vietnam and Thailand for a month now and I have really learned a lot from their culture, and I can’t wait to incorporate this into my paintings.
I also look forward to really pushing the envelope and expanding my work. I am constantly searching for my niche. It is very frustrating to me because I don’t see that I have a certain style. I never stick to just painting outdoors or painting the same type of art. It’s hard comparing yourself to other artists when you see their work just flows and all looks like it was made by the same person. I feel you can’t really tell with some of my pieces. I am a bit of a perfectionist so it is hard to have my style all over the place, I constantly am reminding myself that it isn’t about the paintings looking a certain way, it is about where the inspiration came from and what you were feeling in that moment that led to that complete piece of art.
Lesley is the founder and editor of What’s Up NW. Prior to creating WhatsUpNW.com, she was the Seattle city editor for AskMissA.com. For both publications, Lesley has covered fashion shows, openings, and local charity events. She has written numerous articles shining the light on local businesses, encouraging readers to always shop local.