Learn what compels artist Ann Hanson’s creativity.
At first glance, Mama’s Girl, the painting on the April 2020 issue of Western Horseman, depicts a simple scene of a palomino mare grazing with her foal standing beside her. Upon closer inspection, however, there’s deeper meaning with the mare’s head turned toward her foal and her tail wrapped around its back as if embracing the baby.
Subtly conveying such emotional connection is what gives Hanson’s paintings heart and soul, whether it’s a mare protecting her foal, a cowgirl spending quiet time with her dog and horse, or Native American children dressed in their tribal regalia.
A professional painter for more than 30 years, Hanson enjoys taking viewers of her artwork into the scenes and sharing the lives of the horses and people she paints. Her strikingly detailed brushstrokes capture the expressions and mood of a scene, and the starkness of her backdrops draw the story to the forefront of her paintings.
Discover what drives the artist to paint every day in her Shell, Wyoming, studio.
Western Horseman: What brings you to the easel every morning?
Ann Hanson: I paint in my mind all the time. As I’m driving down the road, I think of how I’d paint different scenes I see in the landscape. I think in colors and have a camera wherever I go. I can’t separate myself from it.
WH: How do you keep yourself fresh and full of ideas?
AH: If I find myself doing too much of the same thing I interject something new. I see artists who narrow their focus so much that it won’t be good if the art market goes sideways. I try to keep diversity in my work.
WH: What appeals to you about Western culture?
AH: I’ve developed an appreciation and love for the people, especially cowgirls. They are driven in their own way like I am and it speaks to me. I also enjoy painting candid moments of Native American kids in their regalia — they’re so spontaneous and exude magic.
WH: How has studying classical painters helped you?
AH: Many artists have deviated from studying classical painting because they want to cut to the chase and get the final product done without a lot of effort. I’ve learned that you have to work hard for excellence as a painter–there are no shortcuts. As a self-taught artist, each painting is a learning process. I do something different every single time and learn something new that will help with the next one. I look at every painting and see the flaws and try to make the next one better. It takes discipline to be an artist and go somewhere with it.
WH: How did you develop discipline as an artist?
AH: I’m very OCD, so discipline comes naturally to me. I see a lot of artists who might not be as talented as some, but they do well because they have a lot of drive and ambition.
Hanson’s work will be on display March 27–May 10 at Cowgirl Up!, an annual Western art exhibition and sale held at the Desert Caballeros Western Museum in Wickenburg, Arizona. Her work is also represented by Big Horn Galleries in Cody, Wyoming, and Tubac, Arizona, and Settlers West Galleries in Tucson, Arizona.
Read more about Hanson in the article “In the Moment,” which appears in the April 2020 issue of Western Horseman.