|The Chicago Tribune|
|Wall Street Journal|
|Ada Evening News, May 7, 2008|
Harrison Exhibit at Old Bank Gallery
|The Laker, August 21,2006, Vol.23, No.16|
Welcome to Hannah’s World
By Kathi Caldwell-Hopper
There are dogs wearing pink shirts, a sly fox that can outfox any hunter, a Boston terrier sporting a beret as he stands in front of the Eiffel Tower. In Hannah Harrison’s world the animals appear in any number of lush settings, and for these furry subjects, anything is possible.
“I love to paint in miniature,” says the Center Harbor artist. “I want to create paintings that force the viewer to get up close to see the details. That’s what happens with miniature paintings. I want them to come inside the world I create in the painting.”
Indeed, that is what Hannah has done with her wonderful, whimsical paintings that feature all kinds of animals, in amusing and totally out-of-character settings. Not only are the paintings fun to look at, they also are beautiful works of art by a skilled painter/illustrator.
“I have always known I wanted to be an artist. There was never a time I can remember wanting to do anything else,” Hannah recalls. “I was an only child, and I was always perfectly content to sit and draw. I got lost in the world I created when drawing.”
Hannah loves animals, and as a child, she would dress up family pets and then draw them. The patient animals put up with her attempts to utilize them as models, and all these years later, Hannah is still drawing and painting animals.
Early on Hannah’s teachers saw her potential and incredible talent. When a mere kindergartener, Hannah was recognized as gifted artistically. She was moved from her kindergarten art class to a fifth-grade art class.
I guess my teacher saw that I had talent when she asked the class to draw self portraits. Most kids at that age will draw themselves straight on. But I drew my self-portrait in a profile view, something unusual for that age. That was a red flag,” she says.
Acknowledging her good fortune to have teachers who saw her potential early in her Laconia public school career, Hannah says she was allowed to create her own curriculum in high school art classes.
“The requirements for art credits in high school are quite minimal,” Hannah explains. “My art teacher allowed me to create my own classes, which took my education in art a lot further.”
In second and third grade Hannah won a Young Author’s Book Award, and that opened up the larger world of children’s books and illustrating to her. Her prize-winning stories were called The Lost Tooth and The Bunny Ball. These awards led Hannah to the realization that she wanted to pursue a career in writing and illustrating children’s books.
As a Laconia High School senior, Hannah won the Boston Globe Scholastic Art Award, which deemed her portfolio one of the 100 best in the United States. Certainly these awards opened doors to Hannah, and she entered Colby College in Maine, where she majored in painting and minored in creative writing. College was a new world for Hannah, but one she embraced, going on to win more awards and making her mark as an up-and-coming young artist.
“I was a Senior Scholar at Colby, which meant that I had to take only two classes a semester. The rest of the time I could paint. I got my own studio and a museum show at the end of my senior year. My exhibit was paintings based on stories I had written. Her show was titled “Drawing from words,” and the paintings included pirates and enormous babies as subject matter!
Hannah and her husband, a musician, have been living in the Lakes Region and loving the area. The history, the scenic beauty and quaintness of the region have inspired her and show up in her paintings. Although she has a studio in her home, Hannah says, “I do a lot of my painting at the kitchen table, where I can look out the window at the scenery. It’s very inspirational. I find the landscapes work their way into my paintings.” Many of Hannah’s paintings feature detailed scenes of animals, and although she’s painted large work (such as painting scenery at The Barnstormers Theatre), her work is now very small in size.
Why does she choose animals as subject material so often? Laughing, she says, “That’s a good question. I think the pets I had when I was a child invited me into their world. They offered a whimsical world to me. It stirred my imagination. When I paint, I start out by thinking of an animal I like, such as a bulldog. That dog reminds me of a retired grandpa living in Florida. I take it from there when I start painting.”
Each picture is created with a story in Hannah’s mind, and it is her hope that the paintings will inspire the viewer to come up with stories of their own. She is able to get the realistic look of the various animals y using reference books with pictures of all sorts of animals, although it can be certain there are no books with pictures of dogs with pink flamingoes in Florida or a fox wearing a bright red foxhunting outfit! Those appear only in Hannah’s work, via her vivid imagination. Hannah’s works are small--often less than five inches, and she paints that way for a reason.
“It’s to bring the viewer in close so I can have a great connection with people. I want people to get lost in the worlds I create. I recently became a winner in a competition by the Cider Painters of America, a group that features miniature artwork. My winning piece was a one-inch-square painting of a hamster.”
Hannah and her husband will be moving to Oklahoma in the near future, to be near family. It’s certain she will miss the area where so much of the inspiration for her work originates. In the future, the world is sure to see more of Hannah Harrison. She has plans to illustrate and publish children’s books, the perfect outlet for her imagination. No matter where she settles, the animals and landscapes and vivid colors, as well as the stories full of imaginary places and figures, will inhabit the paintings and tales in Hannah’s world.
To view Hannah’s work, visit her website at www.hannaheharrison.com.
|The Record Enterprise, December 2, 2004|
December Artist of the Month: Hannah Smith Harrison
“Painting is not just about making pretty pictures. Intense and intellectual, it’s a pure expression of who you are and a way of communicating with others. Painting takes everything you know and feel and puts it right out there on a canvas. If a painting is personal and it means something to you, others will sense that when they look at your work - it’s the thing they won’t be able to put their finger on - it’s what makes a painting interesting.”
Hannah E. Harrison (née Smith) was born and raised in Laconia and began her ‘formal’ art education in kindergarten when, asked to do a self-portrait by art teacher Marlene Whitman, drew herself in profile. Recognizing prodigal talent, Whitman accelerated Hannah’s development; placing her in a special arts program and the 5th grade art class. Hannah’s life was blessed by appreciative mentors and patrons - encouraged to submit her portfolio to the Boston Globe Scholastic Art Awards, Hannah’s work earned the Gold Key, being one of the 100 best portfolios in the nation. An anonymous patron enabled Hannah to take art lessons with Larry Frates. Later, at Colby College in Maine, she interned with children’s book illustrator Kevin Hawkes who taught her about book illustration and how to work with acrylics (one of her favorite mediums).
Hannah graduated from Colby with a BA in studio art as a Senior Scholar in Painting. This involved a rigorous application process (only six graduates in her class) and allowed ample time to concentrate on her project - creating paintings inspired by stories she had written as a Creative Writing minor. Her goal was to evoke the same emotions through painting as one would get from her stories - not narrative in nature, the paintings would be able to stand on their own and were featured in a year-end solo exhibition entitled ‘Drawing from Words’
At Colby, Harrison painted one-on-one with Professor Bevan Engman who also introduced her to the psychological portraits of Lucien Freud, sparking a love for portraiture that shows in her present work.
“Portraits connect with the viewer in a way that no other genre of painting can. The fact that a personality can emerge from a mixture of material on paper or canvas is so intriguing. Portraits force you to take notice; passing a person on the street you may not think twice about them; in a painting, you stop, look, and establish a connection.” If Hannah can’t meet the subject of a portrait commission (like the woman whose husband had been deployed overseas), descriptions of their personality enable her to ‘put the life’ back into a photo.
Just as Hannah’s human portraits are imbued with life, so are her animal portraits. A raccoon in jail, a rat wearing a tiara, a cat and dog stretched out on a couch, languorous and delighted as any unsupervised teenagers, stagely lit by TV; all radiate a distinct personality through accuracy of gesture, form and expression. Rendered in a richly colored, painterly style, all of Harrison’s paintings have a touch of humour about them - as she says, “It just sneaks in; I guess life’s too serious to take seriously all the time.”
The Village Artists & Gallery is featuring Hannah Harrison’s work throughout December. In addition to this month’s extended opening hours every Friday, 10am - 8pm, on December 10th the gallery will be hosting a reception (6pm - 8pm) for Hannah Harrison in conjunction with a Christmas Open House. Everyone is invited to meet the artist and other gallery members, partake of light refreshments, enjoy music, fun and door prizes. Located at 51 Main Street in Ashland, open daily from 10 - 6, call 603-968-4445 for information, or go online to www.villageartistsandgallery.org.
|The Citizen, Friday, February 15, 2002|
A Painting Storyteller
By Barry W. Walker, Portsmouth Bureau
Hannah Smith quickly establishing residence in art world
ASHLAND--”Good painting tells a story,” says the young artist, trying to explain her work. “The better an idea an artist has, the more of a concept, the easier the painting comes together.”
The statement would sound pretentious from a less accomplished artist, regardless of age.
But at 23, Hannah Smith of Laconia is updating her portfolio of work that clearly demonstrates her accomplishments and acumen as a painter in oils. It was impressive enough in 1997 for the Boston Globe Scholastic Art Awards to name it one of the 100 best in the nation.
Smith is a petite young woman with a shock of wavy auburn hair and pale blue eyes that give you the feeling she can search through you to see if you understand.
The artist is sitting upright in a wingback chair in the front window of Village Artists & Gallery, the artists’ collaborative on Main Street in Ashland where her work is on display. She is one of the youngest members of the founding group.
“I don’t know where my ideas come from,” she states. “I don’t think any artist really knows. I usually have a concept I want to convey, then I’ll find a photograph or model a situation to convey it.”
The most quickly accessible photographs are her own or her family’s. She also finds herself and the members of her family are the most quickly obtainable models. As a result, much of her work is self-portraiture or features her grandmother and parents. When she was attending Colby College in Maine and her family wasn’t nearby, her professors found themselves the subject of her paintings.
She was named a Senior Scholar during her last year at the college, which gave her a studio and 25-30 hours per week to paint. She graduated magna cum laude with a bachelor’s degree in studio art last year.
“I guess it’s weird in a way, but I don’t see my paintings as portraits of any particular person, even though they are of me, my family and people I know,” she says. “I think of them as characters in my story and they could be anyone.”
One such self-portrait hangs on the gallery wall and invariably draws viewer comments. It is taken from a photo of her at about two and one-half, a pink-cheeked little girl with sandy blonde hair, who scowls at the viewer.
It is untitled but she calls it “Snip” after the name of the story she painted it for, about a girl who outgrows her shoes. Unable to afford new ones, the girl’s mother snips off the toes to make room.
Is it autobiographical?
“Not at all,” she states. “Even though I used myself as the model, I don’t think of it as a portrait of me. It is a portrait of the girl in the story.”
Smith’s own story is not one of childhood depravation and neglect that leads to a passion for art. She grew up in a normal home, the only daughter of loving parents, Keith and Donna Smith.
She began painting early, teaching herself how to work in acrylics. She can remember nothing else she ever wanted to do. She took painting lessons and also dabbled in ballet, tap and other forms of dance, her other major interest.
Her interest in the movement of dance finds its way into her art.
“I think a little bit of it creeps into my painting,” she says. “They’re very flamboyant. I also like dramatic lighting, almost like looking into a theater stage.”
Whether the subject is a portrait or an illustration for a children’s book, her newest focus, these are not static “sittings.” The subjects are doing something, acting out the story the viewer has stumbled in on. It’s up to the viewer to figure out what the story is, but there are no wrong answers.
Although her work could be called realism, her paintings are not copies of the photographs, but subtle caricatures of the subjects. It gives her work a humorous edge. She admits it, laughing.
“Yes, there’s always a little humor in everything I create,” she says. “I can’t get away from it, it follows me around.”
Her monochromatic portrait of her grandmother, titled “La Cucaracha”--after the song, not the bug, she says--shows an elderly woman wearing a Mexican sombrero. The woman’s arms are raised with clenched fists. She is either a woman having a good time or a woman about to hit someone.
“People can take it any way they want. I wanted that ambiguity,” Smith says. “It makes you uncomfortable. You want to laugh but you also want to look away.” Perhaps the feelings it evokes says more about the person viewing it than the painting.
Smith recently finished an internship with famed children’s book illustrator Kevin Hawkes whom she helped research period illustrations for his non-fiction work, “Handel: Who Knew What He Liked.”
From Hawkes, she learned not only the art of illustrating for children, but how to work as a professional illustrator, including the business side.
“I’ve always had a bee in my bonnet about doing children’s book illustrations,” she says. “My dream is to write and illustrate.
Has she painted her masterpiece yet?
“Not even close,” she states. “Every time I think I’ve done a masterpiece, its superseded by the next one.” Whatever it is, it will be worth waiting for.
|The Citizen, Monday, March 28, 2005|
Auction helps Humane Society
By John Koziol
LACONIA--The effort to help local creatures great and small got a boost when dozens of people came to appreciate and then bid on a variety of items during the New Hampshire Humane Society’s second annual Animal Lovers Art Auction.
Held Friday evening at the Belknap Mill, the auction featured almost 150 works, including garden whimsies, ceramics, glassware, jewelry, prints, wood carvings, textiles, sketches and paintings. Proceeds benefit the animal protection organization, which is located on Meredith Center Road in Laconia.
Hannah Harrison said she came to the auction and also created a painting for it because of the affinity she has for animals and for the good work of the Humane Society.
A 1997 graduate of Laconia High School and of Colby College, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in art, Harrison several years ago adopted her own dog, Scooter, an English spaniel/springer mix, from the society.
In her painting, titled “El Perro Pequeno,” Spanish for “the little dog,” Harrison featured one of the society’s most recent residents, a blind Chihuahua named Brinkley.
Using some artistic license, Harrison said she put herself into Brinkley’s mind and imagined where and how he might see himself.
In her 5 by 7 inch acrylic painting she has Brinkley front and center, smiling, while colorful Mexican prayer flags flutter behind him.
Harrison hoped the painting would fetch $500 or more at the auction.
Artist Howard Cuveron of Bristol donated “White tail deer on the Pemigewasset,” a painting of a large buck standing near the river, which auction organizers expected would go for about $3,000.
“I like animals. It’s a worthwhile cause,” Cuveron said of the NHHS auction.
Looking around the room, Cuveron said he was impressed by the quality and diversity of the items up for auction.
“These artists are all the top-of-the-line artists in the country. There’s some outstanding work here. In fact, I’m bidding on some myself.”
|The Laconia Daily Sun, Tuesday, August 19, 2003|
Portrait by Hannah Smith [Harrison] was best of show at library
LACONIA--The Laconia Art Association announced the 2003 art show awards. The show was held recently at the Laconia Public Library. The judges were Sarah Chaffee from the McGowan Fine Arts Gallery in Concord and Joseph Driscoll from the New Hampshire Community Technical College Art Department.
Students awards: age group 6-9, first prize “Mermaid Garden” by Taylor Williams. Age group 13-18, first prize, “Spring Bloom” by Chris Phelps; second prize, “Spiderman” by Casey Williams; and third prize, “Pretty girl” by Justin Phelps.
Best of Show, amateur or professional in any medium, was “Chuck,” a portrait by Hannah Smith [Harrison].
In the original amateur division, any medium, Russ Thibeault received first prize for “Martha’s Vineyard”; Brittany Bauman received second prize for “Alice”; and Martha Sepe received third prize for “Art Show.”
First prize for a portrait in any medium was awarded to Edward Rushbrook for “Hannah.” Original still life, in any medium, first prize was awarded to Marlene Witham for “Still Life With Goose.”
In the original, professional division in any medium, first prize went to Roger Gagne for “CSV Red Wagon Wheels”; second prize to Irene Goddu for “Farmhouse Rocker”; and third prize to Gisela Langsten for “Bright.”
First prize for a portrait went to Beatrice McClellan for “The Year of the Beard.” First prize for still life was awarded to Lenny Gemski for “Villa Italia.”
In the copy art division, any medium, first prize went to Marie Kelly for “Vermeer.”
In the three dimensional, any medium, competition, first prize awarded to Ken Ganem for “Quiet Moments,” and second prize to Ken Ganem for “Dolphins.”
The Ted Ray Memorial “Outstanding New England Oil Landscape or Seascape” award was given to Marcia McGuire for “Nordsee Dunes.”
The Loran Percy Gallery award for an outstanding New England oil landscape was awarded to Eliza King for “Mt. Welch from Dickey.”
The Judges award for a painting judged “worthy of special notices by the judges” was awarded to Laura Toomey for “Nick Cannon.”
There were three purchase prizes this year, which are purchases made by local business. Taylor Community Home in Laconia chose Irene Goddu’s “Farmhouse Rocker”; Village Bank and Trust in Gilford chose “Lake Walk” by Mary Bohn, and Laconia Savings Bank chose Terry Dawkins’ “The Great Spirit.”
The People’s Choice award went to Marie Kelly for her painting of “First Grandchild.” This prize is awarded to an artist by popular vote from people attending the show. The door prize, a print of a watercolor by Roger Gagne, was won by Julie Morrissette of Laconia.