Adria Hanson has always wanted to be an artist, but finding her inspiration has taken her from Kansas and Oklahoma through Italy and finally to the very different landscape of the Key Peninsula.
The full-time mom now lives in Longbranch, on 20 acres that include a home studio. She grew up in Kansas, where her mother was a hobby artist with her own studio, and developed a strong interest in painting and drawing. Then her mother died when Hanson was 18.
“I kind of went a little astray,” Hanson said, and her budding art career suffered in the aftermath of losing a parent. Hanson said she was never as good at drawing as she wanted to be, but her natural strength lay in portraiture – she showed an affinity for capturing the contours of the human face.
But she had also been taking some art classes that failed to show her technqiues or methods to harness this skill, and, coupled with the death of her mother, her interest in painting faded.
Hanson’s father encouraged her to study at the University of Oklahoma, where she enrolled in an archaeology program. Hanson said her interest in art started to renew itself during a trip to Italy.
“You just can’t not be amazed by the fantastic art in churches there, on street corners, everywhere,” she said. “I realized that my skill wasn’t lost, I just had to try harder. [The trip] made it more apparent that I really wanted to focus on portraiture.”
She ended up graduating 2002 with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree, and moved home to Kansas to open an art gallery featuring her own work and the work of her collegiate colleagues, as well as some national and international artists.
Then she met her husband on a Christian dating website, and before long had moved across the country to his home on the Key Peninsula. They’ve been in the area for eight years now, and have started a family.
“I knew it would be a challenge, moving out here,” Hanson said. “It’s so pretty, and there’s a lot of galleries out here but also a lot of artists. There are a lot. Not just professionals, but there are a lot of hobby artists.”
She’s had her work featured in a few local galleries that have now closed, such as the Harbor Gallery, but has sometimes struggled to place work elsewhere. Hanson said that few local galleries feature work by younger artists like herself, due to the high number of established artists in the area. She currently has several images of the life of Jesus displayed at Discovery Baptist Church in Gig Harbor.
The move has, in many ways, improved her art, even as it’s made public placement more difficult for the former gallery owner. “Inspiration is constant,” Hanson said of her adopted home. “There’s mountains and snow and oceans, and not just Kansas wheatfields everywhere.”
She still primarily does portraits and landscapes, though her schedule as a mother leaves her with less time for her art. Hanson has recently taken to charcoal to create portraits of children and mothers for families that she knows, a medium that takes up less of her time than oil painting.
Unless she and her husband decide to have another kid, Hanson hopes to soon have more time to return to painting. She was first drawn to the medium because of its ability to render realistic detail, which fit well with her natural interest in portraiture.
“It’s fascinating to see people’s facial features and expressions, how they can change with one little eyebrow slant,” Hanson said.
But she wants to expand her art into different realms – more impressionism, perhaps, and away from portraits and landscapes. Such a change would help her grow as an artist, she said, but also help her place more work in galleries.
“I want my work to be more relevant,” she said. “Portraiture people kind of shy away from, unless they now the person. But that’s my strong suit. So I’m thinking I’d like to tell more stories with my work.”
It’s part of her evolution since moving to the region, which has changed her as an artist stylistically and commercially.
“The landscape has changed and my take on the art world has changed,” Hanson said. “It’s a lot more cutthroat than I was used to.”