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 John Austin Hanna  (1942 - )

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Lived/Active: Texas      Known for: rural landscape, still life, portrait

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John Austin Hanna
An example of work by John Austin Hanna
Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
This biography from the Archives of AskART:
From Fredericksburg, Texas, he is a native Texan who was an illustrator before turning to painting of still lifes, portraits, Western scenes and landscapes.
Source: From an article entitled "Cowgirls" by Heidi Brant in the Summer 2000 issue of InformArt Magazine

"There are painters who try to glorify everything. To me, life is more interesting if you can look at it the way it is. If I can get that across in a painting, great. If I don't, well, I've failed. Everything has its own innate beauty, in either what it is or how it is done. If I can do it like I envision it (or come close), then I'm pleased." Then the artist quips, "But I'm not pleased very often."

John Austin Hanna is a man with broad interests and a love of painting. "Painting is always what I have wanted to do. The subject matter is really an excuse to paint. I don't care what it is, it's just the fun of painting." His paintings embrace a variety of subjects from Texas wildflowers to the rodeo, from fly-fishing to the main street of the small town where he lives. Some of his paintings portray the big picture, some zero in on a walked-over piece of life. All together they say that life in the west is not all parched and rough riding; it is alive and full of diversity. Hanna's criterion for choosing a subject to paint is as honest as you can get: "I paint what moves me."

The artist grew up in the southwest. The life of the rodeo and the cowboy are colorful threads in the tapestry of his own life. "I've never been a cowboy," Hanna states, "never wanted to be one, but I know enough of them to know that its not an easy life. In my mind, from the guys I've known and still know, guys I would consider to be cowboys (they make their living rounding up cattle, hauling cattle, building fences, and that sort of thing) are a very independent bunch of people. If they don't have work here, the find work there doing the same thing. I don't want to say most of them are loners, but the don't seem to be afraid to be alone. It is a dying breed) I don't know if there are that many of them left."

Rodeo has always been a part of Hanna's life: he had an uncle who was a trick roper and a preacher, and he's often painted rodeo scenes of men and women. In his painting "With Fringe A Flyin', " he captures the female barrel racer at the thrilling and precarious instant of her turn around a barrel. Oh, it is exciting, but that's the rodeo -- pure thrill and excitement.

I've learned that the objectives and qualities of women who handle horses and steers in the ring are not the same as those women who handle livestock on the range. So I ask Hanna how he portrays the the cowgirl in his paintings. He says, "That sort of throws me --the term cowgirl. I've never personally known a cowgirl who is the equivalent of the cowboy in that she does day in day out hard work. I don't know that I have ever met one."

From his research about western life from the late 1800s on, Hanna has found that while the women worked as hard as the men, their tasks, and therefore their roles, were different. " In the paintings I have done of the past, the women still had on dresses. They weren't trying to be masculine. Even if the women worked themselves to death on a ranch or a farm, very few of them wore pants. They were respected and looked up to by the cowboys. It wasn't as equals - they were still sort of put up on a pedestal. They were respected in their own right without trying to compete at the male level. I don't think that ever was the case."

Biography from Whistle Pik Galleries:
John graduated from Texas Tech University with a degree in Advertising Art and Design. As a 20-year illustrator in New York and Dallas he has been published in several magazines such as Automotive Quarterly, Car and Driver, Saga, Town & Country, Flying, Popular Boating, and Popular Science.

He has also done work for several large corporations such as Mercedes, Volkswagen, Bell Helicopter, Lockheed Martin, Borden's, Pearl Beer, Coors Beer, Phillips 66, Shell Oil, Byron Nelson Golf Classic and Chili's Bar & Grill. Mr. Hanna's work can also be found in several books published by Harcourt Brace & World and McGraw Hill. He has done work for author Ian Fleming & Warner Bros.

Despite his successes as an illustrator, Hanna believes that his career really took off once he traded in the "big city skylines" for the rock houses, livestock, landscape and old barns of Fredericksburg, Texas. "My years in New York and Dallas as an illustrator were great, but I wasn't really following my heart," explains Hanna. "Throughout my childhood in Beaumont, I was always drawing and dreaming of becoming a 'real' artist. I finally decided that I had to pursue that dream".

Hanna's paintings are strong in dramatic light and rich in color. His paintings embrace a variety of subjects from landscapes, still lifes and portraits, set anywhere from the Texas Gulf Coast to quaint country homes on the back roads of Missouri. Some of his paintings portray the big picture, some zero in on a walked-over piece of life. "To me, life is more interesting if you look at it the way it is. Everything has its own innate beauty," he reveals. "Something always triggers a painting: an old house, a rock wall, maybe just light playing on creek water. I never run out of things to see."

His work has been published by Somerset House Publishers, and he was recently commissioned by the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo to do an eight-phase depiction of the rodeo for their corporate offices.John lives in Fredericksburg, Texas with his wife, Sherry.

Whistle Pik Galleries-One Man Show - Annually since 1997
Texas Review - Annually since 1998
Christmas Miniature Show - Annually since 1997
Two Man Show with Mark Haworth - November, 2003
Cowboy Artists of America Museum Night of Artists - 2002-2003
Texas Art Gallery Semi-annual shows - 2002-2003

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