New and Independent Artist, Stephen Hanson

New and Independent Artist, Stephen Hanson

Meet the newest artist at the Artmarket Gallery, Stephen Hanson. His collection, featuring Toby and his red ball, has caused many of you to gaze through the gallery windows with admiration. Toby’s adventures are very relatable, the fun-loving, lovable dog always up to mischief, but always forgiven…

We found out about Stephen's history in the creative industry, how he’s staying focused during the pandemic and his muse for his fine art collections. As the lockdown takes over our lives, Stephen Hanson’s creativity only excels. Some artists may be worried about their paint supply running low amidst the outbreak, but not Stephen as his digital art offers him an endless source of creativity and art supplies!

Stephen’s Story

Stephen’s artist journey is one of excitement, success, and versatility. Before leaping into his newest fine art venture, Stephen excelled in his craft working within film and animation on major films such as Danger Mouse, Count Duckula, Despicable Me, Arthur Christmas, and Flushed Away. Quite the collection, right!

Stephen’s artistic education really took off when he began studying at Batley Art College in West Yorkshire, he graduated with a distinction in Graphic Design and Illustration and found himself with a huge passion for film animation. Upon graduating, Stephen scored a job at a greetings card company that was not quite filling his creative passion. Working around the clock, Stephen began to piece together a portfolio to present to a groundbreaking animation studio to explore his animation career. Success after success, Stephen’s talent was recognised and he was signed up to work for Cosgrove Hall Productions. Stephen worked on the famous feature animation film, The BFG! With such a fantastic portfolio of previous animation projects, Stephen’s brilliance as a Visual Development Artist took a new turn: computer game design.

At this time of creating Danger Mouse, Count Duckula, and The BFG, animation was in its traditional form of hand drawing, watercolours, and gouache. After about three years in the industry, animation began to turn digital. Stephen learned how to navigate a computer when designing computer games and as they say, the rest is history.

Stephen advanced with the times and excelled at digital animation, considering the digital turn one of “a necessity as much as a choice.” Efficiency was crucial to keep up with the animation world, and his expertise influenced his venture into the fine art world.

From Computer Game Design to Fine Art Publishing

When deciding what medium to create fine art in, digital art just felt right for Stephen. A medium that Stephen likes to call “Tradigital,” traditional drawing techniques with a digital twist. Rather than his paintbrush strokes appearing as a pigment, they appear as pixels!

Toby paintings first began when Stephen was immersed in the animation world during the creation of Arthur Christmas. Stephen had created a few Toby painting for himself, and upon visiting an art gallery in Bristol, he shared his talent and lo and behold, Toby was born into the fine art universe! The gallery fell in love with the mischievous muse, which comes as no surprise.

Toby was Stephen’s partner's dog. The first time Stephen met Toby is a story in itself; muddy dog paws, running around his dog unfriendly home, sounds familiar? Toby is the ultimate “lovable dog, always getting into trouble,” and very quickly forgiven ready to plot his next mischievous mission!
Stephen has lived with dogs and found his inspiration to be a mixture of loving dogs, and loving Toby. His paints take us to ‘Toby World’ where Toby chews the mail, hates going into the sea, and loves cake! The imagination stems from observations of real life, perfectly captured through his digital technique of painting.

Toby has his own little quirks. The red ball can be seen in all of his paintings, besides of course Another Lost Ball. Dogs and balls go hand in hand, and Stephen’s art is the perfect depiction of the universal, loveable dog.

Tradigital art, explained

Stephen’s paintings are “digital paintings connected with my history beyond art.” His unique, diverse, and exceptional history in animation and film has inspired the way Toby is created.

Stephen’s method of choice is the Wacom Intuos Pro tablet, a professional, pressure sensitive tablet that allows you to pick your painting medium too! Stephen has tried it all, watercolours, acrylic, and then settled with oils, a truly advanced piece of equipment with a breadth of possibilities.

While Stephen’s methods are very contemporary, he does not consider himself a technical artist in digital terms. He still works in a way that is traditional as he hand draws the exact same way as an artist working on paper but instead, the drawing transforms from his pencil movements to an image that appears on the screen. It is a simulation of natural media and allows the artist to pick oil painting so the stylus behaves as though it is painting in oils. You colour down and blend in the exact same way.

Stephen’s excellence in digital art has been highly recognised. He has been selected as an official Corel Painter Artist, which is the painting software that Stephen uses. In 2019, Stephen was featured on the cover of Corel Painter 2019 to represent the best examples of the capabilities of the simulated painting software from the fine art, animation, and computer games industries. 

When I heard about this technique, my instant thought was the mess-free work zone that Stephen must have! Stephen loves the digital technique for its endless source of paints and paper, how he can change his vision during painting by ‘deleting’ parts, and working with the comfort that you do not fear spoiling your art as you can re-paint and modify as much as you need.

All of his work is published in an edition size of 195, with the promise of never reinventing his designs. A lot of patience, thought and attention to detail are put into each painting, some can take 3 to 4 months to finish! They are packed with sincerity and a love and admiration for Toby.

Transitioning to the Global Pandemic

“I can carry on as normal,” said Stephen when discussing the effects of lockdown. “This period of time is really fantastic, I am now getting into a mindset of exploring new things.” Positivity takes reign of Stephens lockdown outlook, enjoying the time to build and prepare new artwork for when things are back to normal!

Stephen believes the world we are living in is at too fast of a pace; “I think the world needs to slow down, and people need to embed the idea of what’s important to you.” As the restrictions go on, we are gifted more time to reflect on what is really important to us and be grateful for the things we do so often take for granted.

Stephen also acknowledges this precious time for environmental issues, scientists can get back up and hard proof facts for everything they’ve been trying to prove for decades from oil’s benefit and detriment to the world and highlight the importance of reduction to save the planet! 

Full of optimism, Stephen has been filling this time taking up new hobbies. Bicycle rides in the morning ignites his creativity and keeps the mind and body working, although he is missing his competitive table tennis league…

Stephen’s work was welcomed into the Artmarket Gallery just before restrictions were enforced. If you find yourself walking down Cottingham’s high street, keep your eye’s peeled for out gorgeous window display including all Stephen Hanson’s work. Otherwise, we can bring the art to you through the power of social media! We have a stunning collection of Stephen Hanson's limited edition artwork at the Artmarket Gallery. With collectors all around the world, we have a keen eye for stunning artwork and love to introduce new talent to our ever expanding collection.

We are very much so missing normality and cannot wait to welcome our fantastic clients back into the gallery so you can meet Toby for yourselves… In the meantime, keep safe and keep well, we will be celebrating art together again soon!

Of course, this interview took place virtually so we want to extend a huge thank you to Taome Hanson for taking the fantastic portrait shots of Stephen working in the comfort of his own studio, at home!

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