CREATIVITY AND CONSERVATION
How did you get started on your path as an artist?
I’ve always been into art. I studied fashion design at uni, and I did a lot of drawing for my degree. I started working in the fashion industry, but found myself doing my own art whenever I could. I had long commutes and would always be drawing on the train; I’d draw in my lunchbreaks at work; I’d draw on the weekend … My partner was actually the one who encouraged me to take it to the next step – he could see how much I loved it.
Ultimately, being an artist felt more authentic for me than being in the fashion industry – I love going bushwalking and being in nature, and what I’m doing now is really meaningful to me.
What’s your creative/production process?
I started off drawing from other people’s bird photographs – I’d message them and ask if I could use their photos for reference. But then I met my lovely friend Judi who’s a photo artist. She lent me a camera, which I took to Zealandia (the Wellington Ecosanctuary). After I borrowed her camera for one day, I was hooked! This was about three years ago – and from that point on, I never looked back. It was the best thing ever to capture the birds in their natural habitat, witness their behaviour, their movement, their characteristics … which then makes it easier for me to draw them.
When I get home, I look through my photos and choose the ones that I feel are the best representation of the birds. I want to share my experience and tell a bit more of the story about the birds (whether they’re endangered, current conservation efforts, and that sort of thing). I usually don’t copy my photographs exactly; I use Photoshop to combine a few photos into an overall composition. I love to draw pairs of birds – but of course, capturing them together can be tricky! So Photoshop allows me to place two separate photos together to show their interaction.
It’s fun to play around with multiple images and be creative about how I portray the birds. Occasionally I’ll get the perfect shot, and I’ll draw it similarly to the photo – but that’s more the exception than the rule!
What medium do you use for your drawings?
I use a fine-tip (0.05) black Staedtler pigment liner, which is the smallest size – the nib of the pen is very, very tiny. I have my photographs up on my computer for reference – so I can zoom in closely on details to depict them accurately. And I very slowly create layers and details – my originals usually take 2-3 months or longer, and I work on one piece at a time. They’re usually quite large (A2 or A1), so it’s a very long process, but I really enjoy seeing it slowly come together.
What do you love about what you do?
I’ve taken some amazing trips – it’s so exciting travelling to unique places in New Zealand and seeing a rare bird in the wild. I also love being able to use my art in fundraising for conservation. I do lots of fundraisers where I release an artwork and donate a portion of the proceeds to conservation groups. I love that I can use my artwork to sustain myself in a full-time job, and help the subjects that I’m drawing. And the third thing I really love about what I do, is hearing from people who purchased my works and what it means to them. I’ve heard some wonderful stories of how the artwork is special to them.
YOU CAN SEE AND PURCHASE HANNAH’S ART ON HER WEBSITE: WWW.HANNAHSHANDART.COM