Tea and Talk with the Talented Featuring Hope Olson
by Colette Finney
With a home base of Holland, Michigan, Hope Olson creates intriguing still lifes of vibrant colors in both acrylics and watercolor. Conveying emotion and an unusual perspective, Olson’s style evokes Fauve artists such as Henri Matisse and André Derain, with a refreshing contemporary vision.
A frequent contributor to exhibits in West Michigan, she has also participated in numerous art fairs, as well as Grand Rapids ArtPrize.
CF: What motivates you to create?
HO: Oftentimes, reminding myself that my brain understands color, form, and the visual arts better than it does other subjects is enough to motivate me to make—I want to add value to this world in the best way I know how. On top of that, I enjoy painting. Even on the days when I don’t feel an eagerness to create but I know I should be making, I tell myself to still show up. Breaking down my long-term goals into fun, rewarding, short-term projects is a huge motivator for me at the day-to-day level.
CF: Do you have a typical creative routine & if so, can you share it with us?
HO: I don’t usually work by rigid routine, but something that has been very consistent in my practice is the sanctification of my Mondays: I’ve set them apart for the sole purpose of art and business. No errands, coffee date invitations, or temptations for a long weekend getaway can pull me away from the strict focus I’ve challenged myself to keep on Mondays. When I’m at the easel, my routine usually includes a combination of sketching, painting, and a lot of sitting/staring/figuring in between the briefer moments when I actually have brush to canvas. Irish and jazz music are my companions for creativity in the studio.
CF: What do you do for inspiration when you are in a creative slump?
HO: I might go to the public library and read. Sometimes I go for an absolutely aimless drive through farmland and nearby small towns to keep my eyes open for something refreshing. I guess my most practical inspiration source is Pinterest, where I can refer back to art and design images I’ve gradually been filing away.
CF: What advice would you give to new artists?
HO: Goodness, I still feel very new at it… Can we meet again in 10 years and then I answer this question? Hmm, I know there is one particular change in my thinking that was especially significant to my practice and I’d also recommend to other beginning artists: I would encourage creating a visually-consistent series of paintings rather than painting a hodge-podge of unrelated works. Marketing a cohesive body of work means that your audience can make sense of what you’re doing and where you’re going. And they are more likely to remember your art.
CF: What do you feel most proud of?
CO: Three years ago when I was graduating from college, I set a challenge for myself. I realized that in order to meet the business goals I had, I needed to be somewhere out of my comfort zone—somewhere where no one knew me or had expectations of who I was or what I was good at. I wanted to be forced to work smarter and more strategically. So I moved to an unfamiliar town in a new state. I began to network, participate in art shows, paint a lot, and make new friends. It has really been a rewarding few years. I’m proud of the commitment I’ve honored to paint and sell my work professionally.
CF: What’s something most people don’t know about you?
HO: I didn’t major in art for my undergraduate. I have a B.S. interior design and a minor in marketing. A lifelong love for art and a few elective painting classes in college compelled me to consider working as a fine artist.
CF: What wouldn’t you do without?
HO: Faith in God, my loving family, supportive friends, and music.
CF: What’s most integral to the work of an artist?
HO: It’s crucial to let go of the tendency to make excuses and point blame at external factors. Take ownership instead. Find people you trust who speak encouragement into you and then get to work. The work is really quite fun.
CF: What artist has most influenced you?
HO: I greatly look up to the work and career of southern artist, Lulie Wallace. I also am influenced by the paintings of Richard Diebenkorn, Henri Matisse, Edouard Vuillard, and Edward Hopper.
CF: What was the most defining moment that led you to this career?
HO: In fall 2013, I had just finished my required interior design internship, where I witnessed the disappointing realities of the actual day-to-day work of a designer. I had also just started my senior year of interior design courses, and any previous excitement, (I had to begin applying for jobs in the field), was waning. One afternoon, I sat down with the art professor of the elective painting classes I had been squeezing into my schedule, and he encouraged me to start selling my work seriously. He thought I could do it. I thought I could, too.
CF: What has been the most memorable response you have had about your work?
HO: At a recent show, several of the guests commented that my color palette looks inspired by the 1960’s. I had never noticed it before, and it’s always fun to hear what strikes people as unique or different when they look at work of art.
CF: What is your dream project?
HO: I’d love to have a big works solo exhibition, where the height of the paintings will extend floor to ceiling. Right now, the largest works I usually paint are about 36” inches on the longest side, but I want to go bigger!
CF: What makes your art stand out in exhibits?
HO: Although my subjects are ordinary, the palette, perspective, and compositions of my paintings are unusual. I think the naïve, casual way I use form and color takes people by surprise.
Works by Hope Olson can be seen on her website hopeolson.com. All images courtesy of the artist’s website..