Brentwood Bay artist gaining popularity

‘Home’ a prominent theme in artist Sara Hansen's pieces following brain surgery.

Artist Sara Hansen began using Japanese tissue paper and other mediums to create texture and vibrant colour in her paintings about five years ago. Khaki House, left, uses a variety of patterned paper that gives the piece a collage-like feel, and Does my beak look fat? utilizes a blend of modelling paste and paint to create the unique texture and ‘cut out’ effect of the birds.

Sitting in her kitchen, afternoon sunlight washing the table in gold, with a vase of pink tulips heralding her hope for spring, Brentwood Bay artist Sara Hansen smiles as she starts to talk about her painting.

“People do art for different reasons. I don’t do it for the money, I do it because I love it,” she says. “I think of it more as an outlet and a passion than as a career.”

Starting off with charcoal drawing in high school, Hansen, 41, later moved into oils, but found her paintings took too long to dry with her two young boys at home.

“That doesn’t mix with kids,” she says with a smile.

And so acrylic became her primary medium, a turn that led her to become accepted at the Coast Collective Arts Centre in Metchosin in 2010.

“I couldn’t believe I got in, it was like a dream.”

She had worked just one shift at the collective when her life was forever altered.

Surgery to correct a brain bleed left her “quite physically compromised” and with a speech impediment, she says. No longer able to carry things, stand for long periods of time or drive, adjusting to her new limitations took a lot of time and energy, and made her feel like her body wasn’t her own.

“I still have the same humour and the same values. But my insides and outsides don’t match anymore,” she says.

Despite it all, Hansen says she feels incredibly fortunate.

“I feel very lucky, because I have art, and my family are awesome. My husband’s very supportive of art and my kids are a joy to me. I credit them with starting (my painting).

“There’s never a good time for this to happen, but at least I got to do everything. I got to travel, get married, have kids.”

Nowadays, she finds her painting has changed since her surgery. She can no longer be as precise as she once was and she has had to make the shift to smaller panels, not being able to stand at a large canvas for a length of time anymore.

But it has changed in a more subtle way as well, with home and simplicity featuring strongly again and again in her work.

“Home is very important to me, now more than ever,” she says. “It’s somewhere you don’t have to be ‘on’ all the time. You don’t have to worry about being on your best behaviour or not putting your feet up. There’s something very genuine about it.”

Her pieces are vibrant, colourful, occasionally whimsical and always inviting. Hansen paints homes set in green fields, or surrounded with flowers, or with patterned birds flitting through the air above. But no matter the setting, the houses all have an undeniable sense of coziness.

“The outside can be very significant to you, because you know what’s on the inside,” says Hansen.

An interesting observation, considering her disconnect with her own ‘outsides.’ She’s silent for a few moments when asked if there’s a connection.

“I never thought about it like that. There probably is,” she says, thoughtful.

Above all, it’s solace she gets from time spent brush in hand.

“Time will go by, and I’ll realize I haven’t thought about my speech impediment or my double vision. It’s like my meditation.”

That serenity seeps into her work; gazing at Hansen’s paintings invariably creates a little bubble of happiness in your chest, and she has the sales to prove it.

Her paintings rarely stay on the shelf for long. A member of the Community Arts Council of the Saanich Peninsula, she says the group has been incredibly supportive, especially after she had to withdraw from Coast Collective.

Hansen’s next show is at The Gallery at the Arts Centre at Tulista Park on June 6 and 7. She’ll be sharing the space with fellow artists Melanie Willing, Sandi Madsen and Heather Corbit, and is working steadily to ensure she has enough pieces.

“This is a really good problem to have,” she says, laughing. “I keep selling my stock and if it keeps going at the same rate, I won’t have enough for the show.”

For more information, visit cacsp.com.

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