Interview: Painter, Hannah Hooper

After seeing the cover art for The Morning Benders' new album, BIG ECHO, I couldn't help but searching to figure out whose masterful hand of fury painted it.....Here's a lil' interview i did with Hannah Hooper. ~Keba Robinson

Keba: Have you made art your whole life?
Hannah Hooper: As far back as I can remember I've always wanted to be an artist...

K: Your paintings remind me of memories. Can you describe the evolution of your painting style from back when you started?
HH: My paintings used to be a lot worse. That's the nice thing about doing something for a while. It gets better. Now I am starting to feel pretty good about it.

K: Water, the beach, and the ocean seem to be a common thread in your work...why?
HH: Originally it was a kind of vehicle to transform portraiture into something more abstract. I painted a lot of people underwater, through water. It made a more standard figure painting into a weird distorted abstraction. It was sort of a natural progression to gravitate towards the ocean, the beach, swimmers. It's kind of funny that the idea that originally pushed me towards abstraction has been what has brought me back to representational painting.

K: Your portraits are really amazing too! Are these from your imagination or are they of folks you know?
HH: Mostly these are friends. People I'm close to. The better I know my subject, the easier I'm able to convey a certain level of honesty about them through the painting. Some I don't know, I've got to admit, but I'm drawn to them on a certain level and try to convey that connection in the piece. I still try and incorporate a certain level of abstraction in my work, I feel like focusing too much on representation really can take away from the sentiment.

K:You were born in San Francisco...what's your favorite thing about it?
HH: Growing up in SF was pretty rad. I feel so blessed to have been raised there. It is very different from a lot of other places that I have lived or explored... it has intimate neighborhoods but is still very much a city with so much culture and creativity everywhere and it is surrounded by so many beautiful places. Northern California in general is pretty epic. But if I had to sum it up to my favorites - I'd have to say...the redwoods, the burritos and my family.

K: But you live in Los Angeles, right? What's the best thing about LA?
HH: I just moved here nine weeks ago from New York so it feels a little too new to know what the best thing is but I gotta say there is a lot more space and light throughout the day than there was in Brooklyn.

K: What about the other places you've lived: New York, Berlin, Greece?
HH: They were all cool. each place seemed to served a purpose at the time- freedom, isolation, inspiration....

K: How did you get to have your artwork on the cover of the Morning Benders' BIG ECHO?
HH: I have been friends with Julian [Harmon], the drummer from the Morning Benders, forever, and I met the rest of the band hanging out with him. Chris [Chu, vocalist] called me up one day and said he saw my painting "redondo beach" and wanted to use it for the album cover of Big Echo. and I was like, of course. I was stoked to work with those dudes.
("Redondo Beach" - BIG ECHO cover)
K: Have you listened to BIG ECHO yet? If so, what's your favorite song?
HH: Stitches is currently my favorite song but the whole album is great.

K: What other artists would you say are big inspirations to you personally?
HH: Christian Zucconi, the lead singer in GROUP, has really pushed me to sing. I used to be super nervous performing and singing but he's really helped me come out of my shell in the last year or so.  If you had asked me a few years ago I would have never thought I'd be singing in a band right now. So that's pretty inspirational!

K: I just went to your band GROUP's myspace. It's awesome. How did you guys form?
HH: It is pretty random how GROUP came to be. We all met in Greece on the island of Crete in a small mountain town about two years ago. I had been invited there to paint at a residency and there was a variety of different genres of artists working there that came from all over the world. GROUP formed there - Two of the members of GROUP are from LA, one from London, one from New York and me. We all moved to LA so we could continue playing music together.

K: GROUP's music was on How to Make it in America!? I love that show!! I didn't see the last episode, but I’ll definitely be listening for you. How did that happen?
HH: We have two awesome managers who made that happen.

K: What do you do in the band?
HH: I sing and play keys and if I am feeling steady enough I'll play a lil tambourine.

K: What are you listening to these days?
HH: We are so busy finishing our first album, I haven't had the time to listen to much else then what we are working on but I love this folk singer from Brooklyn - Bentley Addison Wood. Really beautiful sound.

Go to Hannah's website to see some more of her awesome work.
And listen to the band she's in, GROUP.  They're finishing up their first album as we speak.