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The Artist's Canvas

 

Hannah M.G.
Shapero

 

 

 

 


TWPT: How long have you been an artist? Was this something you always knew you wanted to be?

HS: I've been an artist ever since my earliest childhood, if "making art" makes you an artist. My mother is an artist and she made sure that I was painting and drawing before I could even write. I still owe most of my art training and talent to my mother.

But I didn't always want to be an artist, art was something I did on the side. For much of my youth I wanted to be a writer, and then I went to graduate school intending to be an academic (in Greek and Latin studies). But this didn't work out, and I returned to art as a career. I still do scholarship and scholarly writing.

TWPT: Could you talk a little, for those who are not familiar with you and your work, about your background in the arts field?

HS: My background is first of all in the "fine arts" that is, the kind of art that goes into museums and galleries. I grew up in the Boston area, and was always visiting the Boston Museum of Fine Arts. My family and I also lived in Europe during my youth so I was able to visit, with them, the great art museums of Western Europe. Since my mother is an artist, she encouraged me to do art as much as I could, and I took lessons at the Boston Museum School (my mother's alma mater) when I was a teenager. Later, I took some courses at Boston University Art School. Still later, I took courses in architectural drawing at Harvard Graduate School of Design. But I do not have a large amount of formal training. Much of my training is from my mother, or "on-the-job."

I have also always been interested in fantasy and science fiction art, which is not considered "fine" art, but "commercial" art, and I've done a whole lot of that during my career. I also do pictures of houses and other buildings for real estate ads; I had a job doing that for 2 years in 1988-90.

TWPT: The work that you do is not the computer generated or enhanced type of work we have seen on TWPT up to now. Could you describe the mediums you use, and if any one of them may be preferred by you over the others, and why?

HS: I work in lots of different media. My favorite medium is acrylic, a water-based polymer paint that is durable, brilliant, dries fast, is mostly non-toxic, and it reproduces well. I also use ink and watercolor, and I do a lot of work in colored pencils. My portraits are done in colored pencil. The pictures on my Web site are mostly done in acrylic, with only one watercolor, the "Alchemical Madonna." I also do computer art, though not on a large scale. I prefer the programs which simulate painting, such as "Painter Classic" and Corel Photo-Paint. I recently acquired a drawing tablet which allows me to simulate pen and brush strokes, and I'm having a lot of fun with this new set of tools. I am not ready to show any of my computer artwork, though; I'm still learning.

TWPT: There is alot of Spiritual Resonance in your work. Is this an influence of your Spiritual Path? Could you give us a small idea of the Path that you follow?

HS: I am a Roman Catholic Christian of Jewish origin. After a long search, I converted to Catholicism in 1979, 20 years ago. I am still a practicing Catholic. My interest in Catholic Christianity was started when I lived in Rome, Italy during my late teen years, and saw the beauty of Catholic church architecture, art, and ceremonies. When I returned to the USA I found that I was also attracted by the religion. It is controversial to be a Catholic, given the bad reputation of this church, but I try to follow the good things about Christianity, even though I am aware of its historical shortcomings.

Catholicism isn't the only religious influence on me, by far. I am a longtime student of Western Esotericism, which can include things like Gnosticism, Kabbalah, Magick, Alchemy, and other related disciplines. I also honor and study my Jewish heritage. And I have many Pagan friends who are eager to share their traditions with me.

And most of all, my association with Zoroastrianism, the ancient religion of Persia, has inspired me and given me many creative impulses over the years. You can find all these spiritual influences in my art, if you look. It sounds like a very eclectic mix, but I do consider myself above all a Christian.

TWPT: Are there any other topics or inspirations that have an influence on your art? Do you have a preferred topic?

HS: I love science fiction and fantasy. I have done fantasy and SF art professionally for 20 years. So there is always going to be a kind of "futuristic" or "otherworldly" quality to my art. I also love architecture and buildings of every kind. Many of my commissions involve architecture, because clients love the way I do buildings, and not too many other fantasy artists do architecture. I also do a lot of portraits, and faces, poses, and costumes are always a treat for me to draw or paint.

TWPT: How much of an influence has the Web had on your work? Have you found it a useful tool for making contacts or promoting your work?

HS: I have had a Web site now for about 3 years. I find that it is very useful, not only as a means of showing prospective clients my work, but as a place to sell art. I have sold prints to people as far away as Switzerland, because they saw my work on the Web! Just recently I am enjoying a new proliferation of Web sites with my work on them - not just my site, but numerous places with pieces of my art which are not on my own site, which link to mine. This is great publicity for me, since the more places I have art, the more the search engines will find. I get a steady amount of orders for prints through the Web and through e-mail.

TWPT: Do you promote your work only on the web, or do you do shows or galleries?

HS: I show my work at about 5 or 6 science fiction or pagan conventions a year. I buy space in the artshow and the print shop. I prepare about 8 to 12 small original pieces for sale, and about 30 prints, for the average show. These conventions can be quite lucrative, especially in print sales. I have never been successful in getting my work into a gallery because galleries regard it as "commercial" and also because I don't have enough work to fill a conventional art gallery, which likes to feature larger sets of work by one person rather than just one painting at a time.

Another way I promote my work is through simple word of mouth - I speak to prospective private clients and hear from them what they would like to commission. And then if they like the work I do for them and their friends see it, these friends then commission me to do work.

TWPT: I noticed you have done graphics for some of the Conventions and Conferences? I am sure the list is extensive, but it may help some of our readers identify you and your work. Could you tell us which conferences you have done the logos for?

HS: I've done so many! I have a little saying about it: "Been there, done that, DESIGNED the T-shirt!" I've done 6 shirt/program designs for "Sacred Space" (1994 through 1999), one design for "Ecumenicon"(1997), one shirt design for Darkover Grand Council (1984) and numerous program designs for Darkover (1982-1988), two for Gaylaxicon (1991,1992). I've also done advertising designs and logos for promotional T-shirts for the Baltimore World Science Fiction Convention ("Bucconeer," 1998) and the upcoming Philadelphia World Science Fiction Convention, ("Millennium Philcon", 2001). There are more but I can't think of them just now.

TWPT: You also attend many of the Conferences locally and show your work. > Do you like meeting and talking to the various people who admire your work?

HS: I love meeting and talking with people who admire my work. I usually have a great time going to these conferences. The conferences energize me because not only do I get to talk to fans, clients, prospective clients, and friends, but I also get to see other artists' work and talk with the artists themselves. I always like to help up-and-coming amateur artists out and often they bring me their portfolios to comment on, at these conventions.

TWPT: Do you have any upcoming shows you would like to mention? Are there any projects you are involved with that you would like to discuss?

HS: The major project I am doing right now is the fourth in my "Imaginal Cities" series. It is called CITY OF AMBER and is based on a fantasy series by the author Roger Zelazny. This picture should be done by late fall and I plan to debut it at Philcon, in Philadelphia, November 12-14. Two weeks later I will show it at DarkoverCon in Timonium, north of Baltimore, Nov. 26-28. I also plan to be at Gaylaxicon in the Washington DC area, October 8-10. But I won't have CITY OF AMBER because it won't be done by then.

I am also working on two long-term projects, one of them a series of seven Zoroastrian Angels, each one in a different color of the rainbow, with two companion pieces to make a series of nine. This is going very slowly since these are not commissioned works and thus have to be fitted in when I have the time.

My other long-term project is a "graphic novel" that is, fancy comic-book, about a wizard who works with a group of geologists during a volcanic eruption. I have always wanted to work in the comic book medium, combining words and pictures. But like the Zoroastrian Angels, this will take quite a while to finish since it is not commissioned work, it's done just for me, and does not have precedence over paid work.

TWPT:  And thank you, Ms. Shapero, for sharing your art, your insights and time with us. We enjoyed talking with you, and we love your work. And we look forward to revisiting you in the future. Again, our thanks.