When Hannah Farr’s brother nearly died from illness, she decided to take control of her own future and pursue her art. Today I have an interview with Hannah, an artist and illustrator based in the UK. Her most recent project was painting the illustrations for A Kiss on the Nose by Laura Duerrwaechter.
Angela—How did you begin a career in art? What inspired you?
Hannah Farr—I think everyone starts their answer like this (ha ha): I have always been “arty.” Since I was 5, I remember telling my best friend at the time, Jasmin, that I wanted to be an artist when I grew up. She gasped in a shocked manner replying, “But you’re going to have work past your bedtime in that job.” Jasmin was spot on. I watched many British children telly programs, on the series: “Art Attack and Smart,” and got on my Mum’s nerves with making animals out of EVERY old card board toilet tube.
Took all of the art classes offered during my school years and had my first boyfriend dump me because I spent all my time after school, including evenings, in the art classes. He complained I didn’t see him enough. With the friendly help of my art teachers, I entered into the university for illustration (Plymouth College of Art) and now looking back, I cringe at my old work.
After three years off “uni,” I dropped all my art tools and jumped into a hole of dead end jobs for years. I went from sacking shelves to waitressing to preparing food in a deli. I was slowly becoming miserable and had art nagging in the back of my head. So I thought to myself “I’d better do something with my degree.”
I started painting my favourite thing—dogs. In my very spare time, I just painted pet portraits for £10 or even free just to have a creative outlet. This slowly got the ball rolling and was putting some of my wages in a “rainy day fund.” Then out of the blue, my youngest brother fell ill with a rare blood disease. He was rushed to hospital and was given 5% chance of living. He made it out and now everyday his health is getting better with the help of amazing doctors and nurses.
This gave my life a big kick up the butt and showed me that life can be taken away within seconds. I took “the jump” into the freelance work and bust into tears giving my boss the letter of resignation. It was truly an outburst of excitement, sadness and fear. So here I am a whole year into freelancing and no regrets.
Hannah Farr—My family and I have always had pet dogs around. The memories I’ve got of these pets have always given me this warm, fuzzy feeling on the inside. That feeling we all get when you are talking over your friend to direct their attention to that cute dog across the street or you pass a cat and it stops, looks up and starts meowing at you for you to tickle its chin is what I want to capture in a painting and give that joy to people. I generally squeal when a customer sends me a photo to paint from and it’s like the cutest dog or cat I’ve ever seen.
Angela—Often, as creatives, we can get dried up inside from too much work and not enough daydreaming. How do you keep the muses in your court?
Hannah Farr—It’s very tricky. For example, every Christmas time (my busiest season), it’s all heads down and paint like a mad woman. However, I’d say the muse is all around me. I’d say you need to find art in other means, take the night off and go to the cinema and when watching the film, really think about the colours, the use of light to create mood and the outfits the actors are wearing. You’ll be shocked how much inspiration you’d get from it! I have a notebook which is just full of ideas. I’ve quickly scribbled down words and sentences for when I finally do have time to sit and day dream.
Also, I’m a great lover of Pinterest. Sometimes, I come out of it with so much inspiration from other artist’s work that I have to be careful I’m in the right mood. Sometimes I’ve found myself comparing my work to others on Pinterest which can be damaging to the creative mind.
Angela—What is your typical work day like?
Hannah Farr—I wake up around 7 ish (now it’s winter… it’s a little harder when still dark). Coffee, porridge with lemon and honey for breakfast. I sit down at my desk and write a to-do list while watching videos of artists like Minnie Smalls or Will Terry on Youtube. Once finished with breakfast, I start painting ‘til about midday. I am at my most creative and in the mood to paint in the morning, so I really try and grab this by the horns and get as much done as possible.
The afternoon, I either wrap up orders from my Etsy shop and post them down town or take photographs of finished pieces and behind the scenes progress in my studio room for my Instagram. I’m finding about half of my customer base comes from my Instagram following and so it’s a brilliant way of keeping them engaged with my profession and allows them to get to know me as an artist.
My evenings: it’s back to painting or going for a walk in the country side if we’re having decent weather. Sitting all day inside can be terrible for my mental health and so I’m teaching myself not to feel guilty or to be too hard on myself and get off my butt and enjoy some fresh air.
Angela—Can you share your experiences while illustrating A Kiss on the Nose by Laura Duerrwaechter?
Yes! Had an email from Laura, who found my profile on “peopleperhour.com.” It’s funny as I only signed up to the website for about a couple of days and to receive an email inquiring about illustrating a short story collection about PET sitting was a dream! It’s not my first collaboration with an American author. I also painted 32 illustrations for a children’s book about a bullied bull dog: PigDog by Samantha Childs.
We discuss the details over email, I then draw up some thumbnail sketches for us to see the layout of what the page will look like. After discussing colour or re-tweaking a few details, I do the final sketch and then paint. It’s a really brilliant project to be involved in and unknown to Laura (‘til now, haha) this has helped me greatly in painting faces. I’m trained in pet portraiture. Painting people I’ve always said is “out of my depth.” Saying this, I’ve painted Laura’s face many a times in this book and now I can say I have grown my skills!
Angela—As an artist achieving your dreams, what advice do you have for budding artists and creatives in general?
Hannah Farr—Figure out what you love doing and do it with all your passion. It WILL pay off in the end and people naturally flock to you due to the amount of passion you have put into whatever “it” is.
Society has made us feel like art is not a “proper job;” that we have to do the 9 to 5 daily grind. I’ve done this in the past – it was great for money but drained my soul. I saw no real future. This can be difficult especially when everyone else around you is grinding, too.
Find people who are in the same boat as you. I joined Facebook groups, in my area, of people who are creative and it’s lovely to feel that you haven’t made the wrong decision in quitting your stable day job, even though sometimes you’re unsure when the next paycheck is coming in. As you probably know, it’s not going to be easy and you will fail, but the trick is to learn from your failure(s).
My first ever fail was figuring the total cost of a commission. I naively just guessed the postage price in the quote, so had a big, big shock when I took it to the post office! I discovered I undercharged so much that it took the whole profit of the painting away. So I practically painted it for free, ha ha!
Angela—Thank you so much for sharing with us today. Tell me all the places I can find you and your work so we can keep in touch.
Hannah Farr—Visitors are welcome to browse through my Etsy shop here to find my custom pet portraits, prints and greeting cards, all with cute pooches and kitties on. I post almost daily to Instagram. See what I get up to @hannahfarrs. My website is hannahfarr.com.