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About The Artist

Hanne Lore Koehler
Artist Hanne Lore Koehler Born in Aachen, Germany, I grew up in Ontario, Canada, where I still live with my husband and family from which comes the inspiration for much of my work. Although I did not have a formal education in art, when it comes to my work, as in my life, I have always followed my heart.

My vibrant watercolors and oil paintings cannot be labelled in only one category. My paintings reflect my life: enriched with excitement as well as quiet times. My fascination with capturing a flash of movement in a motionless artform is evident in my sports paintings and energetic portraits. Moments of tenderness are reflected in my still life art, gardens and landscapes. Humor and silliness reflect in my fantasy paintings for children. Love of life permeates all my work.

I like to portray my subjects with detailed accuracy yet inject my own unique style into an image. My watercolors are characterized by a wet-on-wet background which matures to a more definable foreground and finally, with detailed brushwork, concentrates on a focal point and ripens. This not only creates a feeling of depth but is my attempt to guide the viewer through a gamut of emotions, challenging the imagination, yet unveiling my emotional connection to my subject.

When my husband, Stephan and I purchased our modest home in the country thirty years ago, we were surrounded by farmland. There was a "pick-your-own" raspberry farm across the road from us that also sold berries from a roadside stand in the shade of an old Oak. Unfortunately, this land has recently been developed with executive homes; however, our three acre lot backs onto the Grand River and has many mature Spruce, Pine, Birch, Maple, Apple, Sumac and Walnut trees. Happily, the new development has not discouraged area wildlife. We have more than twenty deer visiting daily. In the evening and early morning, they come right up to the house.

Along with about six resident groundhogs, a family of foxes, raccoons, skunks, possums, wild turkeys and countless friendly chipmunks (that climb onto our laps and eat peanuts right out of our hands as we enjoy summer evening dessert in our patio swing), our river is home to a family of beavers, muskrats, fishers, snapping turtles, blue herons and many species of ducks, geese and fish. Tundra swans stop over during spring and fall migration. Even the occasional wolf and some coyotes have been spotted. With all this wildlife, you can imagine that gardening can be quite the challenge. We tried a vegetable plot when we first moved here, enthusiastically planting all sorts of seeds, diligently hoeing and devoutly staking and watering plants; however, when it came time to harvesting, the animals beat us to everything. We did not want to erect fences - none of our neighbors have, either - to keep the area open to wildlife. Their freedom seems to mirror ours.

Through trial and error over the years, I have restricted my gardening to flowers and shrubs that deer, rabbits and groundhogs don't eat - Day Lilies, Black-eyed Susans, English lavender, phlox, Shasta Daisies, Malvia seem to flourish in addition to the wild phlox, blackberries and wildflowers that line the property. We created a rock garden with creek that extends from the back of our house down a hill to a Lily pond. We left part of the hill grassy for winter tobogganing - when conditions are right, we build a luge track, banking the sides of a labyrinth of curves with snow. This activity, once enjoyed by our son, Michael, and daughter, Christina, and their friends, is now a favorite of our grandsons, Jake and Brody and a new crop of neighborhood children.

One of our neighbors makes a hockey rink (complete with floodlights) back near the river every winter. You can find many of the men there flooding the rink until midnight with water pumped out of the river. They usually keep a bonfire going and take turns warming up. Neighborhood kids just love it! The smack of a hockey stick against an icy puck seems to echo through our valley for miles.

In spring, summer and fall, the river is host to canoes, Kayaks and rafts. We have spent many happy hours on its banks fishing and picnicking with our grandsons. You can still see the remains of an old treehouse built by our children and their friends in a huge old Willow. With Steve's help, our grandsons built their treehouse in the Chestnut tree. To them, the fun is in the building and they seem to remodel it every year.

Because we enjoy the serenity and freedom of country living yet live close to city amenities and conveniences, we seem to have the best of both worlds and the variety of activities that comes with the change of seasons seems to keep us looking forward with anticipation to the next season. I feel blessed to have been exposed to many facets of life. Hibernating farms in frosty winters, skiing fun, building a snowman, melting forest creeks, apple and cherry blossoms, fishing, boating, swimming in a refreshing lake in sweltering heat, splashing off a dock, baseball, horses, racing, slow walks along a country road surrounded by the spectacular colors and smells of autumn, music, little league - this variety in my life is reflected in the variety of subjects in my paintings as well as the media I use. Most critics, print publishers and galleries prefer to slot an artist into a particular category (i.e. wildlife watercolor artist). Although I am inspired to paint the occasional bloom, to me it would be very boring, for instance, to paint nothing but flowers and use only oil paint. I am afraid my life would be stagnant and my work would become stale.

Many aspects of my life are reflected in my paintings. I am inspired by daily occurrences: the way a beam of sunlight can backlight a rose petal on a summer evening, a misty shadow on a moody meadow, children laughing, reflections. The icy crack of a slap shot at 5:00 a.m. practice is to me as intriguing to paint as the cup of steaming hot marshmallow chocolate afterward. The adrenaline rush felt by a skier blasting through powder, the priceless expressions on the faces of youngsters in an energetic soccer match, the simple flicker of a lace curtain in a summer morning farmhouse breeze, a new pet - life is full of excitement and wonder. I prefer to concentrate on painting the best of life rather than the worst; as such, my paintings often reflect my love and appreciation for country life and many of my portraits depict country children enjoying the simple pleasures that come with country living.

Although my subjects are as varied as my interests, they always exude my love of life. I hope to arouse a "feel-good" emotion in the viewer with my paintings - happiness, reminiscence, excitement, contentment, amazement - as I try to satisfy the eye with form, the mind with purpose and the soul with imagination.

Variety in my work is not only reflected in the subject matter but also in the media. Depending on my mood, the subject, the lighting or the commission, I will use watercolor, oil paint or acrylic as a means of expression. Whatever the medium, my paintings are vibrant and colorful reflecting my emotional involvement in my subjects. I try to portray my subjects with detailed accuracy yet inject my own unique style and sensitivity into an image.

I prefer to paint action-filled compositions, not only in sports art where the excitement of the human figure in action is a challenge to paint that I find difficult to resist but also in landscapes, portraits and still life. To me, the sense of movement in a painting brings life to it. A landscape with rustling creek or rising early morning mist or billowing clouds is very appealing to me to paint. The colors of fall, in particular, which last only a few weeks, seem to represent the changing seasons, changes in life, anticipation of the future and movement in the painting seems to be a natural portrayal of the season.

I will also add a little bit of movement to still life paintings just to add life and energy; for instance, steam rising from a cup of tea or a freshly baked apple pie or ice skates hung by the fire to dry with a lingering drop of melted snow clinging to the blade. This, to me, tells a story.

I also prefer to paint portraits with movement that show the character of the subject; for example, my painting called "Tracy" of a girl on a swing with blue jeans and running shoe lace untied: she is obviously a Tom boy. For her family to recognize and appreciate her character enough to have her painted that way for posterity is, in my opinion, a greater treasure than having her painted in a formal stoic portrait. Formal portraits of the past were generally rigid, sterile poses for the simple reason that a person would have to sit in one position for hours in order for the artist to capture the nuances of his subject. Today's formal photographic portraits are still based on our perceptions of those old formal oil paintings.

Just as life and technology have evolved over the past century, I believe that portrait art should also evolve, reflecting today's lifestyle and using today's technology. In my opinion, the artist with vision is the one who uses modern technology to his advantage. Contemporary portraiture, like today's lifestyle, is becoming less formal and rigid now that a subject can easily be captured in a natural unpretentious composition with the aid of photography. Such relaxed and informal portraiture is more suited to country lifestyle and very compatible with country decor. Naturally, I prefer to work from good color photos but I realize they are sometimes hard to come by so I do the best I can with the photos I am given. I am often commissioned to create a vibrant colorful portrait posthumously from an old black & white photograph. My painting of Tracy on the swing as an eight-year-old was done when she was in her thirties. Her parents had only a few photos of her but none that actually portrayed her personality. I composed the "swing" action painting based on their description of her as a child and using only a basic head & shoulder photo.

Occasionally, weather and time permitting, I paint and sketch outside; however, it is generally more convenient to work at home in my studio. I often roam our town and the countryside in search of inspiration, taking photos that capture fleeting moods of ephemeral light and elusive moments of motion which I later try to express on canvas in my studio. Capturing sports action in a photograph to recreate the excitement with paint and brushes in my studio is practical. Photographing cold winter landscapes to paint them in my warm comfortable studio is more pleasant than freezing while painting on site.

Although I enjoy painting with oils and acrylics, watercolor has emerged as the natural medium for my artistic expression. It is unpredictable and spontaneous and totally suited to my instinctive and impulsive nature. My watercolors are characterized by a vague wet-on-wet background (i.e. wet paint on wet paper which causes colors to blend in a blurring effect) which matures to a more definable foreground and finally, with detailed brushwork, concentrates on specifics of a focal point. This technique not only creates a feeling of depth but seems to challenge the imagination. With this I hope to guide the viewer to see the subject from my perspective both physically and spiritually.

My style might be described as naturalistic because I paint from instinct. I paint for the love of it with the spontaneity, confidence and flexibility that comes with a trial and error learning method. I am not formally educated in art but when it comes to my work, as in my life, I have always followed my heart. For the most part, I am self-taught, although my father, who studied art in Cologne and Vienna greatly influenced my style by exposing me to all sorts of art at a young age. I am grateful that he gave me basic tools and allowed me to experiment. As such, painting has been part of my life since childhood. As a child, I loved a rainy day because I could spend the time in my room drawing and painting. By secondary school, I had won a number of awards in contests for which my teachers had entered my work (one was in a national exhibition). This was a source of pride for me when I was young but I soon came to realize that art was subjective. A piece that is loved by one person can be detested by another. Personal tastes make it impossible to be objective and there is no such thing as an impartial critic or judge; therefore, I do not enter contests on principle. If I do not enter contests, I cannot win awards. My reward comes in the enjoyment of creating the piece and when it is loved enough by someone who is willing to purchase the piece, I am ecstatic.

The first painting that I sold was of a country drive shed that I came across. As I was sitting at the side of a quiet gravel road painting the scene enjoying my freedom, the owner of the farm came out to have a look. When I was finished, he introduced me to his wife who was blind. He described the painting to her in detail. When he had finished his description, she said. "I love it, we'll buy it!" I was stunned! This was the incentive that I needed even though I knew the sale was more the result of the man's talent for words.

When I had a number of paintings completed (they were all country landscapes in our area depicting old barns, farmhouses, fields, etc.), I mustered enough courage to take some of my paintings to local galleries, where, to my amazement, they were enthusiastically accepted. Like most artists beginning a career, I would also exhibit and sell my work in art shows and, as my portfolio expanded, I eventually built a customer base and became established.

Steve, who has always been supportive of my work, renovated our home to include a studio for me which has great views of our back yard and the river. He also included a small gallery for me to display my work. Renovating seems to be a continuous job around here. Even I learned to make cabinets, tape drywall and do masonry. With instructions and direction from Steve, I laid the rocks on the front face of our home by myself, fitting together limestone quarry rocks like a jigsaw puzzle and hand-mixing mortar in a wheelbarrow, while he went off to work. Together, we designed and built our fireplace, built additions and tore down walls for an open concept floor plan.

In the latter half of the 1990's, I researched and learned some computer skills and eventually built my own website from which most of my sales (both original paintings and prints of my work) are now made. Although most of the Internet sales of my images have been to U.S. and Canadian customers, my work can be found in Japan, Britain, Germany, Africa and Australia. Local customers still come to my studio gallery to browse or commission a painting; however, it is just as easy to email or mail me a photo of your new grandson from Iowa, your cabin view from Colorado or your farm in Wisconsin. I would be delighted to submit a quotation on a painting of your favorite photo or on an original painting I have displayed on my website. If you decide to order a painting, your custom commissioned artwork will be delivered to you within a few weeks. An available original painting that I have already completed or a reproduction (print) of an image can be delivered within days. The average painting takes a week or two to complete and a very involved detailed one can take several weeks to completion.

A few years ago, I was asked to illustrate a children's picture book for Mightybooks.com, an online book publisher, who converted some of the stories to audible learn-to-read books. I enjoyed the experience so much that I wrote and illustrated a few childrens picturebooks of my own. This led to book cover designs, character develpoment and caricatures and children's wall murals.

It was never my intention to become a famous artist but only to earn a living doing what I love to do. All my life I have painted for the joy of it.