Exclusive Interview With Hannah Tjia, 3rd Prize Winner of the Founder’s Emerging Artist Award, 2023 Beautiful Bizarre Art Prize by Andrea Kovacic
In this exclusive art interview, we delve into the world of emerging artist Hannah Tjia, a painter hailing from southern California. Hannah Tjia’s artistic journey reflects a beautiful reconnection with her creative roots after momentarily straying from her passion. Her studies at the Laguna College of Art and Design reignited a profound love for painting.
Through this conversation, we gain insight into her daily art practice, her unique approach to starting new works, and the inspiration behind her piece “Wolf Song” that was the 3rd Prize Winner in the Beautiful Bizarre Magazine Founders’ Emerging Artist Award. Hannah Tjia’s art, characterised by magical realism, is a testament to her love for fantasy and storytelling. We explore her favourite folklore tales and hear about her dreams to venture into new mediums.
I enjoy exploring the ethereal and whimsical in my art because in this I find joy and wonder.
Discover what Hannah Tjia is currently working on and her experience with the Beautiful Bizarre Magazine Art Prize, which has connected her with a world of talented artists. Her candid insights and encouragement for fellow artists make this interview a must-read for anyone who finds solace in the world of art.
Please introduce yourself to our readers and share a little bit about your art journey so far as a young artist.
Hello, my name is Hannah, and I am a painter from southern California. Ever since I was little, I have loved drawing, painting, and making up little stories; memories from art lessons as a child remain some of my fondest. For several years, however, I rather stopped making things, getting caught up with school studies and other interests. When college came around, I had to definitely decide what I wanted to study, and even though I was not at that moment the most motivated or interested in art, I realised that it was the one thing I was better at and a sort of unavoidable part of who I was that would be silly of me to run away from.
I had no expectations or ambitions when I first started studying at the Laguna College of Art and Design, but steadily each class completely drew me in, and I found myself suddenly so invested in drawing and painting, just wanting and wishing to be better after each class meeting. As ideas started coming, I found myself increasingly surprised by how much I wanted and needed to paint and make things. Even though I have only been painting for a relatively short time, it has amazed and graced me with joy I never expected.
What does your daily art practice look like?
Usually, I like to work on multiple projects at once for variety and fresh eyes for problem-solving, but sometimes, I enjoy focusing on one painting at a time for multiple consecutive days. I suppose it just depends on the pace of each painting. My daily painting time normally starts with laying out my palette, cleaning my brushes, and folding up paper towels which are all simple, calming tasks that help prepare me for the scarier and sometimes frustrating bits to come. I like having a list of tasks that I intend to accomplish in a day, but often the needs and direction of paintings change so I like to listen as I go, catch up when I can, and not rush.
For new works, I begin by sketching and making small colour studies, shooting and gathering references, and preparing surfaces. When the ideas are pretty solid I will make a scaled linear drawing to transfer on the final surface and begin painting. I find that materialising the initial impression and image of an idea to be the most difficult but also satisfying part of starting a painting.
If you had to choose one person to create an artwork for, who would you choose and why?
I can’t say I really have a particular person in mind; I think I would love creating artwork for any lovely person with exciting ideas and imaginative taste. The design and idea behind the project are what get me most excited to create. Making paintings for other artists, especially friends, is also a really fun, interactive, and rewarding experience because we can often understand each other well.
Can you share the inspiration behind your winning work “Wolf Song”?
Wolf Song is based loosely on a childhood memory of a friend’s video game about which all I remember was that it had beautiful colours and a character who tried and unfortunately failed to befriend a wolf by giving it food and sending hearts. The game’s design was stormy and blue-tinted and reminded me of Japanese woodblock prints. I wanted to capture that gloomy indigo mood of rain showers in a slightly nocturne light. After making the painting, I wrote a little poem or story based on these melancholy colours and feelings about a girl who was lonely and found a friend in a wolf.
Your work certainly seems inspired by magical realism. Would you describe yourself as a more spiritual person?
I love fantasy literature and art and its ability to take readers and viewers on the most extraordinary adventures, but more than the magic or magical elements themselves, I think what I enjoy most about otherworldly stories is that they help us to dream and stretch the parameters of possibility in our imaginations. I think of J.R.R. Tolkien’s literary works where his fascination with folklore and mythology and love for creating worlds are so evident and deeply guided and driven by his devout faith and belief in a God who created a world deeper and more wonderful than what he could see with his own eyes.
In a similar way, I enjoy exploring the ethereal and whimsical in my art because in this I find joy and wonder; it takes me to a place in my mind that makes every day at the easel feel a bit like Christmas morning. Art making does in a way become a sort of spiritual experience, but it does not feel so grand or lofty most of the time. It’s a bit of play and a lot of hard, slow work, but when I would much rather give up, which is a little bit every day, my faith does give me courage to pick up those brushes again and sketch even when I haven’t any ideas left. The things I make may be silly or simple or strange sometimes, yet to just be able to create and make these things is a kind, grave gift and task that I cherish every day.
What are your favourite folklore tales and/or other stories?
Some of my favourite books and stories are A Pair of Red Clogs, Miss Rumphius, Where the Mountain Meets the Moon, poems by A. A. Milne, Chinese and Japanese folklore like the Jade Rabbit and the Weaver and the Cow Herdsman, Goldilocks, the Snow Queen, and fantasy books like The Lord of the Rings and Howl’s Moving Castle. Each of these and so many more with names I have forgotten but whose stories still feel and see in my mind, are so special and nostalgic. Just as much as rereading books and reliving fond memories, I also love discovering new books to one day recall in the future.
If you could share one of your biggest artistic dreams with us, what would it be?
I often struggled to specify my dreams, but I would like to explore different mediums and ways of utilising my designs and paintings for perhaps larger projects and work together with other people. Also, if I can get around to writing well enough, I would love to write stories or books that accompany or exist independently from my paintings, but we shall see.
Why did you enter the Beautiful Bizarre Magazine Art Prize?
I always really enjoy seeing the works in each year’s Beautiful Bizarre Magazine Art Prize and just thought that I might give it a go this time. One can get so lost and confused in the ever-expanding carousel of the art world, especially as a young artist, so I thought I may just take a chance and see if people would like my art.
The things I make may be silly or simple or strange sometimes, yet to just be able to create and make these things is a kind, grave gift and task that I cherish every day.
What do you feel you have gained from this experience?
This experience has shown me so many fantastic artists I did not know, and it has also been a way for other people to view my own work. Wanting exposure or people to see and like my work feels odd and selfish of me even though I know that to show work is just a part of being an artist. Entering the Beautiful Bizarre Magazine Art Prize has been a lovely and supportive way to share and be inspired and humbled myself by all the extraordinarily skilled artists.
Would you recommend it and encourage others to enter? If so, why?
I would definitely encourage others to enter the Beautiful Bizarre Magazine Art Prize if they can as it’s a wonderful way to share our art and admire everyone’s hard work. Naturally, I think we heavily scrutinise our own work, which is not necessarily so bad, but I think sharing and seeing other peoples’ artwork such as in the Art Prize encourages and motivates us to want to make more art with a refreshed, uplifted spirit.
What is next for Hannah Tjia?
I am working on a new little series of paintings that are themed around personifying natural phenomena, structures and elements. I really enjoy working in pairs, so quite a few of these works will be matched up with each as sister paintings. It has been very exciting to experiment with new colour palettes and try to capture the various moods and lights of the moon in these paintings.