Johanna Hanks was not born with a paintbrush in her hand. She didn't feel the creative muse to recapture sights she'd seen on canvas until later in life. But once she did start painting, there has been no stopping her.
Actually, Hanks was into the theater life, but while convalescing from an illness, her artistically inclined brother and daughters insisted she turn to the canvas.
"I decided to try painting as a way to keep my sanity," Hanks says. "When I started I could not draw a straight line. But I guess there must have been something inside me, because when I started it just took me over. I guess you have to be kind of different to be a painter though whose definition of normal depends on what side of the fence you're on."
She's become such a prolific painter that the Topeka resident tries to do one show a month in the summer and fall. She's been involved in exhibits, solo shows and received awards in juried competitions, so she's come a long way with developing her skills.
Viewers mostly will see watercolors of flowers at her exhibit, but she arranges her shows thematically, and each one is different. She uses a variety of mediums, including watercolors, pastels and acrylics to record anything that catches her attention.
"People ask me what my favorite medium is and I tell them whichever one I'm presently working with," she says. "I do landscapes, flowers, people; I do it all."
She even uses photography to help develop her paintings, although she doesn't copy from them. Instead, she uses them for inspiration. "I take photographs to help bring back the mood I first got when I saw the object. But I always prefer to paint live. I don't believe that you paint the same way with different subjects because you're going to get different feelings. You don't get the same feeling from a landscape that you do from a still life," she explains.
Hanks and her husband traveled extensively because of his job, so she was able to take courses at both Wichita State University and Colorado State University. She earned her bachelor's degree in art study and design from Colorado State.
She and her husband retired to Topeka to be close to family. When she's not painting, Hanks teaches art courses.
"I'm always doing something: reading on art, dabbling, thinking out compositions about things I've seen in my travels," Hanks says.
Her artistic goal is to recapture the mood that she felt when she first saw her subject matter. Then she hopes to inspire others with her work "When people look at a piece, their own relationship should form with it as it reminds them of things they've seen or felt," she says.
A native of New York City, Hanks will sometimes venture back East to continue her art studies. She and her husband recently visited New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art, where she spent time just contemplating the works of 19th century masters.
"I got to see the masters' works," she says. "They made their colors from berries and flowers. They didn't have the tricks of the trade or the shortcuts that we have. In some ways they practically invented it (painting) for us. Sometimes I wonder how the 20th century works that are left behind will be viewed in comparison. They are nothing like the masters. It just blows my mind."
From "Driven to paint" By Mitchell J. Near, ljworld.com, Thursday, May 10, 2001