Hannah Wade in Woolwich, Maine
The natural and mysterious landscapes of Hannah Wade's paintings are enveloping. Her most recent work - large and unabashed - makes itself known on five-foot tall canvases painted in lush green tones. No doubt, Hannah has been influenced and inspired by the colors and textures of her new home.
As a globetrotter and former urbanite, Hannah is familiar with the cramped confines of city living. Having lived in San Francisco, New York, London and Puerto Rico before returning to her home state, Hannah was always forced to keep it small. In her prior life, finding adequate studio space tended to be an uphill battle. She often would have to share cramped, unheated spaces with other artists. Yet, it was too small for the work that was in her heart to create.
Hannah grew up on a farm in a small rural area town in midcoast Maine. She didn't have a lot of access to other artists or an artistic community, so when she graduated high school, the first thing she wanted to do was leave. But circuitously, her life and inspiration led her back to her home state. When her husband found an old hay farm and farmhouse to purchase in Woolwich, Hannah leapt at the opportunity to start a new chapter where she would have more time and space to create the work she longed for.
"I think if I had moved back earlier, the relative isolation would have been difficult. Now that I am in a different place in my life, I welcome solitude, and it helps me work."
Hannah and her husband were concerned that they would have a hard time making friends and finding an art community in their area. However, since moving, Hannah has found even more of a close-knit artistic community than she had before. Another fear that held her back from moving earlier was wondering if she could keep her art career progressing in a small town - hours away from any major city center. Instead, she's actually found genuine connection and organic networking opportunities to be that much more fruitful as result of living in a smaller community.
In Maine, Hannah has been able to relax into her work, creating less from a place of stress and relentless productivity, but more from her intuition. While Hannah has been painting landscapes for awhile, the astounding effects of living in a place with four distinct seasons and a spectacular natural environment has inspired her to push her expression even further and paint from a place of peace and belonging.
For readers based in Maine, Hannah's work will be on display at Dowling Walsh Gallery in Rockland, Maine from June 3rd-25th, 2022.
Q & A
What inspired you to move to the rurally?
My parents were “Back to the Land” hippies, and I grew up on a horse farm in Waldo county, and then spent my 20s and early 30s in urban areas. After 15 years away, I started to realize how special Maine is, and I missed the quiet and calm of rural life. As an artist, studio space in urban areas is difficult to find, so the prospect of having more space to work was also attractive to me.
What made you decide to settle in this particular area?
My husband and I wanted to live in the country, but still be reasonably close to Portland. When we found a small hay farm in Woolwich, it seemed like the perfect mixture of rural living while still having access to all of the activities available in Bath and Brunswick. There are a lot of artists working in this area, and it is in between Rockland and Portland which both have strong arts communities as well.
What do you love about this area where you settled and what (if anything) is challenging about living in Maine?
I love how friendly everyone is, and Bath is a picturesque city with an active downtown. There are lots of hiking trails, and it is an easy trip to the beaches at Reid and Popham.
Initially what was the hardest part about making the move?
I’d say that the hardest part of living in Maine is socializing, as you tend to have to travel a little way to see people.
What surprised you most about country living? What was the expectation versus the reality? Since I grew up here I was already familiar with rural life, but I think if I had moved back earlier, the relative isolation would have been difficult. Now that I am in a different place in my life, I welcome solitude, and it helps me work.
Do you miss anything about your previous life in the city?
While I am thankful for the natural trails here, I do miss wandering around city parks with outdoor sculptures and gardens. Maine has many wonderful museums and galleries, but it is nice to visit larger cities and see what they have on view as well.
When did you start your painting journey and how long would you say it took you to find your own unique voice in the medium?
I’ve been painting my entire life, and it has been my primary interest since I was a child. When I found my unique voice is an interesting question, as my work has changed a lot over the years, but I started focusing on landscape probably around 2008. At that time, I was exploring various mediums, and my work did have a different feel in the beginning. Once I moved to Maine, painting became my primary medium again, and everything began to coalesce in a new way. I started opening up my practice to more abstraction and a different color palette, and having more uniform dimensions. While I have centered on landscape for years, my Maine works all follow the same cycle, and my concerns have narrowed.
What is your creative process - how do you get ideas from ideation to completion?
At this point I have been working with the same ideas for long enough that paintings occur to me spontaneously, but not all of my ideas make it to canvas. I make a lot of digital sketches, and then work with the ones that feel most urgent.
What do you appreciate the most about the life you are building here?
The ability to focus on work without distractions, and having the space to create.
Do you have any suggestions for creatives and artists who want to move out the city but are worried about building a sustainable livelihood, losing opportunities and building a rural creative community?
Everyone has a unique background, so it is hard to offer advice. One aspect of Maine that was appealing to me, is that it has a history of being a place for artists, and is home to many respected institutions. In some ways, I have had more opportunities since moving back, and a lot of that is due to organizations like CMCA and the Portland Museum of Art actively engaging with local artists. If you are an artist hoping to leave the city, it might be beneficial to look for places that already have a creative community in place, and a culture that is supportive of artists.
Where do you draw your inspiration and passion from for your work?
I’m inspired by other artists, and also objects I see in my daily life- primarily plants, fruits, and animals. I’ve always been driven to create, and it is the way I process and interpret my life and environment.
Have you noticed a change in yourself mentally/physically/spiritually since moving away from the city?
I am probably calmer, and more focused. I used to move around quite a bit, and starting over in a new place can be stressful. Committing to living here has taken a lot of the uncertainty out of my life.
Walk us through a typical day in your country existence? How does it compare to the day in your previous city life?
I don’t have a set painting routine, and sometimes I will work early in the morning, sometimes late at night. I try to be careful with my relationship to my studio, and accept that inspiration ebbs and flows. Some days I will paint for 8 hours straight, while other days will just be spent looking and sketching. I never want to force a painting, because I think that can lead to creative block. My life in the city varied, but I always had to travel to my studio, and at times my space was just a small wall in a room full of other artists. Having a home studio now is a privilege that I appreciate immensely, and it allows me more freedom and flexibility.
Do you have a specific space or place that restores you and/or helps you feel inspired?
Going to see the ocean in wintertime is restorative for me, when it is empty and quiet.
What are some common misperceptions about life in the country? What do you want people to know/understand about life in small communities?
I think sometimes people don’t realize how many things there are to do in the country, because they are more accustomed to urban activities. If you are open to new experiences, there are a lot of learning opportunities to explore in rural areas.
What are your future plans/goals for the coming year?
I have a show opening on June 3rd, 2022 at Dowling Walsh Gallery in Rockland so I am getting ready for that, and looking forward to it.