Name: Reiner Hansen
Age: Old enough! ?
Born and raised: The cold north…Denmark.
Art school: Kolding School of Design in Denmark
One piece of advice: Be true to yourself, don’t be afraid to experiment, be patient and don’t ever give up.
Mission Loc@l: Did you think you would become an artist when you were younger?
Reiner Hansen: I think I always thought of myself as some kind of artist. I was always drawing and doing creative things.
ML: What else did you think you would do when you grew up?
RH: As a kid I went around finding dead animals. I’d ride around with them on my bicycle and lug them home to the back garden, where I’d make elaborate burials for them. So mortician was also high on my list of professions.
ML: What did you go to school for originally?
RH: I started out studying languages but dropped out halfway through. During that time I was also taking life drawing classes. The artist who ran one of the groups liked my drawings and urged me to apply for design school. Before that I hadn’t thought of it.
ML: So where did you go to art school?
RH: I went to Kolding School of Design in Denmark to get my BA in design and illustration.
ML: How did you go from drawing to painting?
RH: I just bought oil paint and started experimenting. Years later I learned more about the materials.
ML: And how did you become a full-time artist?
RH: As an artist I was quite prolific in my 20s. I did a lot of experimentation. At one point I decided to only paint semi-abstract work. I also did design and sculpture for some years. It wasn’t before I was in my early 30s that I really dedicated my life to being an artist. I made the decision that there was no other option.
ML: When did you move to San Francisco?
RH: I moved from Europe to San Francisco in 2003, where I worked out of my home in Haight-Ashbury for some years.
ML: So how did you end up in the Mission?
RH: I missed having more contact with the art community, so the last several years I worked out of different studios in the Mission area, first at the American Industrial Building in the Dog Patch, briefly at 1890 Bryant, and then at Workspace Ltd. on Folsom Street in the Mission. It was neat to be able to hang out with other artists, go to cafes and check out the Open Studio events. My boyfriend, who is also an artist, worked out of 1890 Bryant Street Studios, so we’d meet at Coffee Bar or The Stable Cafe.
ML: Do you think the Mission is a good place for artists?
RH: Absolutely. Not many cities have areas like the Mission, with such a concentration of artists and creative people.
ML: If you were starting out as an artist today, where would you go?
RH: I really got a lot out of being an artist in San Francisco. It’s a very supportive and free environment for artists. If I were starting from scratch today, SF is a great place, but I would also consider being exposed more to some of the big art centers, NYC and Berlin, for example. Traveling to, having an artist residency or even living there. I think any place with a large concentration of other artists is worth considering. It’s important to have peers and share ideas.
ML: Where do you go for inspiration?
RH: I live in NYC now, so it’s a short trip to see lots of amazing art at galleries. I also rely heavily on my art book library at home. Last winter I spent time in Copenhagen and Berlin. Change of scenery, in terms of art, is very beneficial.
ML: What artists influence you and your work?
RH: I am influenced by a lot of artists at different times and for different reasons. More often than not it’s painters. At the moment I like to look at Otto Dix and the other German painters of his time, the 1920s to 40s. A while ago I was really interested in Marlene Dumas, Xavier Messerschmidt and Philip Guston. So it changes all the time.
ML: Do you have a favorite painter?
RH: I actually don’t have one favorite artist. I lived in the UK when I was in my 20s and I think the exposure to British artists such as Bacon, Freud and Auerbach was very influential. As well as being able to freely walk in and out of the National Gallery….
ML: Do you support yourself through your art?
RH: I have always supported myself doing creative work. I worked as a designer and sculptor and other art-related jobs. Now I support myself from being an artist and teaching art part-time.
ML: What is your daily schedule like?
RH: I work a full day, every day. I begin painting early to make the most of the good daylight. I stop painting when it starts to get dark. I work on art-related things in the evening.
ML: How do you think the world has changed for artists recently?
RH: Some good things have come from the financial meltdown in 2008. Smaller galleries are popping up, and they are willing to take on new artists and take more risks.
ML: What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
RH: “You have to do it!” Someone said that to me at the right time. Meaning: Think and dream about the great art you’re going to create, but take some action. It’s important to cultivate self-discipline and to think of art as not just something you do once in a while when you feel inspired. You have to dedicate a lot of time for your practice. The inspiration often comes from the act of doing it.
Take a look at Hansen’s work here.