A Sight for Sore Eyes
The Story of Jeffrey Hanson; a philanthropist first and painter second.
Jeffrey Owen Hanson is a self-taught artist who pulls from his own experiences similar to many working artists to this day. However, this might be the only thing that Jeff has in common with his peers. Unlike many working artists, Jeff began his journey by working out of his disabilities to give to people who were fighting the same battles he was fighting.
At the age of twelve Jeff lost his vision due to an optic nerve tumor. The spirit that surrounded Jeff’s treatment and recovery was unlike anything his friends and neighbors had seen before. Jeff was able to keep hope high while he lost the ability to fully function on his own. During chemotherapy he would do humorous things like dress up in his tuxedo for radiation treatments. Jeff also resisted any attachment to his tumor by giving it a name. CLOD began to be something he was fighting battles against, not something that was defining who he was.
As he went through chemotherapy, Jeff started to make watercolor cards in his free time. His parents saw how this lifted his mood and deeply encouraged any activity that took his mind off of his treatment. Once Jeff was finally able to come home in early February 2008, he was greeted by family and friends who helped say goodbye to CLOD once and for all. When summer started Jeff asked his parents if he could start a bistro and raise money for a high end gaming chair he had been wanting. At the same time he decided to sell his note cards and put the money toward the Children’s Tumor Foundation. Everyday, Jeff would sit outside and paint as people came through until he sold out of pastries his mom, Julie, baked.
One day their neighbor Mike, who had driven by Jeff’s bistro everyday that week decided to stop and ask Jeffrey what he was raising money for and so he told him. That same day Mike returned with the exact model of chair Jeff had been saving for. He told Jeff instead to put all the money he had saved for the chair toward someone less fortunate than either of them. Jeff knew the Children’s Tumor Foundation would greatly benefit from this money and decided to devote it all to researching eye tumors in children. That day, Mike and Julie had the realization that generosity begets generosity.
The Hanson’s felt so encouraged by Mike’s generous gift and his faith in Jeff’s Bistro. Jeff’s entrepreneurship became very apparent when the bistro began to take off, and everyone who came fell in love with his artwork. Every note card was hand painted with high contrast and pure colors. His note cards began as a pure expression of his experience of how he saw the world. With no classical or academic training, nor any interest in pursuing training, Jeff had painted with the abstract realist style because his vision had only allowed this amount of detail. Early abstract artists in the 19th and 20th centuries were in fact trying to create the reality that they were surrounded in by removing unnecessary details. They began reducing everything they saw to the color and movement it inhabited. Likewise Jeff has discovered how to translate the world around him into visual art in ways that no training can accomplish. No one told Jeff how to see, he just saw.
Jeff has labeled all of his art “a sight for sore eyes” and it has become just that. During the summer of his bistro in 2008 Jeff received an unforeseen amount of enthusiasm for his note cards. Later that year Jeff’s ophthalmologist, Dr. Grin, asked him to contribute a 30” X 40” canvas to the “Art for the Children” auction to benefit the Medical Missions Foundation. The first of many large scale paintings that Jeff would make for fundraisers and charity auctions. At age eighteen Jeff set a goal to reach one million by the age of twenty. However he ended up giving one million dollars to charity by the age of nineteen instead. Philanthropy came naturally as Jeff felt he had been given much and was entrusted to give back.
Jeff went down his own path of pursuing philanthropy first and paved a way to change the world with his art. Since the start of his bistro in 2008, Jeff became the owner of an LLC and went on to become the 2012 Young Philanthropist of the Year. Jeff intends to use his art to bring joy and hope to families in the same situations that he has overcome. “We all face challenges. It is not the challenge, but rather our response to the challenge that defines us,” is a motto the Hanson’s try to live by and inspire others to do the same. He wants to show everyone to focus on what they can do, rather than what they can’t. Jeff’s artwork is permeated with his story of hope and strength found in adversity, and because of that people all over the world collect his work. Most working artists want to make it into galleries and museums, Jeff however wants to be in people’s homes all across the world, to help bring hope to otherwise hopeless situations.
To learn more about Jeff and his work, visit his website at www.jeffreyowenhanson.com.