Name: Brenda Hash, PSA
Current City: Houston
1) When and how did you first become seriously interested in Art?
I’ve had a need to draw all my life, but it wasn’t until my first child was born that I seriously pursued fine art. I was in my mid-thirties, and it wasn’t an easy thing to leave my job as a software engineer and balance motherhood with my new artistic pursuits.
2) What is your training, and what medium(s) / subject matter do you work in?
In an effort to combine my interest in art with my interest in technology (and to have a job that would pay the rent), I studied computer science in college and received a master’s degree in computer graphics. That was when Star Wars was new. My thought was to go to work for Lucas Film doing computer generated imagery for the film industry. Instead, I ended up working for Shell Oil writing software to display 3D images of the earth. After having my first child and wanting to be home with him, I left the oil business and took drawing courses at the Glassell Studio School in Houston. But, my life changing moment came when I took a workshop with Daniel Greene. I learned so much about lighting and posing the model and the use of pastels, it blew my mind. The pastel medium really fit my life situation. Not having brushes to clean or paint to mix, pastel was ready at a moment’s notice, even if I only had 30 minutes to work. For the following fifteen years a worked only in soft pastel creating commissioned portraits for clients in the Greater Houston Area. About five years ago, I felt I had reached a ceiling in pastel portraiture and needed to add oil painting to my skills to get corporate or institutional commissions. I studied with Robert Liberace and the instructors of Studio Incamminati: Stephen Early, Lea Colie Wight, Kerry Dunn, JaFang Lu, and Natalie Italiano. Now, my studio is split in half; one side devoted to pastel and the other to oils. My favorite subject is still the portrait. Coming in second would be still life. I’m working on landscapes, but they just won’t hold still.
3) What do you try to express in your work?
In my portraits, as well as my still lifes, I want to evoke curiosity. I want the viewer to be persuaded to wonder, to look deeper, to desire to know more.
4) What artists/professionals have been your biggest influences?
Daniel Greene’s clarity in describing his approach was exactly what I needed when I was entering the art world. His engineer-like approach to teaching resonated with my thought process, since my training and my natural bent are very analytical. I even had the pleasure of introducing Mr. Greene at the Portrait Society of America’s Conference several years ago. As for Rob Liberace, I joke with him that when I decided to pursue oil painting I followed him across the country to be able to paint with him. And, I actually did…from Philadelphia to Whidbey Island, WA and several stops between. I continue to learn so much from him about the quality of line and edges. The instructors of Studio Incamminati also influence my oil painting. I’m losing track of the number of trips I’ve made to Philadelphia to study with these awesome artists. I have even partnered with this atelier to bring their instructors to the Houston area for the last three years. You can see the influence of Nelson Shank’s color sensitivity in their work, and I want that to be evident in my work, also.
5) What do you do to gain new inspiration for your work?
I believe inspiration comes from being observant and staying curious. If something causes you to stop and be in awe, paint that!
6) What would you like to be doing with your art ten years from now?
My hope is that I’m producing more work and that each piece is better than the last one. I hope they are more interesting and more cause for the viewer to stop to get a closer look. If I am fortunate enough for them to be hanging in an institution, my prayer is that each portrait is a source of inspiration to the next generation.
7) Do you set goals for yourself concerning the making of your art?
Goal setting for my artwork seems to come in the form of commission and competition deadlines. That’s just the honest truth. Recently, I ordered a large set of beautiful, handmade frames for small works to force me to paint smaller images (smaller than 8x10”). I tend to work large, and it is such a feeling of accomplishment to work on something small that doesn’t take three to six months to finish. So the goal is to fill the frames…with a cohesive body of small works…that I could sell…to be able to buy more art supplies.
8) Are you happy with your job choice as an artist? Do you have any regrets in this career choice or things you would have done differently?
Being an artist is a dream job. Sometimes I wish I had been brave and studied fine art in college, but then I remind myself of two things. First, there was a serious lack of representational education at that time, and knowing me, I would have fought with too many professors to have been successful in their art world. Second, having a computer science background has been immensely helpful in my art business. I have the skill to put together my own website and to easily work out compositions that have to rely on photography by using software rather than doing it by hand.
9) Any fun or interesting facts about yourself that you'd like to share?
Being a mother and an artist has led to some difficult decisions along the way. While I’ve had a very supportive husband that has cooked many of his own meals during times when I was consumed by a painting project, I knew that I would regret missing important moments with my family. I had to decide a long time ago that my art career would take a back seat to raising my two boys. So… I was the room mom that made the over-the-top bulletin boards for the teachers. I was the mom that invented and ran the school’s weekly, gifted math club called Equations League. I was the mom that brought my boys to the science museums and the art museums and even went on Boy Scout campouts (and won the Best Female Shot Gun Award). I was the mom that painted ten, 8x8 foot paintings that were rolled out onto a football field for the high school band’s marching competition backdrop… one of which was a portrait of Lady Gaga. And, over the last two years, I was the mom that visited the colleges and helped my two boys move to Baylor University to study Computer Science. And that is where I discovered any empty space in a brand new building that screamed, “Put a portrait here!” The unveiling of Dr. Gordon K. Teal, oil, 36x48” was held at Baylor University last October.
10) Best piece of advice for other artists?
I’ll simply pass along the advice I received when I asked that question of Daniel Greene. I participated in a critique he gave years ago at the Portrait Society of America Conference. When my image came up for critique he commented that it could have been a finalist in the exhibition at the conference. Unknown to him I had entered it in the competition that year, but it had not been selected. So, I approached him afterwards to ask him how to push my artwork to the next level to get the attention of jurors. He looked me straight in the eye and said, “Paint, paint, paint”.