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Artist Stephen Hanson On His ‘Friends’ Collection and The World of Film & Animation

Stephen Hanson, a renowned artist with a notorious style, chats with Close-Up about his latest projects, future endeavours and his popular ‘Friends’ collection -featuring 12 dogs in all their glory.


Q: Hi Stephen, welcome to Close-Up Culture! Thanks for joining me for this interview. First of all, can you explain what drove you to pursuing art?

A: Thanks Aimee, my pleasure.

 I was about 7 years old, one day at school I saw a classmate creating a mural out of bottle tops, each day he would add more until it began to come together and a huge dragon emerged. It was like a magic trick I was so impressed I asked if I could help him: my first job as an artist’s apprentice. After I became inspired by all kinds of things, but there is one memory that stays with me more than most and that was seeing Jason and the Argonauts for the first time on TV, I was completely transported into this world of fantasy, it just opened the imaginative part of my brain and my passion for wanting to be an artist was born. 

‘Afternoon Tea’

Q: I absolutely adore your collection entitled ‘Friends’, featuring multiple portraits of dogs of all shapes and sizes. The artwork impacted me so much that I actually now own two from this collection – Rufus and Pugly. I must say, they look great on my wall! What was the inspiration behind this collection?

Dogs have brought me so much happiness in my life as I know they do for so many people, to me they are the definition of friendship and love. The wonderful thing is that they come in all shapes and sizes and every time I meet a new dog, I feel an urge to draw them, which is pretty much that simple and it is an opportunity to honour these wonderful creatures.

Q: Are you currently working on any projects of notability that you wish to talk about? Or, are there any future endeavours you’re aiming towards?

At the moment I am waiting for confirmation on an opportunity to work as a production designer on a animation film, if this happens i may very well be tied up on that for a year or so. I am also aiming to publish some of my sketchbook work, I love looking at sketchbooks of other artists and have worked on my own for years, so much of the creative process goes into early development and for me it’s the most exciting. Of course, there are always more Toby paintings and dogs to draw and I don’t think I will ever tire of them, I have recently started doing ink and watercolour commissions and I can honestly say that when people send me the photos of their dogs it fills me with joy, and I feel honoured to be asked to draw them.

Q: What would you say are some of the greatest challenges you face being an artist, and how do you combat these in your day-to-day life?

I have too many ideas of things I want to do and I will often find myself bouncing from one to another for the whole day and end up feeling overwhelmed and confused. I still find this to be a problem but I am now trying to have no more than three projects at a time and to only work on things that I’m passionate about.

The life of an artist – Hanson’s workspace!

Q: If you could describe your career thus far in just 3 words, which 3 would you choose?

Life Long Passion

Q: I think this may be the hardest question yet! If you had to choose one of the dogs from your ‘Friends’ collection that you prefer the most, which would it be and why?

The painting of Rufus of which you own a print (many thanks by the way) was inspired by our whippet who we sadly lost a few years ago to meningitis, when creating it I wanted to capture some of his soul and spirit as well as the beauty of our wonderful boy.  

‘Rufus’ – the beloved tribute to Hanson’s whippet pal and a featured member of the ‘Friends’ collection.

Q: You’ve worked in some great films such as Despicable Me, Flushed Away and The Corpse Bride. What influenced you to delve into the world of film and animation, and what have you taken from it?

Watching fantasy TV shows and films from a young age influenced my art throughout my school years, i pretty much drew everything from my imagination and by the time I left art college I knew I wanted to be an illustrator of some kind.

My entry into animation came by chance when a friend mentioned a company in Manchester called Cosgrove Hall and suggested I show them my work, so i did and I was hired as a background painter for a feature film version of The BFG.

From the first day I started working at Cosgrove Hall I felt I had found my home and my type of people, the world of animation is filled with some of the most talented and generous artists and working along side them has evolved my work in countless ways.

When you are sat in a room with amazing talent you have the opportunity to learn from the best which inspires you to do your best and together out of collaboration of shared passion a beautifully crafted movie is made. Great artists, great people and great times.

Q: Where do you see yourself and your career in the next few years? Also, what would you say to your younger self?

Honestly, as long as I’m excited about wanting to be creative and be able to continue working as an artist I will be happy, I see my career path in the same way I have always seen it, unpredictable. A week ago my plan was one thing but then a phone call offering me a film job potentially changed those plans, this has happened so many times in my life and recently I wrote something down which at least makes sense to me, The Path You Are On Is Yours To Follow. Which I guess is what I might say to my younger self along with,  You are about to embark on a long and wonderful journey filled with creative delights and discovery, enjoy every moment, be cool and calm and be nice to people and have more confidence in yourself.


Hanson’s Website – featuring info about his artwork and background

The ‘Friends’ Collection

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