The GLY talent pool runs deep, and not just when it comes to planning and building. Two accountants are novelists. One project manager is a detailed sketch artist, and a general foreman spends his free time creating oil-paint masterpieces. Our company is filled with budding and seasoned artists whose work we delight in discovering—and sharing.
Opportunities for employees to incorporate their artwork into a client's project are coveted, and earned on their own merit. Senior Project Engineer Adam Cisler's digital graphic artwork is on display at Amazon Block 52. This summer, Project Administrator Hannah Olson had, in her words, the opportunity of a lifetime to paint not just one or two, but three massive canvases for two new restaurants at Lincoln Square Expansion [LSE]. Read on to learn more about this talented woman.
When did you take up painting and why?
I started painting after high school. My initial medium was drawing, which was how I won 'Most Artistic' in high school. In college, I took every single art class I could but ended up failing a lot of them. I’m sure it was because I never followed the rules and always kind of did what I wanted. I actually painted for the first time at the end of my last art class. I fell in love with acrylic paint, and the rest is history!
This is more than a hobby for you. You’ve become well-known in the local community. How much time do you spend painting each week? How many projects are you working on at once?
It is definitely more than a hobby. I leave work every single day and go straight to my studio. Depending on how busy I am or how much creative juice is flowing, I sometimes stay there until 1:00 in the morning! I do try to keep my weekends paint-free so I can enjoy the outdoors, whether I'm boating, skiing or hiking, but it all depends on the current level of commissions. Typically I have a bunch of paintings going on at once. For example, the LSE project kept me busy painting three 60x72 inch canvases, all with the same deadline. So I tried to focus just on them. However, at times I get distracted and start and finish a completely different painting in between. At the moment, I have six pieces I need to finish for an art show in two weeks, so it’s kind of crazy in my studio.
What inspires you?
That’s a hard one because so many things inspire me. Many of my designs stem from Mother Nature and the outdoors, but most of the time, emotion plays a key role in what I paint. One of the greatest traits we have as humans is the ability to recognize emotions and express them through art or any other passion one might have. Whether the emotion is good or bad, it’s okay to express it. It’s hard to verbalize, but when I see one of my paintings hanging up at a friend’s house, I feel the emotion that went into that painting and remember where I was at that point in life and what made me feel that way.
Poetry is another inspiration in recent months. I never thought I would pick up a poem after college but here I am reading books of poetry. It also ties into the emotion aspect. I envy authors who conjure recognizable emotions in just a few words and line breaks. It's a beautiful talent.
Finally, I'm inspired by the opportunity to make people think when they look at my paintings. Seeing the reactions they get from the public and what people have to say about them is my favorite. Good or bad, I appreciate it all and would never come down on someone for not liking my art. I also don't expect everyone to make sense of my work. The world doesn't always make sense ... why should I paint pictures that do?
How did you connect with the W Hotel? How did you know what to paint? Where are they displayed?
A couple team members dropped my name when art started coming up in project meetings with the hotel developer, Kemper Development Company, and the architect, HKS. [Thank you Kyle Morgan and Eric Vonderscheer!]. They were very interested in my story. Separate from that, I interact with everyone who comes in the door at the jobsite office and I learn more about them each time I see them. When we started building The Lakehouse and Civility & Unrest at the W Hotel at LSE, I was lucky enough to meet Chef Jason Wilson who was touring pretty regularly. After meeting his crew of people, I happened to run into his PR representative at my studio. She caught a glimpse of my art and brought it to Chef Jason’s attention. Jason prides himself on having local fresh food so it made sense to have local fresh art. After Jason asked me to paint, he walked me through the space and shared his story behind the design and what inspired him to build this restaurant and bar. The Lakehouse is a northwest themed restaurant with a farmhouse inspired menu. Mixing those two together, I immediately thought of Mt. Rainier which is what I painted for the private dining room.
Civility & Unrest is a speakeasy inspired bar. They truly capture the theme by using a flush door at the entrance covered by a painted mural. You can’t even tell anything is behind the walls. This secretive look gives you that special VIP vibe. I knew I had to do something cool with a story behind it—inspired by Jason but with my own personal twist. It is definitely something you have to see ... it should make you tilt your head and think.
GLY has many talented artists on staff. What is your advice to them?
Some of the best advice I received is this: if you can’t stop thinking about it, don’t stop working for it. Every bit of free time I have is usually dedicated to my art. If it’s not painting, I am doing things to help promote myself as an artist such as editing my website, planning out my commissions, meeting with people about commissions, taking photos for my art, applying for shows, etc. It also helps to have an office/studio to work at. Now that I have my studio I’m not distracted by things around the house. Art has my full attention when I am at my studio.
How has construction influenced your art? How has it benefited your career as an artist?
I would say architecture is most influential for me, more so than the process of building itself. My studio is located right between the Fremont and Aurora bridges, and the geometric shapes I use in a lot of my art are inspired by the triangles made by their steel beams. Working in the construction industry has provided excellent networking opportunities and new connections with potential clients. I am very thankful for the opportunities I've had to meet people on the Lincoln Square Expansion project.
Find more of Hannah's artwork on her website: www.thecolorblonde.net