John Hannafin Brings the World to His Canvases

By Emily Lansdell on April 28, 2011 at 11:12 am EST
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Nearly a decade ago, West Chester native John Hannafin was a green college graduate who spent his days in a cubicle, selling cubicles. Although he lost his less-than-dream job in Boston, Hannafin says it was the best thing that ever happened to him.

During his time away from the office, his mother bought him a painting set. Having loved drawing as a child, Hannafin embraced the opportunity to find a new career path. He returned to West Chester and began representing artists from Boston and New York. After trying his own hand at painting, he soon found that his work was equally in demand.

“During that time I developed my own style,” Hannafin says. “I was surprised to find some of my artwork selling better than some of the more established artists.”

Largely different in style than the traditional realism of renowned West Chester native and artist Andrew Wyeth, Hannafin’s work feels more contemporary because he incorporates wavy lines and more color. With no formal training other than occasional classes at the Chester County Art Association, Hannafin credits much of his inspiration to contemporary artists such as Vincent Van Gogh.

“My style is what I call ‘contemporary impressionistic,’ ” Hannafin says. “I keep the lines parallel and in rhythm. It gives the paintings more of a dreamlike and whimsical feeling and flow.”

While developing this style by painting West Chester’s historic architecture and landscapes, Hannafin began the first of many journeys to find new subjects when he traveled cross-country in 2007 to create the collection “Art Across America.”

This collection evolved into a hardcover book, national media coverage and a signature presentation style that incorporates a multimedia experience at each of Hannafin’s major collection premieres.

Other recent collections include “The Arizona Art Adventure” and “The Ireland Art Adventure,” which took Hannafin to his family’s native country.

No matter where Hannafin paints, he frequently uses the plein-air method by creating an entire piece while planted in the elements of his scene.

For his collection “The River,” Hannafin literally stood in the local Brandywine River with his canvas and tools to paint the 12 pieces illustrating one of West Chester’s most scenic areas. Hannafin also recently completed a 360-degree painting of downtown West Chester, which is now displayed in the office of the city’s new mayor, Carolyn Comitta.

“West Chester is a perfect place to paint,” Hannafin says. “My roots, my friends and my family are here, and my artwork reflects that. Every time I come back from my travels, it gives me a new perspective on home. It makes me appreciate it more with a fresh set of eyes.”

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