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Erin Hanson's Wine Country is a Technicolor dream 

Painter Erin Hanson is forever driving her van to deserted places. She packs her digital camera, some bedding (there’s a mattress in the back), and a set of steel nerves. When her cell phone loses service, she knows she’s found the right place.

click to enlarge NATURAL HUES:  Erin Hanson paints the Paso Robles landscape as she sees it: pulsing with life and awash in vivacious colors. - PHOTO COURTESY OF ERIN HANSON
  • PHOTO COURTESY OF ERIN HANSON
  • NATURAL HUES: Erin Hanson paints the Paso Robles landscape as she sees it: pulsing with life and awash in vivacious colors.

Recently, Hanson found herself high in the Cascade mountain range, tucked away on a dusty, abandoned “road.” After a day of photographing the craggy landscape in preparation for a new round of impressionistic oil paintings, she rolled into the back and closed her eyes. Snarled fever dreams haunted her mind as the pitch-black night enveloped the van like a menacing fog.

“I started getting really freaked out. It was really quiet, and I kept having these nightmares,” Hanson said. “It was so dark I couldn’t get out. I woke up at the crack of dawn and got the hell out of there.”

Usually, Hanson feels just the opposite about the places she photographs—and later paints. Her landscapes of Paso Robles are loving swirls of electric light, always in ever-changing motion. Hillsides are streaked with brilliant reds, blues, and yellows. Graphic shapes emerge from shadows and brush. Ancient oak trees look more like peyote mirages or dancing spirits than trunks or branches.

“I see bright oranges, pastel pinks. I want people to see their environment with a fresh look,” Hanson said. “Sometimes it takes a painting to actually say, ‘Wow. Hills do turn purple in the right light.’”

click to enlarge PHOTO COURTESY OF ERIN HANSON
  • PHOTO COURTESY OF ERIN HANSON

Since moving from the LA area to Paso Robles about five years ago, the painter has been enamored with the wine region. It has served as her muse over and over again, and she never gets bored. Her new coffee table book, California Wine Country: Impressions in Oil is filled with images of Paso’s snaking back roads, energetic vineyards, and rustic, cow-studded valleys.

Hanson was raised in Southern California, where looming freeways, buildings, and concrete are king.

“I grew up in a scouting family. We’d go backpacking and camping. Leaving the city and seeing 40 feet ahead of me—that was the most amazing thing I had ever seen,” Hanson said. 

click to enlarge TREELINE:  Although Erin Hanson prefers to be in Paso Robles, she sometimes trades oaks for eucalyptus. In this painting, the slender trees take on a warm, sun-drenched quality. - PHOTO COURTESY OF ERIN HANSON
  • PHOTO COURTESY OF ERIN HANSON
  • TREELINE: Although Erin Hanson prefers to be in Paso Robles, she sometimes trades oaks for eucalyptus. In this painting, the slender trees take on a warm, sun-drenched quality.

The artist’s new immersive art and wine tour sweeps through Paso Robles Sept. 1 through 30, combining her love of wine country and the fruit it produces. Her art will hang at 15 local wineries, attempting to call attention to the lush landscape so many take for granted. That being said, these scenes are not always 100 percent natural.

The artist said she often takes liberties with her subject matter: If a car or fence is “ruining” a view, she’ll simply omit it from the final product. She isn’t interested in reality (in all honesty, she said she paints how the landscape “should” be, without the disturbance of human traffic).

When Hanson began painting landscapes, her goal was simple: to stop people in their tracks. She wanted to be so good it didn’t matter that she was painting “pretty pictures” of trees and flowers and all that quaint stuff.

“The more abstract the landscapes are, the more people are drawn to them,” the artist said, adding that she’s been attracted dramatic shadows as of late. When the artist looks up at the sky, she sees different colors filtering through the trees, and her paintings reflect a mosaic, stained-glass look.

- GROOVY:  Throughout September, Erin Hanson’s work will hang at these Paso Robles winery tasting rooms: LXV, Eberle, Pelletiere, Hammer Sky, Barr Estate Winery, Cass, Graveyard Vineyards, Shale Oak, Wild Horse, Clavo, Peachy Canyon, Thatcher, Still Waters, Vina Robles, and J&J Cellars. The Wine Line will also be offering two special “hop on, hop off” shuttle tours. Visitors will not only be able to be a part of a unique cultural experience, but have the opportunity to enter raffles with prizes ranging from an original painting to Erin Hanson prints and books. For more information, visit erinhanson.com. -
  • GROOVY: Throughout September, Erin Hanson’s work will hang at these Paso Robles winery tasting rooms: LXV, Eberle, Pelletiere, Hammer Sky, Barr Estate Winery, Cass, Graveyard Vineyards, Shale Oak, Wild Horse, Clavo, Peachy Canyon, Thatcher, Still Waters, Vina Robles, and J&J Cellars. The Wine Line will also be offering two special “hop on, hop off” shuttle tours. Visitors will not only be able to be a part of a unique cultural experience, but have the opportunity to enter raffles with prizes ranging from an original painting to Erin Hanson prints and books. For more information, visit erinhanson.com.

“The wine country in Paso is probably the most beautiful in California,” she said.

Next time you’re driving between Paso Robles and Cambria, look for Hanson’s van. You may see the painter standing in the middle of a golden field or tucked into the side of a gaping rock formation. She invites you to pull over and enjoy the view, although she’d appreciate it if you left the photography to her.

“Everyone is busy with iPhones,” Hanson said. “We don’t take the time to pause and soak in the landscape.”

Hayley Thomas wants some of what Erin’s having at hthomas@newtimesslo.com.

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