'HEFBX2' © Hannah Buchanan
Oil on canvas, 97 x 100cm, May 2018

Student Spotlight: Hannah Buchanan, Leeds Materials Prize 2018
December 17, 2018
The next student to be featured in our Student Spotlight series is Hannah Buchanan, recipient of a £500 Materials Prize awarded by ACS at the University of Leeds this year.

Over the course of 2018, ACS has been able to partner with more institutions than ever before to award a record £30,000 in educational bursaries and prizes to students throughout the UK. This particular prize marks the first time we have worked with the University of Leeds.

Find out more about Hannah's recent exploration of oil painting techniques, and how the work of ACS member Laura Knight and the environment around her provides inspiration as she enters her final year of undergraduate study.


Q. How would you define your work in three words?


Organic, refined, intimate.


Q. What does winning the ACS/University of Leeds Materials Prize mean for you as an artist?


I have often wondered how I could market my work, and what I would do to make it presentable. University terms are so busy that I often dismiss these ideas as I don’t have the time. What’s more, I am a student! Entering open exhibitions and framing work is costly, and with a tight budget it can be a struggle. To get an idea of what it will be like in the real world, I think you have to be brave and put yourself out there, and the ACS prize has given me the resources to do so.


I have decided to use the prize money strictly for marketing my work. I started by buying my own domain for a website and made business cards to promote my work. I then spoke to a number of local cafes and found a few that were prepared to exhibit my work. I then needed to think about framing pieces, making biographies and making price tags for the work. Alongside this I have submitted my work to upcoming open exhibitions, which has been less successful, but that’s okay, I think rejection is something an artist has to get used to!



After I graduate, I would like to do a Master’s in Fine Art and hopefully make a career of being an artist. This opportunity will give me some experience of publicising my work and engaging in the art world, whilst still being able to get good advice from tutors and other staff at university. To have that experience before finishing my degree will be helpful and means that I can hit the ground running after I graduate.


‘Broadstairs Beach’ © Hannah Buchanan
Oil on canvas, 75 x 60cm, June 2018


Q. What medium do you mainly work with and why?


I have previously been working with acrylic as I liked using bright colours and the fast-drying process. I was concerned that oil paint would ‘muddy’ my work as the paint has a much slower drying time and mixes easily. However, this year I was looking to adopt more traditional methods of painting and I started producing portraits in oils.


I have really enjoyed creating interesting textures, and as the colours blend well, I can keep a consistent colour palette. Painting this way feels much more natural. I haven’t wanted to touch acrylics since!


Q. Where do you find most inspiration for your work?


Laura Knight’s ‘Self-portrait’ (1913) is one of my favourite paintings, as it is an astonishing portrayal of skill and creativity, but also symbolises her dissatisfaction toward the exclusion of female artists in the Royal Academy in her lifetime. I admire the way she chose to portray something she was passionate to change, as well as creating a beautiful portrait with originality and purpose. I turn to this piece as it acts as a reminder of why art is important, and I aspire to question a viewer’s perspective in my own paintings.


I also believe it is important to look for inspiration beyond the gallery or studio space. I spend a lot of time cycling, and it gives me a chance to clear my head and see a lot of the English countryside. In the summer, when flowers are in bloom and the greenery is lush, the colours can be really stimulating, and can make me see familiar places in a completely different way. Perspective can change all the time, and this is a good reminder when trying to create new ways of working!


Q. Take us through your working process.


The general process is rather free flowing, and difficult to put into a set procedure. I could be looking at another artist’s work, and think ‘I like that, but I would have done it like this’ or I may see something in the natural world that amazes me, and want to recreate it in my own way. I look at what’s in front of me and think about what it is that makes me like it. Is it the colours? The lighting? How it makes me feel?


Recently I have been focusing on landscapes, and if I can, I start by painting from life, and take several photos to study from later. If I want the idea to lead to a painting, I will general paint straight away without preliminary sketches, as often I am more interested in the colours than creating an exact representation.


If I get excited by a study, then I develop it, and this shapes into a final composition that I can picture in my head. In the twenty-first century, there isn’t pressure to create a realist representation of a landscape or scene, so if I want to focus something specific, for example a specific colour, I can focus on that and see what comes of it. Experimentation is the best way to learn!


‘Phsychogeography’ © Hannah Buchanan
26 x 21cm, Sept 2018


Q. Can you remember the first work of art that you created? What was it and why was it so memorable?


The first works I made that I would consider as ‘art’ was a series of paintings I made when I was seventeen. It was a difficult year, and I started painting scenes of burning buildings and cities. It was the first time I had painted solely from imagination, and looking at them now, I don’t like the paintings at all. However, they are memorable for two reasons. Firstly, I was struck by people’s reaction to the paintings, as there was a very different reception to the paintings than anything else I had made. People could see what I was feeling without needing an explanation, and it gave scope for bigger conversations that I wouldn’t have been able to put into words. Secondly, it was a release, and a way of expressing myself that I hadn’t considered before.