Growing up, Phil Hansen knew he wanted to be an artist.
When I was in high school I did lots of pointilism, making images out of thousands of dots. I did so much pointilism that I ended up causing a tremor in my hand. I’d hold the pen too tight, and then my hand would shake a little bit and so I’d hold the pen even tighter. I went off to art school, but this tremor became so bad that I ended up quitting.
It was horrifying – my dream had always been to an artist, and I had to let go of that. At least I did for a while, but that creative urge just kept coming back.
Hansen eventually went to a neurologist, looking for a solution. Instead, he found out he had permanent nerve damage in his hand. But the neurologist said something that stuck with Hansen: “Maybe you should embrace it instead of fighting it.”
I went home and started experimenting and what I found was that if I worked with different materials every single time – I avoid that repetitive motion, and my hand doesn’t hurt as much.
Hansen realized he was actually becoming more creative because of his limitations. So he started creating new ones. For six months he worked on a series called “Art Happening” in which every week he would pick a news story and then create a work of art responding to the story within the next couple of days. Then there was his series “Goodbye Art” where for a year he destroyed every work of art he made once it was complete. Hansen says it forced him to stop coveting the end result.
If we’re willing to destroy something and let go of the result, then we’re more connected to the creation process. You’re essentially saying the end result isn’t as important as the creation process, as the experience. If you let go of what you’ve already made you’ll stop trying to recreate it – you can move on to other things, new ideas.
Hansen says he became much more experimental, and found new ways to make art. One of his more popular projects on YouTube is his portrait of Jimi Hendrix made out of 7000 matches.
Now Hansen is sharing his creativity with anyone who wants a boost of their own. He’s created a website of ideas for making art with everyday objects, and now he’s published a book called “Tattoo a Banana” that provides instructions and templates for dozens of projects.
So you’ve seen a banana your entire life. Well the book is called ‘Tattoo A Banana’ because you actually take a pushpin and just by poking holes in a banana, you can put any image onto a banana. And so the idea is if you can see and experience materials you already know – if you can see them in a different way – you can take that new experience, that new way of viewing things, you can take that to your job or other aspects of your life.
Hansen says people are often encouraged to “think outside the box” – but it’s also important to be extremely creative within the box, too.
When we’re kids we have the ability to just do whatever and we don’t care what the results are. But when we’re adults we lose some of that, and not caring what your art is going to look like is tough for a lot of people. So the idea is that all of these projects have a starting point, but from there you can really expand upon it and make it your own.
Hansen says his hope is that “Tattoo A Banana” will encourage more people to make art, enjoy it, and bring creativity into all aspects of their lives.