In viewing the artistic work of Jeffrey Hanson, one may be drawn to the vibrant colors, to the emphasis on texture, or maybe to the accomplishments of the artist himself. Diagnosed with NF1 in childhood, and enduring chemotherapy and radiation for an optic glioma tumor at 12, Jeff Hanson has surely faced his obstacles. He has also, however, created a successful business selling his artwork, and has donated more than $6 million to the Children’s Tumor Foundation and other charities.
Born with café-au-lait spots, Jeff was not formally diagnosed with NF1 until age 6 when his parents, Hal and Julie, noticed problems with his vision. Doctors at Kansas City’s Children’s Mercy Hospital performed an MRI, and discovered an optic glioma tumor in Jeff’s brain, to be named “CLOD” in later years. By age 12, CLOD’s impact on Jeff’s vision became severe, and doctor’s suggested chemotherapy and radiation.
It was during chemotherapy treatments that Jeff began to paint, first with watercolors on notecards. At the time, Jeff and his parents saw painting as a pastime – Jeff’s artistic ability had yet to be fully expressed. However, friends and family soon took an interest in the notecards, so Jeff started selling them from a sidewalk stand called “Jeff’s Bistro” and donating the proceeds to charity. He has sold over 5,000 cards to date.
Currently, Jeff’s condition is stable. His vision rebounded from about 20/200 to 20/70, and he graduated from High School at Horizon Academy in Kansas City. He now visits the Washington University NF Center for routine visits after his father, Hal, met Dr. Gutmann through a patient advocacy group. He spends most of his time working, creating artwork both for private commissions and for charity auctions.
His signature style is unmistakable, using modeling paste to create a sculpted, three-dimensional feel and bright colors that easily attract the viewer. This technique is not only the most enjoyable for him, but helps him navigate the canvas despite his poor vision, the ridges serving as a tactile guide to the piece. Jeff’s work now hangs in celebrity homes across the world, including that of Sir Elton John, Warren Buffett and John Cena, and he has a consistent backlog of private orders. In fact, he has not caught up to commissions since the spring of 2008. Since then, he has also accumulated a plethora of honors and awards, ranging from the Ronald McDonald House Charities Artist of the year in 2016 to the Small Business Administration’s Young Entrepreneur of the Year in 2012.
To all those facing a similar journey to his, Jeff has a few pieces of advice. “Take your gift and go with it. Focus on what you can do, not what you can’t do. Don’t let your CLOD define you.” And, finally, “Every act of kindness helps create kinder communities, more compassionate nations and a better world for all…even one painting at a time.”
Learn more about Jeff’s journey and artwork at www.JeffHansonArt.com.