Meet Aaron Hazel, the Kirkland (Seattle area) based athletic artist who can bring your favorite memories to life on canvas. When he's not doing commission work or painting his city's beloved Seahawks, much of his work is inspired by his burden for civil rights. Read my interview with Aaron to find out how he communicates through art and why he was the sweaty artist.
"I’m not sure if I’ll fully reach a creative goal. That gives me a level of angst but it excites me as well." -Aaron
You’re one of the few people I’ve met that’s making a good living by creating art. Is that what you always dreamed of doing?
Growing up, my dream was like many young boys’ of the 90’s, to play professional basketball. I played ball in college but was more realistic with myself by then. That being said, I did not think being a full time artist would be realistic either.. so my initial plans were to get a typical desk job, albeit something creative. I kept painting upon graduating though, went to workshops, got a mentor, kept learning and eventually I realized that maybe it was possible.
Tell me about the civil rights focus of your art
Civil rights issues have been weighing heavily on my mind for awhile now. These pieces seek to create a dialogue where I believe dialogue is needed. Art is such an important mode of communication. Its beauty, figuratively speaking, is that it presents itself as an idea to a viewer. This idea is something that may be unique to each person’s interpretation. While we may not come to an agreement on its symbolism, my hope is that each viewer would use this as a chance to at least consider the subject from alternative angles.
Any creative goals that you haven’t reached yet?
I’m not sure if I’ll fully reach a creative goal. That gives me a level of angst but it excites me as well. Knowing that there will forever be room for improvement. It’s a therapeutic tension, approaching each painting with the seriousness to out preform its predecessor, yet allowing the brushes and paint to “take the wheel” at times.
All time favorite painting you’ve done?
I think my favorite piece I’ve ever done was a portrait of Chief Joseph painted about a year and a half ago. It was one of the rare times where I really felt his mind body and soul emanating through my brush. As I worked, I listened to his biography, accompanied with some Native music. That really deepened the experience for me. I’ve painted a hundred Native portraits since, but that piece carried a special sort of magic.
When I first met you, I found the fact that you were a basketball player and an artist so intriguing because I don’t usually think basketball player when I think artist. Do you still play?
Yes! It was fun, and unique for sure. I remember rushing from practice, to art class, sweatily engaging in a group critique with a bag of ice strapped to my back. I also once had an art show moments leading up to a game. The pieces were displayed in an auxiliary room in the gym, and people could go in and take a look at my art as us athletes performed our own version of “performance art” on the hardwood. My parents and grandma were there for that as well, and we won both games.. That was an amazing weekend.
I don’t play as much as I should but as of this winter I’m still able to dunk, so I’m happy about that.