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carving a niche

From Habitat magazine - issue 34, colourful person

Hannah Jensen creates works of art with depth – literally. They're carved into layer upon layer upon layer of Resene paints.

Carving artwork
Artist Hannah Jensen's work combines painting with carving

For an artist, whose medium of choice is carving, Hannah Jensen spends a lot of time painting. Every day she picks up her paintbrush, dips it into a Resene colour, and sets to work painting layers of paint on plywood. She lets it dry, repeats and then repeats again. It's a ritual that takes place from 40 to 80 times as Hannah prepares her canvas with thick layers of colour. Once complete, she picks up her tool – a Speedball lino cutter with a No.1 head (the smallest available) and sets to work, carving delicate strokes to reveal the colours.

It's a technique Hannah created at university and has perfected and honed over the past 17 years. “I've always been creative,” she says. “When adults asked what I wanted to be when I grew up, I always said an artist when the other kids said a fireman.” During her Bachelor of Art and Design at the Auckland University of Technology, Hannah used more traditional printmaking techniques. In her second year, through trial and error, she discovered carving into paint. “In my final year, I felt like a mad scientist, I made a lot of mistakes at first.” One of her first shows was at a café on Ponsonby Road, which led to more than 150 orders. And with that, she was on her way.

Hannah's love of nature shines through her pieces which include native birds and big game animals. It's a passion nurtured by visits to her late father's South African game farm – her first when she was just eight years old. “The wildness and the animals had such an impact on me. Nature is what makes me feel connected, grounded and part of the wider world.”

Hannah Jensen artwork

Hannah's artwork Kowhaihas 43 layers of paint in the shades Resene Golden Tainoi, Resene Half Scotch Mist and Resene Nero.

Her pieces include small florals and native birds such as ka ̄ka ̄po ̄ and tu ̄ ı ̄, as well as larger animals including zebras and elephants.

Hannah layers her colours from dark to light, with the depth of the tool determining the colour she unveils. The more layers there are, the more colours she can introduce. She generally works with a minimum of 40 layers (two to three colours), up to 70 layers (five to six colours) using Resene Lumbersider. Occasionally, she uses 80. Resene Hot Toddy has been one of her favourite colours, alongside Resene Polo Blue, Resene Atlas, Resene Blue Bark, Resene Alert Tan and Resene Karry.

Hannah Jensen - painting and carving

Leopard artwork

The leopard fur detail for her piece Wild Leopard took hours to create. The painting, part of her exhibition Wild, is painted in 59 layers of Resene Jaguar, Resene Hot Toddy, Resene Putty and Resene Middle Earth.

Hannah is known for her attention to detail and intricacy of strokes. Her confidence in her talent has opened doors to new opportunities, including working with Christchurch teens through the See Me Project, an art initiative with a wellbeing focus. “Some 200 students painted 200 skateboards with the help of Resene paints – giving them a platform to be seen and heard.”

Just as art ties Hannah to nature, it's also helped her form connections with her customers. “When people commission art, it brings special energy. They're treating themselves to something that feels good, that brings joy and shares their story.”

To see more of Hannah Jensen's artwork, visit For more details on the See Me Project, visit

words: Cheree Morrison


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