Doug Hansen talks of decision points between life’s ‘Bookends’

Art by Doug Hansen's "Bookends" exhibition

~ By Lisa Maria Boyles, communications specialist for the College of Arts and Humanities

In figuring out how to frame his artist’s lecture, illustrator/artist Doug Hansen reached back to his earliest memories as an artist, back to his childhood as the eldest of six children in an artistic family.

It all comes down to choices we make at various decision points along the way.

Doug HansenDuring his lecture about his lifetime of artwork (so far), delivered to a full house on Jan. 25 in Conley Art Lecture Hall, Hansen highlighted steps along his path by looking at the choices he made along the way at his decision points. Here is what he said about just a few of them:

Decision point: Where should I go to college?

Hansen’s career as an illustrator began as a student in the Art Department at Fresno State in 1970. His cartoons and comics for the Daily Collegian campus newspaper earned attention and recognition for Hansen and helped launch his career.

“I didn’t do a lot of research into my college choices, I’m kind of ashamed to say. Fresno State — that sounds good! … I chose Fresno State with no research — it was convenient. But it turned out to be all right.”

And he met his wife, Susan, during his first semester as a student at Fresno State.

Decision point: Should I stay in Fresno?

“Fresno struck me as a weird place … kind of a collection of roadside attractions,” Hansen said of his early opinion of his hometown. “I created a series of rather snarky posters called ‘The Seven Wonders of Fresno'”

But after graduating from Fresno State, he decided to stay here. And his opinion of Fresno has softened over the years: “The Valley, we’re our own special place, aren’t we?”

The exhibition name comes from the fact that Fresno State has “bookended” his art career, beginning in 1970 when he was an art student and ending with his retirement this year as a professor from that same department.

Fresno State — and Fresno — is better for the choices Hansen made at his various decision points, the choices that brought him to this university and kept him in our community, illustrating the pages of The Fresno Bee, the “Fresno Sketchbook” volumes, pages of books of essays by local organic farmer David “Mas” Masumoto and several children’s books.

Decision point — Go back to school

Hansen returned to Fresno State in 1999 to earn his master’s degree in art. He was awarded the graduate Dean’s Medal in 2001.

“I came back to my alma mater,” Hansen said. “I surprised a few people when I chose to work in three dimensions instead of my usual two. … But can you see the connections with the kinds of things that I like? Themes from childhood, playfulness, a mermaid.”

Several of those three-dimensional works can be seen in the “Bookends” exhibition.

Decision point — Time to leave The Bee

“I didn’t think I could keep bringing the same high level of creativity to the job [at The Bee] The fair comes around every year, we’ve gotta do the fair,” Hansen said. “The news is always changing, heaven knows. But there are also things that are repeating. With my newly minted master’s, I decided to take a shot at an open position here in the art department.”

After working for more than two decades as a newsroom artist at The Fresno Bee, Hansen returned to Fresno State and the Department of Art and Design in 2001, this time as full-time faculty and eventually a professor of illustration. He is now a professor emeritus in the graphic design area.

During his 15-year tenure teaching, Hansen also illustrated six books, three of them his own children’s books.

“I started at Fresno State. I don’t want to say I finished at Fresno State. I’m not dead yet. We’ll see what comes next.”

Hansen’s talk was followed by a reception in the Phebe Conley Gallery next door, where his “Bookends” exhibition took center stage, featuring more than 100 pieces of art, many of which have never been on display before.

“Bookends” will continue to be available for viewing in the Gallery from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Mondays through Fridays until Feb. 22.

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The College of Arts and Humanities provides a diverse student population with the communication skills, humanistic values and cultural awareness that form the foundation of scholarship. The college offers intellectual and artistic programs that engage students and faculty and the community in collaboration, dialog and discovery. These programs help preserve, illuminate and nourish the arts and humanities for the campus and for the wider community.

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