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An Interview with Artist Colleen Hanley-Prior

Colleen Hanley-Prior was selected to paint the inaugural Conserving the Heart of Idaho sculpture. We asked her to share a little bit about herself and the project.

1) What is your vision for the heart?

Colleen: My vision is to express the deep, vivid and strong environment that pulses out of this area. The heart has four chambers so I thought I would paint the four seasons, a vision that was not hard to see. Because I’ve lived here full time now for over three years raising my two boys, Felix and Fletcher with my husband, Jonathan, I can hand on heart say that the outdoors – forests, farms and animals, vast rivers and lakes – with the energy here it is not hard to be inspired. As an artist I find it’s dripping with inspiration. Dripping!

2) What is your process?

Colleen: My process is to observe and absorb my surroundings. Our property looks out at Tamarack Mountain. It’s hugged by Brundage Peak, and our driveway stares at Jug. Whether it’s on a hike or walking beside the water’s edge, the sounds, the feeling you get is electric. Or even simply driving on Highway 55 – the scenery is breathtaking. I put on reggae music, preferably Marley’s sons and his bootlegs, sometimes jazz music. I do most of my art work in Fatso’s cabin at Valley Rim over the river. I just work on the heart ‘til I can’t work anymore. I already see in my head what I am going to put down. It’s already there. And what I paint on the heart is what I either saw or felt that day or that week prior to closing the studio door and pressing play.

3) How did you hear about the Conserving the Heart project?

Colleen: My older sister Christine Hanley a.k.a. Fatso did the big sister nudge, and well there we are. She is the reason I applied.

4) What is your background? Art/Life/Nature, anything you want to share?

Colleen: I am a South Carolina / Southern California native. I grew up in Carolina but relocated to California in my late teens and resided there for 23 years. That’s where my art career blossomed. Primarily Laguna Beach and the wonderful locals there is what was a springboard for my art to the masses. And also of course the surf industry is located there and that too propelled me since I had roots in that industry.
I have lived and traveled in places most kids dream about. I grew up on the water, exposed to the sea at a very early age creating in me a passion that will always be in my heart. I have traveled the world surfing and selling art since I was a teenager and I settled down at the age of 30 to pursue family and spiritual goals. The exposure I had to the ocean and travel has inspired me to always put the art hat on no matter where I reside. It’s a part of me that will never leave. And surfing is its twin sibling: both allow you to express yourself without words! If I can’t paint or surf, I play music. I’m an avid musician; guitar and drums are my choice.

I’m an ex professional surfer, former gold medalist in the junior surfing, state and regional champion and fully sponsored national winner as a young woman. I also am a musician who writes songs and teaches drums. My most wonderful and fulfilling role however is being a mother to my children, Felix and Fletcher and being the strongest version of myself for them and of course my husband of 15 years, Jonathan, my dear Welshman, who runs his excavation company here Dig Earth. He’s a big supporter of the arts as well.

5) Anything else?

Colleen: I love animals. And my dream is to work with endangered species in the future. That is something I want to work towards. And if I can Integrate art with that goal, I will be reaching another state of expression. And fulfillment for their conservation too.

I’m grateful for this opportunity to meet the locals here in the place me and my family proudly call home. We moved here at the beginning of the pandemic and we hit the ground running. Thanks so much for letting me share my vision with you. For this wonderful project. I am grateful with all my heart. Ha.

Coming next week: A sneak peak at the heart in progress!

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