My hope is that you, too, will find joy in being generous and compassionate with others.
Jeff Hanson is an 18-year-old, visually impaired artist from Overland Park, Kansas. Born with a genetic condition called Neurofibromatosis and an optic nerve tumor, Jeff shrugs off adversity by using abstract art to fundraise for charities that have “touched his life.”
Jeff’s original art has generated more than $700,000 for his favorite charities. Jeff’s paintings hang in the homes of Sir Elton John, Warren E. Buffett, Billy Joel, Susan Sarandon and countless others who are touched by Jeff’s spirit of giving to the world.
The Small Business Administration named Jeff 2012 Young Entrepreneur of the Year. People Magazine featured Jeff as a “Hero Among Us.” CNN Headline News featured Jeff on “Leaders with Heart” and “Impact Your World.” The Huffington Post named Jeff the “Top Kid Making a Difference in 2011.” Jeff won the National Prudential Spirit of Community Award and the National Gloria Barron Prize for Young Heroes.
Every act of kindness helps create kinder communities, more compassionate nations and a better world for all–even one painting at a time.
What are you working on right now?
I am currently working on 32 corporate and residential painting commissions, as well as a motivational corporate presentation.
Where did the idea for painting business come from?
My medical, art and philanthropic journey took me on a unexpected path. My painting business became Jeffrey Owen Hanson LLC as a result of taking a gift (painting) and sharing it in the midst of adversity (chemotherapy and radiation). There was no idea to “start a business.”
What does your typical day look like?
My world is not like that of a typical 18-year-old boy. My visual impairment does not allow me to drive a car or play sports. Instead, I have my own painting business. My business started with philanthropy first. I am frequently on stage at a charity live auction, in my tuxedo and hand-painted cummerbund and bow tie, with one of my paintings. My artwork has generated more than $700,000 for charities that have touched my life. I also do original, residential and corporate acrylic painting commissions. I create “structure art” that is very three-dimensional, happy and colorful on canvas.
How do you bring ideas to life?
My artwork is inspired by my travels around the world. I take lots of photographs, which inspire me to paint acrylic canvases. My paintings are titled after my travel experiences.
What’s one trend that really excites you?
I am excited about the current use of bold colors in fashion and interior design. Color changes everything.
What was the worst job you ever had and what did you learn from it?
I started painting at age 12. My painting business has been my only job and I love it.
If you were to start again, what would you do differently?
Most would think that I would wish for perfect vision. However, my optic tumor (named CLOD) and visual impairment took me on an amazing artistic, philanthropic and entrepreneurial journey. I have been blessed, and I would not change anything.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
I constantly communicate with business and art professionals. Every day I learn by speaking to others who have tremendous wisdom and knowledge about business and life.
What is one problem you encountered as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
There continues to be a greater demand for my art than I have supply for in my “For Sale” collection. It is a good problem to have. I create labor-intensive, high-quality, one-of-a-kind paintings. There is no quality way to reproduce my highly textured paintings. Gicl’ees and lithographs of my work are very disappointing compared to the originals.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
I believe in the power of a hand-written note.
If you could change one thing in the world, what would it be and how would you go about it?
I would wish for world peace. I know that I alone cannot bring about world peace. However, I wrote this mission statement at age 12 and follow it daily: Every act of kindness helps create kinder communities, more compassionate nations and a better world for all–even one painting at a time.
Tell us a secret.
I love French fries dipped in applesauce.
What are your three favorite online tools or resources and what do you love about them?
- My website allows my art clients to quickly learn about me, my paintings and the charities that have touched my life.
- Facebook allows me to share my art and philanthropic endeavors with my art clients.
- Pinterest is a fun way for me to look for exciting, bold color combinations.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
How to Think like Leonardo da Vinci by Michael J. Gelb. The book taught me the importance of journaling. The book offers step-by-step exercises and lessons on problem solving, creative thinking, self-expression, goal setting and life balance. It states: “Genius is made, not born. And human beings are gifted with an almost unlimited potential for learning and creativity.” Author Michael J. Gelb introduces seven Da Vincian Principles.
My strategic business planner, whom I greatly admire, recommended this book once she learned about my gifts. Kudos to her. Everyone can learn from this book. I learned the importance of journaling, and it has helped me organize my life and my business.
When was the last time you laughed out loud? What caused it?
I laughed out loud five minutes ago. I am a happy, pretty funny kinda’ guy. I often laugh at myself for my own mistakes. I also love laughing with my dad. He is the world’s greatest father. He is very funny.
Who is your hero?
My hero is Sir Elton John. I am most inspired by people who use their gifts to give back to the world. I chose Sir Elton John as my Make A Wish (Oct. 2007) because he exemplifies this philanthropic spirit. I use my gift of art to fundraise for charities that have touched my life, such as the Make A Wish Foundation and the Elton John AIDS Foundation. My hope is that you, too, will find joy in being generous and compassionate with others.
What are you most proud of?
At age 18, I’m proud to say my artwork has generated more than $700,000 for charity.
What inspirational advice do you have for other teenagers?
I tell both young and old people to “just go do it.” Do not let hardships, adversities or handicaps keep you from reaching your goals and dreams. My goal is to change the world through art, one painting at a time. Every act of kindness helps create kinder communities, more compassionate nations and a better world for all.