Aaron Hazel, the 33 year-old artist whose painting “Chief Anotklosh” won first place at the recent Woodinville Art Show, didn’t always know he wanted to be a painter.
The former Whitman College basketball player sort of stumbled into choosing art as his major. “I could draw a little bit but I’d never painted before,” he said. “It was a situation where I had to learn on the fly.”
Originally from Boise and now living in Kirkland, Hazel first moved to the Seattle area after college in search of a career in advertising. Then, he switched to bartending.
“I just didn’t think that being a full-time artist was an actual reality back then,” he said. Hazel has now been painting full-time for three years.
Last month’s art show at the Celebrate Woodinville Festival was Hazel’s first art contest. The subject of his winning piece is not unusual to his other work. Many of his paintings focus on Native American life and culture.
“With all the racial unrest that’s been happening in our society, I decided to kind of dial it back to where it began,” Hazel said. All the way back to the days of Christopher Columbus.
As we know, the traditional portrayal of the relationship between the pilgrims and the Native Americans hasn’t always been particularly accurate. What Hazel is after with pieces like “Chief Anotklosh” is a more truthful portrayal of that relationship and of the Native Americans who lived during that time.
“Chief by chief, person by person, I tried to relearn what had actually happened and what their lives were like,” he said. “I basically tried to re-teach myself history.”
Hazel’s subjects also include animals (cows, horses, bears, moose, and other wildlife) and Seattle football players. He said his Seahawks work was partially what first propelled him into full-time artist-hood.
“I’m a humongous football fan,” he said. “I figured I might as well paint what’s on my mind all the time.” Players he’s painted include Doug Baldwin, Michael Bennett, Marshawn Lynch, Richard Sherman, and Cortez Kennedy.
But lately, Hazel is especially focused on paintings that lean toward the topic of civil rights.
He recently finished a Colin Kaepernick piece entitled “Beyond Football.” And in February of this year, he painted something every day in honor of Black History Month.
When Hazel begins a piece, he almost never has a plan. “I love the first ten minutes of the painting. I feel like there is so much optimism,” he said. “The strokes are unique. There’s a million different possibilities.”
His work is mostly done in oil, and he often uses palette knives when he paints. “I’ll start with a stroke and build it off that. I feel like I’ll drive myself crazy if I map it out,” he said.
Hazel works out of his Kirkland home and said he’ll be trying to expand his Seattle-area market soon, including attempting to show more art in local galleries.
To sign on with a new gallery, artists often have to go through an intimidating process of face-to-face cold calling. Hazel’s advice to other emerging artists in that same boat: “Just make sure you have work with you,” and, “Don’t show your best ones that aren’t available.”
As for the future, Hazel said his goal is to be a mentor to others. His own mentor, artist Robert Moore, who Hazel called “a phenomenal impressionist painter,” has had a huge impact on his work and practice.
“I would love to help out wherever needed,” Hazel said. That might mean volunteering at the Boys and Girls Club or painting side-by-side with a young prospective artist.
“If I can do that on a more regular basis, I’ll be happy,” he said. “And also, sell paintings. Because then I can keep doing this.”
Hazel’s work appears at Tsuga Fine Art in Bothell, Dana Gallery in Missoula, and Horizon Fine Art in Jackson, Wyoming.
View his available paintings online at aaronhazel.com/shop. Find his Instagram account at instagram.com/ahaze2 and his Facebook account at facebook.com/paintingsbyaaronhazel.