The small town of Eunice is host to many things — rural Mardi Gras, the Cajun Music Hall of Fame, and Cajun Lisa Frank.
Hannah Thibodeaux, known as Hannah Gumbo, is a freelance artist and illustrator based in Eunice. Known for her bright, joyous illustrations, the creator is keeping this spirit alive during quarantine.
“It’s been a combo of peaks and valleys,” she said. “In some ways, throwing my schedule and deadlines out the window was freeing … but the lack of human connection and constant inconsistency has also resulted in a lack of motivation, inspiration, and flow. I’ve tried to give myself grace and ride the waves of productivity and rest as they appear.”
Her current artistic theme is “You are what you eat,” and everything she consumes is Cajun. The majority of what she produces reflects that, except for the frequent commissioned work.
Commissions include pieces like “The House That Lars Built” coloring book called “Imagining Hope,” where Thibodeaux pulled influence from quilts, creating a geometric pattern.
She feeds her creativity by traveling and letting herself be heavily influenced by her surroundings. The 30-year-old is five states away from seeing all 50 states — missing out on Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Alaska and Hawaii. These road trips are full of memories, like picking flowers out of ditches, and provide plenty of project prompts.
“They refuel and restock my pond of inspiration,” she said. “There’s something to be said about the unexpected.”
Thibodeaux grew up in the Broussard area where she was home schooled until high school. Both of her parents are creative people, allowing Hannah and her siblings to paint on their bedroom walls. Whenever her mom would bake bread, all three siblings would get their own handful of dough to experiment with.
“Creativity and resourcefulness was woven into my life early on,” she said.
Her childhood took her to a certain point of creativity. Thibodeaux didn’t sit down and try to draw still life portraits until she started high school at Comeaux. She was accepted into Arts Academy, a class outside of regular school that is similar to today’s Talented Program. There, she met Katy Reed who would become one of the most influential people in her young life.
Arts Academy had a big impact on Thibodeaux’s way of thinking, and with Reed came a blend of discipline and emotional process introduced into Thibodeaux’s art style.
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In college, she was pushed to investigate uncomfortable topics and to pull inspiration from them. When she graduated, she realized there’s room for both angst and joy. Thibodeaux isn’t concerned with her art having a deeper meaning, the lighter side of life is what she’s interested in.
Her current process typically starts as a drawing, with paint added, and then to Photoshop. She will paint, Photoshop, and paint again. This creates a multidimensional piece of art that melds the two worlds of hand drawn and computer originated.
When she was younger, and even into college, Thibodeaux didn’t expect to get a job in a creative industry. During college, she was cleaning homes and watching kids for a living and she found she liked the connection those jobs offered. Once she graduated from University of Louisiana at Lafayette, she got married to “a Eunice boy” named Jordan and packed up, headed for the Cajun prairie where she has been for the past six years.
After graduating, she started working at a boarding school in Eunice. The odd hours afforded her free time during the day to create. Slowly, people started reaching out with small commissions. She started to take on different projects and created a pop-up shop to sell bath bombs.
The art snowball began rolling when Thibodeaux created stickers for the bath bombs. Stickers morphed into wedding cards, then cardboard cutouts, and finally a mural in Eunice.
Thibodeaux has been full-time freelance for three years now, saying its still as scary a decision as it was the first day. The self-described people person still hosts pop-ups, and teaches summer art classes and within the local school system to get her social energy out.
When she moved to Eunice, Thibodeaux didn’t know what to expect from the local art community. The simplified life has helped her take time with her art. At first, she was trying to keep up with monthly Artwalk expos, but found it stressful to carve out time to work on things that inspired her because there was too much to digest.
So she took a step back and dug into her reservoir of ideas, asking “why do I create?”
“Visual art is a language,” she said. “I don’t always feel like I can articulate with words or have a specific path in life, but I surprise myself and connect with myself through art.”
Eunice is her cocoon. Making the drive home from Lafayette after meeting other artists is like taking a deep breathe of fresh air. She realized she needs time to sift through all the creative pieces she picks up while connecting with people and places.
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Creativity is a balance. Some days, Thibodeaux spends the sunny hours sending invoices and email. Other days, she carves out space to create art that will never see the light of day. When she feels she is proficient in painting and using text, she’ll go back to figure drawing and mixing up her mediums to keeps things fresh in her head.
“I’m curious to see how things will change on the road,” she said.
Although quarantine has halted all of her travel plans, Thibodeaux is spending time experimenting in her sketch book and not worrying about how it comes out. To maintain motivation, she started a “100 day project” where she draws well-known hair styles of fictional and real people, like Sharon Moss.
In the, fingers crossed, soon future, Thibodeaux plans to extend her work outside of Louisiana, mixing travel with artwork. Things like road side attractions, or the weird and delightful are things she plans on seeing and pulling inspiration from. Her ultimate, die happy goal, is to design a stamp, an ode to her parents who both worked for the United States Postal Service.
“If I can meet Sharon Moss in person, the sky is the limit,” she said. “Plus, how cool would it be to paint a little boudin on a stamp?”
Contact Victoria Dodge at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @Victoria_Dodge