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Meet Colleen Hennessy

Today we’d like to introduce you to Colleen Hennessy.

Alright, so thank you so much for sharing your story and insight with our readers. To kick things off, can you tell us a bit about how you got started?
It began with a high school photography class. With our cameras on our phones, we sometimes forget how magical photography can be. Darkrooms help us remember. In college, the darkroom became my sanctuary. I learned the art of making exhibition-quality prints. To support my habit, I worked in various photo labs, photographed weddings, and was camera-ready for anyone who would hire me.

The camera captured what my eye could see, and it never became tedious. I used film from 1982-2005. An opportunity to be a volunteer in Peace Corps Honduras came up. I reluctantly switched to digital. Now I love it. While living on a mountaintop in the Central American rainforest for 27 months, something inside of me really wanted to paint.

The painting was always something I knew my soul needed, but I couldn’t believe I could do both. Painting felt like I would betray my greatest love, which was photography. Friends in the states sent me care packages of paint, brushes, and canvas paper. It rained 9 months a year, so I had plenty of time to experiment. I never stopped painting.

I’m sure you wouldn’t say it’s been obstacle free, but so far would you say the journey has been a fairly smooth road?
In my youth, I tried to draw realistically, and it never happened the way I was wanting. I dreaded the art classes where the teacher set a bunch of objects on a table and told us to draw exactly what we saw. The camera lens records things precisely, and that is what drew me to photography all those years ago.

Artistic frustration is part of life. Painting is a deeply emotional experience. Recognizing that I am not what I create is an important reminder. This is always a learning process, and we risk failure whenever we take on anything that’s worth doing. My work has often been called “naive”, “primitive” or “folk art.” The term naive refers to something that lacks experience, judgment, or wisdom, something natural and unaffected, or innocent.

It took me a while, but I embrace my painting style, and constantly remain open to experimentation and feedback. I had two gallery shows this year, with very few sales. Remembering to set fair and appropriate expectations for me protects me from feeling that it’s hopeless when things move slowly-and sometimes they do. Marketing can be difficult.

Thanks for sharing that. So, maybe next you can tell us a bit more about your work?
Six months ago, I left my day job to become a full-time artist. Earlier this year, I was selected as the artist-in-residence for the Lighthouse Immersive Van Gogh and Frida Kahlo exhibits. This five-week opportunity proved to be very productive, with daily exposure and interaction with the public while painting, as well as an excellent sales record. In November of this year I will begin a six-month residency at Art Gym in Denver. This will be a productive painting opportunity away from my chilly studio.

Although I am still seeking gallery shows, I am working on having more of an online presence with both my photography and painting. I am proud of my openness and flexibility. I cannot stand being in a rut. I photograph individuals, family portraits, high school seniors, babies, and weddings, and make high-quality images of other artist’s paintings, jewelry, and pottery.

I offer these services because I enjoy working with others and because I am realistic and do not assume that I will sell dozens of paintings each month! Besides a strong work ethic, I possess empathy and integrity. I often paint from my photographs and know that I am in a lifelong learning process.

Do you have any memories from childhood that you can share with us?
Being born and raised in Denver, we had a lot of childhood entertainment in the city. Unfortunately, my mom didn’t drive, and my dad was working the traditional 40-hour week in an office. During the summers, I was a bit of a loner. My fondest memory was getting my first dog at age 9.

I couldn’t wait until the pup was old enough to come live with us. This miniature poodle lived to be 14.5 years old, the only dog I ever had. She played an amazing game of frisbee and could catch a variety of balls in mid-air.


  • portrait session: $125
  • weddings from $495

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