Condition: Neurofibromatosis Type 1 with an optic nerve glioma
1. What is your profession and why did you decide to choose this field?
I am a visually impaired, self-taught artist. My business is called Jeff Hanson Art. At age 12, during chemotherapy and radiation, I began painting simple watercolor note cards. Painting was a joyful activity during a frightening time in my life. I sold the hand-painted note cards as a fundraiser for the Children's Tumor Foundation. Eventually, the watercolor note cards transformed to acrylics on heavily textured canvas. I did not really choose to become an artist. It just happened.
2. What is the most rewarding thing about what you do?
My art is changing the world. To date, at age 26, my original paintings have generated over $6M for charity. Jeff Hanson Art is a for-profit business. However, the philanthropic aspect of my business is to feature original paintings on charity live auctions. The highest selling painting sold for $100,000! My new goal is to raise $10M for charity by age 30. TEN MILLION by 30! Early in my business, I wrote my core belief: 'Every act of kindness helps create kinder communities, more compassionate nations, and a better world for all … even one painting at a time'.
3. What is your advice to all the other VIP around the world who don’t believe they can be successful in the area of their interest because of their disability?
Take your lemons and make lemonade! In other words, take the problem you have, be open to others about it, and use it to your advantage. Don't hide your problems. No one is perfect. Everyone has issues. You need to openly attack your problem so that you can joyfully move on. I took an optic nerve tumor and drew attention to it through my young age charity fundraisers. That opened many new doors for me while creating awareness for neurofibromatosis. Most importantly, keep a sense of humor. It's not the challenge, but rather your response to the challenge that defines you.
I tell others, 'just go do it'. Do not be intimidated because of your age, your lack of notoriety, your inexperience, or any impairment. Every famous artist had to start sometime. I see through patchy, Swiss cheese vision, which has an impact on my art (maybe it even helps the art!). Be passionate about what you do. I defeated my tumor, nicknamed CLOD with humor, creativity, drive, forward-thinking, and a positive attitude. It's all about passion. If you love art, then create art. Quoting poet Maya Angelou, 'You can only become truly accomplished at something you love. Don't make money your goal. Instead, pursue the things you love doing and then do them so well that people can't take their eyes off you'.