Artist brings message of hope

MARQUETTE – Imagine having everything you could ever want in a career, just starting out in the beginning stages of your chosen profession. The sky is the limit.

Now imagine having everything you ever dreamed of stripped away by something completely out of your control.

That’s the reality that artist Phil Hansen faced after being diagnosed with a hand tremor that seriously hampered his ability to create the art he loved.

Hansen practiced a form of art called pointillism, in which the artist creates an image by drawing thousands of tiny dots.

It was an art form Hansen loved, but in an ironic twist of fate it was also the art form that would keep him from creating any art at all.

The stressful demands he placed on his hand while creating pointillist pieces are what caused his tremor.

He was unable to draw dots, incapable of even drawing a straight line.

“At the time, this was really doomsday,” Hansen said during his May 2013 TED Talks speech. “This was the destruction of my dream of becoming an artist.”

TED Talks is a non-profit organization that brings together some of the world’s “most fascinating thinkers and doers, who are challenged to give the talk of their lives (in 18 minutes or less),” according to the group’s website,

During his speech, Hansen discusses dropping out of art school and giving up on his dream of being an artist, creating nothing for three years.

However, he said he couldn’t stay away from the work he loved, so he decided to visit a neurologist who gave him the advice that would change his life.

“Why don’t you just embrace the shake?” the doctor said.

Hansen did just that and said he found that by embracing his limitation he was able to become even more creative.

Now, Hansen is bringing his message of hope in the face of adversity to the Marquette area, with a speech scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Tuesday in room 102 of Jamrich Hall at Northern Michigan University.

The talk is free for students and $2 for the general public. Tickets will be available at the door.

Titled “Embrace the Shake,” the speech will reflect on how the advice of the doctor who diagnosed Hansen with irreversible nerve damage helped him see his tremor in a whole different light.

It was a light that eventually brought him international fame as an artist and got him invited to be a presenter at one of the many TED Talks conferences that take place around the world.

In the short, 10-minute speech, Hansen talks about how he would force limitations on himself as he created art – using only $1 worth of supplies, using only his feet, allowing himself to paint solely via karate chop.

He said the limitations actually increased his creative ability.

“We need to first be limited in order to become limitless,” Hansen said.

To view the full TED Talks speech, see

To add to the more than 1.9 millon who have already caught a glimpse of Hansen completing one of his many works, visit

And to see more of Hansen’s work, visit his website at

Jackie Stark can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 242.