Hannah 'The Obanoth' Webb's minimalist paintings are extravagantly detailed - close-up and far-out
"My method of imagemaking is fun for me because I get to exaggerate and explore colors and shapes, without creating a fully abstracted image."
Shapes, color and vibrancy — those are the three main ingredients in the artwork of Theobanoth (aka Hannah Webb). Well, those and acrylic. And it's mind-bending how much style she achieves with such minimalism. She exagerrates, she enhaces, she explores, and the end product is an image that's exploding off the canvas and recognizable from across the room.
My name is Hannah Webb, but because I use the name “theobanoth” as a handle on social media, a lot of people seem to think my name is Theo. Honestly I answer to either at this point.
I grew up in Ohio, in a small town. I moved to California in 2006 and have lived in Los Angeles since 2014. I am very done scraping snow and having wet socks, so I love it here.
Words of advice?
Stop trying to make strangers happy with your work. Creating what you think people want, or what you think will get you more followers or internet attention, is dumb. Make things for yourself, focus on your own journey.
Last book you read?
I’m about halfway through “The Confidence Game” right now. It talks about con artists and the power of subtle influence, but there are a lot of really interesting takeaways about how people interact with the world and process information.
It's Friday night, where can someone find you?
Out eating or drinking something, probably—I love downtown, Silverlake and Highland Park (where I live) in Los Angeles. I spend most days and evenings working in my studio, so I make a point to escape for the night on either Friday or Saturday every week. There’s so much to explore in the city and I love being out and about when I can make it happen.
Strangest thing in your fridge right now?
I’m not sure that it counts as weird, but I love pickles and have a pretty good variety in the fridge at any given time. Pickled beets, asparagus, onions, kimchi. Don’t ask any questions about my breath.
You've said you like to reinvent the familiar with your work. What do you enjoy most about this process?
I love representational work, but I hate realism. I just don’t see the point. To me, it’s mechanical, or like a party trick—human photocopying. I’m much more interested in seeing an interpretation of something, where the piece of art brings something new to the image, filtered through someone’s brain. My method of imagemaking is fun for me because I get to exaggerate and explore colors and shapes, without creating a fully abstracted image.
When you're not painting, you're making cocktails. What's one of your best concoctions?
Oh man, hard to choose. Admittedly, I do more of the drinking than the making (my partner is much better at the crafting than I am), but I love gin and tequila.
How has social media impacted your career and what advice would you give other aspiring artists using the platform?
Social media is a double-edged sword. On one hand, it’s a great way to connect with other artists, share your work, talk about your process—but on the other hand, it makes people absolutely insane. My advice is to not take it to heart. Likes do not equal success and just because something is “performing badly” on Instagram does not mean it’s a weak piece of art or a waste of your efforts. It’s hard to disconnect your ego from your internet attention, but it’s absolutely necessary to remember that the internet is a fickle place full of strangers and your success in your work is ultimately irrelevant to it.
Where does the name TheObanoth come from?
My biggest secret! Just kidding. It’s actually sort of a nonsense word that I’ve used as a handle for years. There are so many Hannah Webbs in the world, it was impossible to find me by name on the internet, so I decided to start using a handle.
How long have you been painting?
I graduated from art school in 2010, which is where I learned mostly oil painting and some illustration, though it wasn’t my favorite thing to do at the time. I got into acrylic painting shortly after finishing school and have dug deeper and deeper into it as years have passed since. Because I produce a lot of work, the decade or so I’ve been trying to figure out painting has gone pretty fast. I’ve painted almost every day for years.
We’re amazed at how much you can portray with minimal brush strokes! How has your style evolved over time & what is it about your current style that continues to drive you?
Hey thanks! My work didn’t used to be so minimalistic. When I was learning, my paintings were much more dense with tiny paint strokes, neutral colors and unnecessary visual noise ... I’ve shifted my attention from trying to faithfully represent something, to trying to create a dynamic image—and as I’ve gotten more confident, the process has become a lot of fun.
You can find my work on social media (Instagram, Facebook, TikTok, etc) with my handle, @theobanoth! I also produce Youtube content, sell originals, take commissions and more. You can get to all of it from my website: