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Finding Inspiration

THE ARTIST: When her three children were young, Susan Hoehn could paint only in rare quiet moments – usually during “Sesame Street.” As the kids started school, the UC Berkeley art major made painting her full-time job. She established herself as a landscape artist focused on Napa Valley vineyards, a specialty that has proved a steady source of income. But a few years ago, she took her work in new directions. Her husband, Phil, had been diagnosed with an aggressive brain tumor that left him with dementia. Before he died in January 2014, Hoehn was providing round-the-clock care. On afternoons that she had help, she left the house and wandered local museums. Those visits inspired a series of paintings depicting museum-goers looking at art. Art has provided a “sense of fulfillment,” says Hoehn, 62, of Laguna Niguel. “And it gave me an escape during a difficult time.”

IN HOEHN’S WORDS: I was first fascinated with trying to knock off the greats, like “Can I paint a Monet?” I wanted to see how they do it. That’s what artists look for when they go to museums. I was at a gallery once and this woman said, “You’re an artist aren’t you?” and I said, “How did you know?” and she said “Because artists always stare longer.” This painting was at the Huntington Library. The thing that caught my eye about these women was that they’re doing exactly what I do. They looked like they were women who loved art. Maybe they’re taking art classes? The way they were all leaning in and trying to get a look at how the artist did it. I have no idea who they’re looking at. It was a European landscapist. I just loved the angles and the lighting and the architecture, and how the women came in and captured what people who love art do.

By Susan Hoehn, 2012, oil on canvas, 24 by 20 inches

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