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Life Drawing into Art


Shea Stanfield
Arts Columnist

The French painter/sculptor Marcel Duchamp once observed, “The American woman is the most intelligent woman in the world today, she knows what she wants, therefore, she always gets it.” Much in the same style and wielding the same attitude, local artist Joan Hahn Widman turns heads, and gets notice with her dynamic and brilliantly colored portraits.

Growing up on a farm in Nebraska introduced Joan to her first impressions of vast space scattered with interesting shapes against a backdrop of endlessly changing seasonal skies, influences we see in her work today. As a child, Joan was fascinated with faces and figures.  The margins of her school notes were filled with various portraits and figures that captivated her interest in the moment. After high school, Joan went on to complete nursing school and entered a career as an R.N. During this time, a portion of her undergraduate work included fifteen hours of art. Her biggest encouragement came from her life-drawing professor who recognized she had more than a little talent for drawing and painting the human figure. Later, Joan complete a Master’s degree in Adult education and Gerontology, but life drawing and painting continued to be a constant focus.

Over the years, Joan completed commercial art courses, then finally, moving to Arizona, she enrolled in a number of classes at the Scottsdale Artists School and attended workshops given by nationally known artists to expand her skills. Happily, she was able to devote herself to painting full time working from her home studio. Joan paints in watercolor and acrylics, but most recently she has begun a new process in “paper painting.” She explains, in this process, she uses solvent-treated National Geographic magazine pages. She tears or cuts the paper into strips, which are then applied as if it were an individual brush stroke of paint. Joan explains she finds this not only fun but also rewarding in the variety of effects she can create on the surface of her painting. She states, “My subject matter is almost exclusively people, but recently I have completed several landscapes and historical churches expanding the interest possibilities.” She goes on to explain, “At the core of all my subjects, especially the portraits, I look for what motivates me, such as an interesting expression or gesture. I then focus on capturing something in the “personality” of the individual which provides for an interesting, unique, and personal portrait.” Joan shares she is constantly open to new inspiration, whether it’s from museums, books, or just watching people in everyday life, she never knows when a new idea is going to arrive.

Joan is a member of several art clubs, which provide her with opportunities to show and sell her work.  One of those groups is the Neu Art Group that provides several chances a year to exhibit as a group in a number of locations. For further information on Joan Hahn Widman, her work and exhibit schedule, contact her at 

Contact Arts Columnist Shea Stanfield at