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Sewickley painter turns hobby into successful career

| Thursday, Feb. 26, 2015, 9:05 p.m.
Painter Claire Hardy of Sewickley with some of her works in progress in her Sewickley studio.
Jasmine Goldband | Trib Total Media
Painter Claire Hardy of Sewickley with some of her works in progress in her Sewickley studio.
'Mills at Night II' is a 24x30 painting by artist Claire Hardy of Sewickley.
Jasmine Goldband | Trib Total Media
'Mills at Night II' is a 24x30 painting by artist Claire Hardy of Sewickley.
'US Steel Geometrics' is a 36x48 painting by artist Claire Hardy of Sewickley.
Jasmine Goldband | Trib Total Media
'US Steel Geometrics' is a 36x48 painting by artist Claire Hardy of Sewickley.
'Ballerina Break' is a 24x30 painting that is part of the ballerina impressions collection by artist Claire Hardy of Sewickley.
Jasmine Goldband | Trib Total Media
'Ballerina Break' is a 24x30 painting that is part of the ballerina impressions collection by artist Claire Hardy of Sewickley.
'Rust and Smoke' is a 12x12 painting by artist Claire Hardy of Sewickley.
Jasmine Goldband | Trib Total Media
'Rust and Smoke' is a 12x12 painting by artist Claire Hardy of Sewickley.
Painter Claire Hardy of Sewickley touches up one of her paintings titled, 'Study in Blue.'
Jasmine Goldband | Trib Total Media
Painter Claire Hardy of Sewickley touches up one of her paintings titled, 'Study in Blue.'

Artist Claire Hardy may be a southern California native, but you would never know it based on her oil paintings depicting Pittsburgh's industrial past.

Hardy, a Sewickley artist who paints mostly still-life images, moved to Pittsburgh in 2001 from New Mexico, where her paintings of big blue skies sold out in Santa Fe galleries. But one of her favorite types of scenes to paint is anything depicting an old Pittsburgh steel mill, along with scenic visions from the region's rivers and hills. Many pieces of this art are on display through Feb. 28 at the Mansions on Fifth hotel's Galerie Werner in Shadyside.

“I would say that my Pittsburgh paintings have been well received and are very popular,” says Hardy, 41. She lives in Sewickley with her husband, Scott, and keeps a separate studio in Sewickley. “I continue to see more things I want to try.”

Although the Mansions on Fifth display is about to close, Hardy's art can be seen by appointment at her studio, Claire Hardy Fine Art. She sells mostly original paintings but does occasional prints.

Mary Del Brady, one of the owners of Mansions on Fifth, says she loves Hardy's work and gets compliments on it from guests. One particularly powerful painting depicts a man wearing his Sunday best with a white shirt, in sharp contrast to the sooty steel mill in the background.

“It was this man that looked like he could be anyone's father,” Del Brady says. “Everybody who walked by that said, ‘That's my grandfather; that's my dad; that's my uncle.' ”

Hardy's art of Western Pennsylvania's industrial past “really evokes emotion, ... and you get a genuine image of what it would have been like,” Del Brady says.

Hardy earned an undergraduate business degree at the University of New Mexico in 1996 and took some art classes to enjoy a hobby she'd picked up in middle school. In 2000, Hardy got a certificate for graphic and multimedia design and began working in that field, but the artist within yearned to emerge. She then went to the Art Institute of Florence in Italy, where she immersed herself in the art of oil painting.

In 2001, Hardy moved to Sewickley for a graphic-design job, working a day job and moonlighting as a painter. She left her job in 2010 to pursue art full time.

“It makes all the difference in the world, and I'm just digging in deeper,” Hardy says. “Each day, I think, ‘Oh good, I have today to figure out a new painting.'

“I love this job because ... it's so wide open,” she says. “Every morning, there's more of a wonder about it.”

Although Hardy's passion has become her business, she hasn't lost the joy that comes with a hobby. She takes a limited number of commissions every year, but much of her art comes spontaneously.

“Now I love to paint more for what I love and just hope it sells,” she says. “Sometimes, I'll just sit there and try to think of a painting. I try to allow some room for growth but also freedom flexibility. But I know there are also paintings I need to get done this week.”

Hardy is working on painting a series of impressionistic images of moving ballerinas for a future show. Her diversity is one of her hallmarks as an artist, says Melanie Werner, owner and director of Galerie Werner, which has displayed Hardy's work for about four years.

“Her work has evolved over the years, so its been a pleasure to watch her mature as an artist,” Werner says. “Stylistically, she has a wide range. ... She's quite diverse.”

Hardy loves Pittsburgh and calls it home.

“There's such a friendly community here,” she says. “The reason I'm painting is because people have continued to follow my art and discover my art, and that buys me more painting time.”

Claire Hardy's next studio show will be “Pittsburgh's Past and Present,” opening March 14. The studio has open hours from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. March 14 and 15, and by appointment. Make a reservation through her website for directions to the studio.

Details: 412-567-2707 or clairehardy.com

Kellie B. Gormly is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at kgormly@tribweb.com or 412-320-7824.

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