Embracing Challenge

Steve Hahn was destined for dentistry. At least that was what his parents had hoped. Dutifully taking science courses at Southern Methodist University, he also enrolled in his first art class as an elective. He was hooked. Changing his major in his sophomore year, Steve concentrated his efforts toward a Fine Arts degree and commercial art. After graduating, he spent the next 35 years as an art director for various Dallas area advertising agencies. Like many artists, as a child Steve filled much of his time coloring. Art was a fun activity for him, but he hadn’t taken it seriously growing up. In 2010, after retiring from a career in advertising, he tried painting as a hobby.

Painting: “Willow City Wildflowers” | 16×20 | Original Oil on Canvas Gallery Wrap

“I figured if it wasn’t fun, then I needed to be doing something else. I had enjoyed painting in oils in college and decided to give it another go. Landscapes were my first endeavors simply because I had plenty of source materials to draw from. Being a detail oriented person, that seemed to carry over into my art. My goal was simply to paint accurately what I could see.”

Steve credits Dutch Art Gallery for helping change his hobby into a second career. His landscapes were well received by clientele and this provided further motivation to paint. The level of detail and large format of his work meant each piece could take a month to produce. Landscapes were his exclusive focus for the next five years, and he gained fame as a Texas Hill Country artist.

Diligence was his initial motivator, rather than inspiration. Feeling he had gotten a late start as a fine artist, Steve was committed to learning as much as possible in a short amount of time. In addition to achieving a high level of painting skill, he learned that he needed to be actively engaged with his subject in order to produce meaningful art, if not to the viewer, then at least for himself. He became less inspired by pure landscapes and more so by figurative work. With this new challenge, the “fun” returned. He spends as much time researching and preparing each piece as he does painting it. Becoming proficient in painting people has been rewarding in itself, but he is also working in a smaller format; meaning he can complete pieces in a shorter amount of time. This quicker turnaround has engaged his active mind to create the perfect environment for peak performance and satisfaction for the artist.

Painting: “Resting Place” | Original Oil on Canvas | 24×36 Unframed

Setting up just the right working atmosphere is important for any artist and what’s perfect can vary greatly between them. Steve also deals with the challenges that come with ongoing health issues which can influence his needs. He chooses to paint in his studio where he can alternate between working at his drawing table or at an easel. Audio books are often playing during studio time and he can pick between multiple paintings in various stages of progress. Steve cherishes his time in the studio and thanks his wife, Leslie, for her support of his post-retirement, second career.

When asked if his health challenges influence his art directly, Steve has this answer.

“No, because I have always been inspired and always wanted to paint when I retired, but it did create an urgency. This is the best time in my life and happiness is a special kind of art.”

We should all be so fortunate to follow our heart, our passion and find success. Dutch Art Gallery is proud to represent Steve Hahn. His available work can be viewed in our gallery and also on our website.


Studio of Steve Hahn

Article by Rebecca Zook
Photos provided by Steve Hahn

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