By Megan Seckman

Clare stands in front of one of her paintings called Osage One. The painting represents the oneness
of the cycles of photosynthesis. 

Clare Hirn never considered art to be a viable career. That is why she split her studies as an undergrad at Indiana University between biological sciences and fine arts. The two worlds of arts and sciences are reflected in her expansive art career: she illustrated an Abiocor artificial heart that appeared on the cover of The New York Times, and she paints majestic murals that bring the vibrant natural world inside otherwise sterile environments. Her murals can be seen locally at Waterfront Park Place, UK Chandler Hospital, and UofL Healthcare Outpatient Center.

She is an environmentalist and an artist. “My work is nature-oriented with the running theme of connectivity to the planet. My parents always had land, and as a child, I always waded through creeks. I could sit and observe nature for hours; I’ve always been passionate about our planet,” Clare, 52, recalls.

The pulse of nature is alive and well in Clare’s style, which she describes as being “kept on the abstract level with moments of detail,” because she is “an old-school, hand-drawn kind of girl.” She often uses a charcoal underdrawing with acrylic paint on top so that the drawing aspect can be seen through the soft, natural colors — much like a field of tall grass filled with tiny, busy life, only there to witness if you are truly paying attention.

Coalesce is another one Clare’s paintings which was done using charcoal underdrawing. Photos by Melissa Donald  

Despite Clare’s instinct that art might not pay the bills, she forged the difficult life of an artist anyway. After graduating from IU, she attended graduate school at the New York Academy of Art, where she received a master’s degree in painting and drawing. She then went one step further as an artist and married one, a writer. Clare now has two grown children who also chose the path of art: her son is studying architecture at The Cooper Union (right around the corner from her alma mater in NYC), and her daughter is working on a BFA in theater at Marymount Manhattan College.

Over the years, Clare has supported her art career through commissioned murals and by teaching. “As a teacher, I tell my students that the world will always need more artists. But when my kids went in that direction, it twisted my gut. Sometimes I wish I had just become an electrician,” she says with a laugh. “But our family’s experience is not more difficult than the rest of America’s. I just continue to have faith that it all works out. If I don’t sell a painting, well, I see it as an opportunity to work on it again. You always have a fresh eye after a year; I see that as an advantage.”

Using pastels, Clare creates an image of her daughter and their dog. 

What Clare loves most about making art is the act of process. She examines other artists’ processes at her studio, a space she rents at the Louisville Visual Art building in Portland. “I love working around younger artists in the open, raw space at LVA. You can hear other artist’s music waft through the air, and there are no walls separating us. It’s invigorating.”

But her career as an artist, like her paintings with the drawing undertones, alive and bustling, is constantly evolving. “I don’t know how Picasso started so young and was able to accomplish so much in such a short time. Whatever your interest is, it takes a long time to hone your craft. I feel like I’ve just now learned enough to forget all the rules and just do.”

What is this environmentalist and artist reading, watching, and listening to?


  • The Invention of Nature by Andrea Wulf. This is the story of Alexander von Humboldt, a German naturalist who influenced the likes of Darwin, Muir, and Thoreau. He explored the world in the 18th-century, noting various species and the interconnectivity of our planet. He predicted the human impact on climate change, but this father of environmentalism was almost forgotten by history. Clare’s favorite quote from the book: “Nature everywhere speaks to man in a voice that is familiar to his soul.”
  • Presence: Bringing Your Boldest Self to Your Biggest Challenges by Amy Cuddy. This book explores how body language impacts those around us and reflects our own self-esteem.
  • “As I work toward my goal of placing more of my artwork into non-profit spaces or healthcare facilities so that my art does real good in the community, I will be reading the Business Model Canvas for Social Enterprise PDF.


  • Michael Franti & Spearhead: SoulRocker. “This has been a staple of my listening for 15 years, and I’ve seen him in concert at least nine times. I think he is a modern-day prophet of sorts.”
  • “This is rather boring, but I’m an NPR news junkie. I love Morning Edition, Diane Rehm, Terri Gross, and All Things Considered.”
  • This was recommended recently to Clare and is making its way into her routine: On Being with Krista Tippett (


  • Leonardo DiCaprio’s climate film Before the Flood (free on YouTube)
  • For moments of distraction, Clare enjoys Transparent with Jeffrey Tambour, an Emmy-award winning Amazon original series.
  • “This may be too odd for print, but one of my favorite movies is The Bride with White Hair by Ronny Yu, a 1993 Hong Kong film.”