Ever since the COVID-19 pandemic was announced two months ago, a Williams Lake artist has been busy gifting paintings.
Ruth Hoehne jumps in her car every few weeks to deliver fresh paintings to work places that have remained open during the pandemic.
“I see COVID everywhere,” Hoehne said as she described some of the pieces she’s created.
Some work places are using the paintings for a draw among employees, while other places are hanging them for everyone to enjoy.
Hoehne (rhymes with pain) moved to Williams Lake seven years ago with her husband Randy who works at the Cariboo Fire Centre.
She has Lyme disease and to help her cope with it, Randy suggested they get into photographing birds and find as many new ones as they can. They have thoroughly enjoyed traipsing around the region doing just that.
Then last year she was experiencing a rough patch with the disease and decided to get back into painting.
Previously she’s worked as an ICU nurse in Ontario, taught art classes to children and at one point owned a gallery in Fort McMurray.
Enjoying painting so much, she planned to create an Etsy store to sell paintings online, but when COVID-19 hit she realized that might not happen and she already has so many paintings.
Recently she finished a three by three foot painting for the emergency room at Cariboo Memorial Hospital. It is mostly done in hues of blue to represent the storm of the virus and on the right side there are stark bold white lines which she said represent the doctors, nurses and hospital staff warding off the storm.
“The tentacles of the COVID seem to be reaching out everywhere, but you keep working,” she wrote on a sticky note for the painting she gave the Tribune, which is dark colours such as yellow, red, black, orange and blue all swirling across the canvas.
“Thank you. You are truly appreciated. Some day soon, this will pass and we will truly see blue skies again.”
Every painting is different and each person that has received one has expressed extreme gratitude.
“It seems like each one is perfect for the person I give it to. I was going somewhere and thought about bus drivers and how they needed one too,” she said. “Other days I will see someone else and think they need one too and I go home and create one.”
Some pieces that are fluid art might come together in an hour, others she waits to be inspired, and others she uses her brushes.
Her kitchen and dining areas are full of painting supplies and recently Randy purchased a gazebo for her as a 30th wedding anniversary present.
They were supposed to take a trip across Canada by train before the coronavirus hit, so for now, she will settle for being able to paint outside.
She is also going to keep some paintings for Art Walk in case it goes this year.
Their yard, by the way, is beautiful.
Along the fence there are 15 birdhouses.
Some of them Randy made, others were bought, but they repaint them every year before spring.
Hoehne hoped to open the yard up for families to bring their children before COVID-19 precautions were implemented and maybe one day that will be possible.
For now, she’s going through bags and bags of bird seed and enjoying all her feathered visitors.
Her dad died when she was only nine years old and she remembers fondly how he instilled a keen interest in birds.
“My mom never remarried, she raised us nine kids.”
The Hoehnes have two grown daughters — a pastry chef in Victoria and a writer in England.