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By Keaton Larson

Local artist Barbara Brient took a painting class more than four decades ago and found a pillar of her life as a result. To say Brient is only a painter would be far from the truth, though.

“My whole life is my church, my family, my art and my singing,” said Brient, an oil painter from San Juan Capistrano. “Oh, and my gardening.”

A member of a local choir group, South Coast Singers, and a grandmother to three grandsons, two granddaughters, and a great-grandson, Brient has spent 55 years in Orange County doing what she loves.

This week, though, her art will be on display. Brient will be holding an open house showing of her recent works on Saturday, Aug. 20, at her home studio. On display will be various sea and landscape paintings, which Brient says is her strong suit as an artist.

Brient will have 86 pieces on display this Saturday. To date, she has sold 250 paintings throughout her life.

Brient, like many artists, traces her love for art back through her family. Her grandparents were working artists in 20th century England, where Brient is originally from, and this influence would draw her toward art years later.

She grew up the youngest of three children to parents who ran a hotel after World War II. She was raised around travelers and learned to love people. In 1965, when she was a young woman, Brient moved to the United States.

Barbara Brient, a San Juan Capistrano painter and member of South Coast Singers, will hold an open house showing for her art this Saturday, Aug. 20. Photo: Courtesy of Barbara Brient

She landed in Iowa for a short three-month stint working at a restaurant to make money. A co-worker approached her one day and said, “I am moving to California if you want to come with me and rent a room.” Brient gladly accepted the offer.

In California, she would meet her husband, Frank, the analytical one in the family, and have two children, Peter and Michelle. They settled in South Orange County, first in San Clemente and later in San Juan Capistrano.

When her children reached school age, Brient found herself a little bored.

“Now what will I do?” Brient told her husband. “I’ve done all the housework. That took 20 minutes.”

“Well, why don’t you go to a class?” Brient recalled her husband saying.

 Brient revealed she did not like school.

 “Well, do something you love doing,” he advised

Those words were all the motivation Brient needed. She always knew she loved art, so she signed up for a painting class in Orange at the city’s Parks and Recreation Department.

“I lucked out because the young lady was brilliant,” Brient said, referring to her art teacher. “She taught me how to hold a pencil, what an eraser was. She taught us every facet of work in the art field.”

Brient wanted to continue to paint, so she and her husband went looking for an art teacher in San Clemente. They found an ad for longtime resident and San Clemente artist Marie Hanxleden. However, they did not know the quality of her work or her skills as a teacher.

“We made an appointment, and we went to her home to see if that was something I could do,” said Brient. “Well, my husband and I both walked into her living room, and we were gobsmacked over her work.”

Brient knew she had found the right teacher.

Brient started classes with Marie, and that relationship began a great friendship between the two artists that lasted for 46 years. Brient sees Hanxleden as a source of inspiration, a fellow artist she can look up to.

Barbara also takes inspiration from artists such as Dale Terbush, the contemporary American landscape painter; Thomas Gainsborough, 18th century English landscape and portrait painter; and her grandfather, W.S. Lakeman, one of the most sought-after, black-and-white artists and watercolorists of his time, according to Brient.

Brient still enjoys the process of painting after all these years, and she still finds time for her English garden, her church, and her time as a singer with the South Coast Singers, for the past for 27 years.

She had a longtime role as a soloist for the South Coast Singers, and she still performs as a soloist at her church.

The passing of her husband was what pushed her toward singing again, which she had fallen out of since getting married. She went in for an audition after seeing an ad at a nail salon, and to her surprise, she was picked as a soloist.

She stepped down as a soloist about two years ago to let the younger singers take the lead, but she still performs with the choir group. Her artistic drives are still very much alive, Brient said, and she’s looking forward to continuing her passions.

The open house showing is scheduled for Saturday from 11 a.m.-2 p.m. at 33561 Via de Agua, San Juan Capistrano. For more information, contact Brient at 949.661.1159.

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