WALNUT CREEK -- Nancy Post Hunter picked up a paint brush again as a tonic for a stressful job. As a newly minted children's occupational therapist at Children's Hospital Oakland in the 1980s, she found her love for her work co-mingled with intense emotional stress.

"I was so upset to see all the terrible things that could happen to children," said Hunter. "Painting was a way for me deal with it. I noticed right away that painting gave me more courage. Pushing around oil paint somehow made me braver in my meetings with doctors and staff."

So the former award-winning teen art prodigy from St. Louis resumed painting once more in her mid-20s and hasn't stopped since. Today Hunter paints as often as she can in her home in Walnut Creek's Lakewood neighborhood.

Artist Nancy Hunter is photographed in her home studio on Monday, Jan. 13, 2014 in Walnut Creek, Calif.  Hunter has an exhibit of 25 of her paintings that
Artist Nancy Hunter is photographed in her home studio on Monday, Jan. 13, 2014 in Walnut Creek, Calif. Hunter has an exhibit of 25 of her paintings that will be on display in Walnut Creek's City Hall until the end of February. (Aric Crabb/Bay Area News Group)

Beginning this week, an exhibit of 25 of her paintings will be on display in Walnut Creek's City Hall until the end of February.

According to Hunter, the exhibit is the direct result of her taking an oil painting class from Walnut Creek Civic Arts. She was participating in Civic Arts' Holiday Fair, an annual show and sale of student work when Christina Ferrell -- who coordinates exhibits and sales for Civic Arts -- caught sight of Hunter's paintings and liked what she saw. Ferrell extended an invitation to Hunter to show her work at City Hall this month, provided Hunter could provide enough paintings to display. With a little bit of elbow grease and some intensive easel time over the holidays, Hunter knew she could.


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"I said I would be honored to have my paintings exhibited at City Hall," recalled Hunter, who as she spoke was deftly putting the finishing touches on a verdant landscape destined for the exhibit.

Hunter paints in a pocket studio she has fashioned from a closet in the Walnut Creek home she shares with her husband Campbell, college student son Laurin and their pet beagle. Studying art history as an undergraduate at Mills College before earning her master's degree in occupational therapy at Santa Clara University, Hunter finds her art history background both "helpful and harmful" to her painting. She values the aesthetic influence on her work of major art movements such as the Hudson River School of the 19th century. But she says with a rueful laugh, "I learned what good painting really is. So I am always aiming high, and it can be frustrating. Oil paint is a forgiving medium but it is tricky to handle."

While she was working full-time and raising her son, it wasn't always easy for Hunter to find time and energy for her art. And even though she has more time now, it still isn't easy to shut out the rest of the world and paint.

"There are lots of times when I don't feel like painting. But I do everything I can to get myself to paint. I feel it is something I must do, that I feel compelled to do," she said. "I just want my vision realized badly enough to do whatever it takes to make myself do it. I play tricks on myself, I reward myself."

Although Hunter does not price her paintings to realistically reflect the 75 to 100 hours it takes her to create a finished piece, she realizes that original art at any price is hard for some people to afford. So she allows people to buy her paintings using an informal installment plan.

"Every month I tell them, 'You're a little bit closer to owning that painting. I think it is really important to continue the tradition of people having real art on the walls of their homes."

If you go
WALNUT CREEK ARTIST NANCY POST HUNTER
What: Art Exhibit at Walnut Creek City Hall
When: Jan. 6-Feb. 27
Where: 1666 N. Main St., Walnut Creek
Contact: www.nancyposthunter.com