Work of heart
Published: September 22, 2010
Margaret Hoybach is a serious artist, author and speaker, but she doesn’t take herself too seriously. If “Margaret” seems too formal for someone who travels with a three-foot teddy bear, just call her “Maggie.” At a summer camp for kids affected by cancer, ask for “Doodles.”
Her husband, Peter, retired after 27 years in the Air Force, now flies with Maggie, who travels the world as a painter and an ambassador for art.
In her 50-year art career, Maggie has painted vineyards from Napa to Provence, historic architecture from St. Louis to Tuscany – and lots of airplanes.
As a young military wife, with help from her pilot husband, she learned to paint technically correct pictures of various aircraft.
“From someone who was a Monet aficionado, painting airplane pictures was a challenge,” she said. “Pilots didn’t want their airplanes looking impressionistic or the tail might fall off.”
“The great artists had their painting periods,” Maggie said. “Mine were absolutely due to where we were stationed.”
During her “house-painting period,” while stationed in the Midwest, she painted pictures of historic homes on commission.
Another phase was defined by her own home.
“Base housing was not a big place with three children, so my studio was a circular playpen in the dining room,” in the early years, she said.
“I got in the playpen, and the children were on the outside, so they couldn’t get to my paints … All the kids in the neighborhood thought we had the strangest house,” she said. “That was my playpen period.”
As her artwork was influenced by military life, so was military life colored by her brush and palette.
“It was always a way to give back to the military for whatever reason, where ever I was,” she said. “If they were doing a production, I would paint scenery, or teach a class in watercolor for the wives club.”
Maggie continues to visit military installations in the U.S. and overseas, presenting art programs for adults and children.
At home in Charleston, S.C., she teaches art classes to art students. In her speaking career, she seeks to make the life of the artist humorous and accessible to everyone.
She paints a picture during her program, emphasizing that art requires hard work, not magic.
“People think there’s this mystique about art,” she said. “It’s not like brain surgery, because you really can’t make mistakes in brain surgery … Artists have to practice hour after hour, day after day after day. Being an artist is very hard work, but something a lot of people can do.”
Maggie said she especially loves working with children.
“Young children have the most creative vision,” she said. “Kids do not have to stay inside the lines, and they don’t have to paint in certain colors. You spend your entire adult life trying to get back that creativity you had as a child.”
A few years ago, a stuffed bear named “Teddy” joined Maggie’s retinue. He travels with her, wearing costumes from the countries he’s visited, helping her teach children about art and culture.
Teddy also joins Maggie in her work with Happy Times and Better Days, a South Carolina program for young cancer patients. Each year – as “Doodles” – Maggie serves as the art director for the organization’s summer camp.
As “Margaret,” she co-authored “Colors of France,” a book of her paintings of the Provence region, with fellow military spouse Joan Brown.
Maggie seems to have as many personas as she has painting periods.
Being flexible is a requirement for military spouses, Maggie said.
Perhaps naming her latest creative phase, she adds, “Have bear, must travel.”