The purpose of my trip to Beaufort, SC was to take a workshop with Eric Weigardt and try to loosen up my technique a bit. He's a wonderful teacher! I learned SO MUCH and can't wait to paint again. I've been teaching too much and feeling burned out. Ugh.
While I adore my many students, I tend to give everything I have in class and then, I'm running on empty. During the winter, I plan to teach less and paint more. Painting is food for my soul.
Southern food is delicious and will always be my delight. But food for my soul, painting, is the thing I cannot survivie without.
Here's a picture of sunset on the Beaufort River in South Carolina. Perhaps there's a watercolor in this one......
I'm in Beaufort, NC, participating in a workshop and trying to keep the hungry artist well fed. Whenever I foray into the south, I like to enjoy the southern food. What else!
On my first day here, I found a barbeque place with all my favorites: pulled pork, pork chops, chicken, fried okra, gumbo, white beans, green beans, collard greens and... so much more. Lunch is less than $8.00 and includes a hefty portion of meat, two vegetables, a large slab of cornbread and fresh lemonade or tea.
Breakfasts at my B and B have been delightfully prepared by Henri, the owner of the establishment: the first day, I was presented with a "Croissant Patricia;" the second day included "tropical pancakes," a stack of light cakes with layers of bananas and coconut. My beautiful old antebellum "home" overlooks the Beaufort River, a harbor full of boats and old moss covered oak trees that were quiet sentinels during the Civil War.
Tonite, my last evening, was a celebration with Debo and Nancy, students from Georgia. We shared a gourmet meal at the reknown "Saltus" restaurant. I had the best shrimp and grits that I've ever had: light, flavorful, fresh and artfully presented. We discussed the problems and joys of artists, and the tremendous need to feed the artist, not only emotionally, but also nutritionally.
I do recommend Beaufort as a gustatorial haven for the hungry artiste!
I’ve always wanted to see the Anne of Green Gables house on Prince Edward Island. I love the books and read them to my girls when they were young and we watched the movies together. The stories are wonderful, inspiring and amusing and the author really establishes a sense of place and community. I've been intrigued about what the island would really look like. Although the house is not the actual home of the fictional character, Anne, it is wonderfully restored and close to representing the home of the author’s aunt and uncle, who were a major influence in her life.
We crossed an 8 mile bridge to arrive on the island. The landscape is green, wild and rolling with lush fields and bright barns and houses of turquoise, red and corals. The surprisingly orange soil against the green fields, dotted by these brightly colored houses and barns makes for some luscious scenery and will, I hope, transfer into beautiful paintings.
Maine is an absolutely beautiful state and the house I was able to stay in is one of the most photogenic sites I’ve ever stayed at. I took tons of pictures just inside the house! I have many fine interior landscapes that I intend to paint.
While workshops have been ongoing throughout the summer, I do try to take a break from weekly classes during July and August so I can travel and rest. I spend so much time on the road, teaching, dragging paintings around to exhibitions and entering national competitions, that I find myself near exhaustion by June.
So, I've been re-charging my battery in anticipation of the start of classes.
I've been day dreaming, thinking, painting en plein aire, playing with the cats, gardening.... all of this restful activity will guide my thinking and planning and will make me a better (rested) teacher and a thoughtful painter.
Summer for the watercolor painter can be all about plein aire painting. What a great gift and opportunity it is to get out there and capture the lighting, a moment in time and a feeling that .... well, with weather conditions, IT WON'T LAST LONG.
This is a scene at the end of a Virginia country road....
Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you like this piece.
Here's a painting of the grouping of barns at the historic Sky Meadows Park in Delaplaine, VA. The painting is about 15" x 18." Contact me at email@example.com if you're interested. What I enjoyed capturing was that dramatic sky!
Here we are in mid July in the mountains of Northern Virginia and it's just as hot here as it was in Hot Springs, Arkansas. I've had plans to paint en plein aire, but this kind of weather makes it an unsafe proposition for me.
I was able to paint outdoors at Sky Meadows Park in Delaplaine, VA, on Tuesday. I began at 11 am in the morning and I was out by 2 pm with a nearly completed painting. I've had to take it back into the studio for tweaking and, believe me, if there's anything that needs corrections, it's always the values. Values is the topic that students hear me harping about but.... it's nearly always true: once we adjust values, the painting is improved.
As for successful plein aire painting, I believe comfort is the first issue to consider. Next comes simplicity in both subject matter and supplies. In this heat, a watercolor painter needs water to drink, snacks, sunglasses, hat,a small portable chair (I have one that's a camping chair, with side pockets and a marvelous tray for my palette: I sit in comfort) and an umbrella if you need one. I generally find a good spot in shade to set up: that's imperative in the heat. My camera goes with me everywhere and as soon as I set up, I take a number of photographic references, so I can complete the painting at home.
My watercolor supplies are greatly reduced: I take several sheets of pre cut paper, masking tape, a very small portable corrugated plastic board with a handle, my pre filled palette, a few favorite brushes, water, a spray bottle, paper towels and a container. Most of these things can be put into the pockets of my chair. Simplify everything and take very little.
Once you sit down, and you've taken photos, select something you can paint easily in an hour or two.
I'll be posting the picture of my Sky Meadows painting soon. Be looking for it...
Here's my latest painting, based on my trip to Hot Springs National Park in Hot Springs, Arkansas. I was based along this beautiful river during the trip and I spent a lot of time along the water. I hope this view brings peace and tranquility to all who see it. We certainly need it. Please contact me if you are interested in this painting. firstname.lastname@example.org
It's another 100 degree day here. The minute I step outdoors, my glasses fog up completely...maybe that's symbolic of my life.
I'm nearly finished with my work here. I'm going to show the Superintendent and her committee my paintings on Friday morning, at which time they'll select the piece they want for the museum. Again, it's been a delight to serve here at Hot Springs National Park. However, I do wish it had not been so, well, hot. If the weather had been a little cooler, I would have painted outdoors more, which is my preference. In this case, I've been taking photographs, returning to the house to print the photos, and painting from the pictures. I really do feel like there's an extra energy in a painting when it's produced en plein aire, but it is what it is. I have produced a mixture of water landscapes and architectural pieces. Most of the real park consists of those beautiful, Victorian bathhouses. My, are they interesting ..... and old. They still contain the original locker rooms, porcelain tubs, steel showers, porcelain sitz baths and steam boxes. I think about how hot those buildings must have been in those days, with the steam of the water filling every nook and cranny, rotting the timbers. The Victorians had a higher tolerance for weather than we did...
There’s a small river running along my campground. It’s lovely and I’ve painted it twice so far. It’s one of my favorite spots in the national park. It’s full of little waterfalls, which are fun to paint in watercolors. Every afternoon, I go to the swimming hole, just below a main waterfall, and watch folks swim! It’s a delight to see the children and their parents taking part in this old fashioned activity. What fun! I confess that I’m participating as well. After a little swim, I grab my fishing pole and try a little fly fishing. The afternoons have been very enjoyable…..
It’s blazing hot in Hot Springs. So, it’s not just about hot water; it’s also about hot weather. I’m told that this near 100 degree heat is pretty typical during the summer. I can’t seem to get it right: when I was painting in France as Artist in Residence, it ended up being the rainiest June on record… and I work in watercolors! Ugh. I hope that the next time I travel or apply for a residency, I’ll find good, dependable weather that’s conducive for painting outdoors. Of course, regardless of conditions, I paint and find new ways to reach the goal….
I’ve completed four paintings this week: two for the park, and two for me. I have two more drawn, stretched and ready to go. I like to go on site and draw, recording the scene with photographs immediately. It’s too darn hot to sit outside for long. I tried to paint outdoors yesterday, and thought I’d pass out from heat stroke! So, it’s back to the studio for me.
Seeking free internet is a constant struggle. I finally went to the public library and thought that would be a breeze. I began filling out the papers to apply for a library card, so I could begin working my way through their books as well, but the process was so difficult and became intensely personal, so I finally gave up. In order to apply for a library card at the Hot Springs Library, a non resident like me must sign their life away: signature, multiple addresses and telephone numbers, references with personal phone numbers and addresses and FINALLY, my social security number. I politely refused this last request. After all, I only wanted to borrow books! They do, thankfully, have computers that non residents may use to catch up on the internet and that was sufficient for me except that when I want to update my blog, I really need to use my own computer and photographs that I’ve uploaded.
As soon as one ventures outdoors, glasses, camera lens and water bottle fog up. This glass of wine is on the picnic table in front of my little abode. Note the condensation. This is in honor of my good friends, the “Susans,” who are probably at a wonderful Virginia winery right now enjoying themselves.
So, I shall continue painting the National Park here in Hot Springs. In between sessions, I continue to seek free internet resources, the best fried chicken, the crunchiest catfish and the most delectable ribs so that body, mind and soul can remain in balance.
Chow, friends, and drink a glass for me! Happy painting!
It's been very hot here at Hot Springs National Park - nearly 100 degrees every day. Lots of folks here in the campgroounds are taking advantage of the old swimming hole here at the campground. I hope to do that myself today.
I'll be painting the lovely river and swimming hole while I'm staying here.
There's lots to paint; it's too hot to paint outdoors, however, so I'm taking photos and then going indoors to work.
Artists really do need to research a location before they paint. I like to know the culture, the history and the lay of the land before I begin working, because I’m hoping that the “feel” of the place will come through my paintings.
What an incredible gift the Department of the Interior and the administration and staff of Hot Springs National Park has provided for persons selected to be Artist in Residence. There is a lot of support from the staff; employees seem to know about the position and they’re all willing to lend a hand if needed. The AIR house is a lovely c. 1932 stone cottage, fully equipped, clean and ready to go, with a large studio and excellent lighting. I feel honored to have been selected and I hope that the work I commit to here will reflect the beauty and history of my surroundings and will be worthy of the selection process. My hope is that the Artist in Residence program continue in perpetuity and that other national parks will be able to find the funding to promote artists and their work in the parks.
Ranger Jeff Heitzman has patiently seen me through the process, from my first letter of acceptance until my arrival, answering questions and providing contacts. He graciously took me on a tour of Hot Springs National Park, providing real insight about this particular park’s history and mission.
As Jeff has said repeatedly, Hot Springs National Park is about the thermal springs: water, water, water. The park is about the water. I had misconceptions about national parks in general, believing that they were all about mountains, landscape, rivers, creeks and skies, but indeed, this national park is about the thermal springs, the Victorian era bathhouses and all the areas in between
Still, more reseasrch is needed to understand the indigenous culture of the area where I am to paint.
Today, I decided that it was essential to participate in the hot thermal baths in order to understand the nature of this national park. After all, it IS about the water, the HOT water, and the spas.
After participating in the bathing experience, I have decided that there is a Higher Power after all and H.P. may very well live in Buckstaff Bathhouse. The experience was heavenly. I have new respect for the Victorians and their belief in the healing power of the spas.
Tonite, I had to continue the cultural research: it ends with ribs, cole slaw and an extra large, thick slice of white bread at Stubby's BarBQ.
Here's the link to the Creative Challenge award I just won for this national magazine! I found out the other day. This is exciting news for me and a good way to begin an artist's residency in a national park.
FOCUS: The State of BEING A Professional Artist (all paintings and text are the copyrighted property of Catherine Hillis) (The attached painting is titled Pedicure and it will be available at Wide River Gallery in Colonial Beach, VA during March of 2010.)
I'd like to invite artists, gallery owners, and art lovers to bring their opinions to the table.
Alright, so you've spent some time thinking about your goals and your definition of success. It's difficult to be honest about this topic and I'd wager that we could all spend another few weeks in thoughtful consideration. If an artist knows what her goals are for her art, if she knows what success means for her - then, what's next? More thinking..... leads me to ask myself if I'm focused, utterly, singularly, professionally, unequivocally.... focused on my goals, my art and my road to success.
Am I focused on the WORK (and this is my occupation that I'm talking about) of producing my art.
Am I focused on producing only quality work.
Am I focused on practising good, standard business practices. This includes keeping financial records in excellent condition, staying organized, maintaining a good credit standing, arranging for insurance, titles, incorporation filings, and yes, making a profit. A viable business must make a profit.
Am I focused on using all of my talents and abilities to add income to my business: this might include writing, teaching, selling artwork, managing, or utilizing any skills one might have in their field. Another word for this might be....diversification of the use of your skills.
Am I focused on marketing myself and my work.
Am I focused on listening to the customer.
Am I focused on listening to the gallery owner and meeting their needs for their clients.
The past two years have been brutal ones for artists and gallery owners alike. Even the savviest marketers have taken a hit and I've been utterly shocked at the many great painters and aggressively successful gallery owners who have had to fold as a result of the 2009 recession. It's definitely survival of the fittest out there!
Perhaps this is a grand time to begin re-defining our goals and re-evaluating why we're out there painting or selling art and whether we are reaching the level of success we desire. Art is, after all, a retail operation, whether we like it or not, so the sale of art requires that the artist be certain that they're running a sharp, effective retail operation with, of course, an awful lot of leeway in between. After all, the purchase of a piece of art is not a necessity but is perhaps the result of something subjective that occurs between the artist and the client.
Think on these subjects if you're an artist. Why are you creating your art and who are you creating it for? What are you doing with your art after it's completed? Are you truly committed to art as business, or is the pursuit of art your hobby? What defines success to you? Take some real time to define your goals, examine where you're at in achieving those goals and evaluate your definition of success.
The painting depicted, Last Day (watercolor by Catherine Hillis, c., 14" x 17" framed), will be available at Wide River Gallery in Colonial Beach, VA for $190.00. (804)224-9984