Saturday, July 28, 2012

Summer Florals: Hydrangeas Galore!

Painting has slowed down a bit, allowing me to sit on the porch an extra minute (or two) every day, enjoying the birdsong and my gardens.

Everything is in full bloom during this end of July:  hydrangeas of every color, black eyed Susan's, dianthus, liatris, gladiolas, shastas, clematis, cleome', and coreopsis. Just as lovely are the wide ranging greens in the garden this year.  One of my apples serves as a model in this painting.  In the vegetable garden are squash, zucchini, tomatoes, chard, beans, cucumbers and potatoes. 

I'm thoughtfully painting more slowly, trying to get the compositions right, in order to do these beauties justice.  I always try to sneak in one of my grandmother Helen's blue Mason jars from long ago, in homage to her, and women like her everywhere, who put in so many hours canning good foods for their families.

So, here's to women everywhere who work hard:  on the job, in the home, in their gardens and with their families.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Gratitude: I Paint, I Teach, I Conquer!

Gratitude is still my guiding thought.  I certainly hope this gratefulness continues.....

It's summer, and I'm still painting "en plein aire," and trying to figure out how to handle queries from inquiring minds while I'm in the midst of painting....I know a few artists who are rude to passers by....but I cannot be rude to folks, because I believe I'm an emissary of , not only my own work, but, of artists in general, when I'm painting in public.  But, there must be some sort of sign I can construct for my easel to gently nudge folks, in a humorous way, to ask a few questions of me, and then move on. 

I particularly enjoy being left alone to paint on my days off, when I'm not working, and when I'm participating with plein aire clubs - for fun.  I teach so much, and I'm on the road making so many deliveries, that I need this time to paint for ME.  I'd like to be a  little bit selfish (once in a while), so that I can go to that peaceful mental space where I love to go (and I arrive there through painting), so that I can re -charge those batteries and be ready to give again in the next class, or at the next reception, or to my family, or friends, or so on...and so forth.

I've been updating my website today, and I've decided that I've had a heck of a good year.  I've won some awards, I've been juried into plein aire competitions, and been selected for quite a few national/international watercolor shows. I "get" to teach to sold out classes,  and I "get" to teach in Italy and other exotic locations around the world. I "get" to work in a field that I love.  I'm grateful.

I caught Lyme's Disease during a plein aire paintout in Pennsylvania last year and was pretty sick for several months (and for the beginning of 2012);  my husband had a detached retina while we were in Italy - but, he's completely recovered ;  I have family members that make life difficult....but, still, I just have a really full heart.

I'm grateful to be able to paint and make a little money off of it; I'm grateful to share my gift through teaching; I'm grateful to be accomplishing quite a lot;  the only thing that I might change this year is...the economy....I'd like to ask folks out there to help artists a painting.  Sales of work is a bit down.  My paintings are created because something inside of me compels me to paint them....I never understand why...and it always seems that just the right person is out there waiting for that particular's meant for's meant to bring them something good.  So, please, folks, get out there!   There might be a piece of artwork that is meant entirely for you and your edification.

Here's a picture of "Buzz on 5th Avenue," which is en route to the San Diego International Watermedia Exhibit.

And, I'm also including here a list of the national shows I've been accepted to this year.  It makes me feel really grand to have finally written it all down.
“My Perspective: The David” will be featured in the book SPLASH 14: Color and Light. The book is a collection of 100 top contemporary American watercolor paintings, and it’s released annually by North Light Publishing Company. The book comes out in June, 2013.
"Minor Adjustments" will be on exhibit at the Baltimore Watercolor Society's Mid-Atlantic Regional Show at Black Rock Arts Center, Germantown, MD, from September 16 (reception) - October 5, 2012.

"Buzz on 5th Avenue" was selected by juror Nicholas Simmons for the San Diego Watercolor Society's 32nd International Watercolor Exhibition at the SDWS Gallery in San Diego. The exhibit runs August - September, 2012.

"Burano Reflections" was selected by juror Carole Barnes for the September 14 - October 28, 2012 Rocky Mountain National Watermedia Exhibition at the Foothills Art Center, in Golden, CO.
Catherine was one of 30 artists selected to paint in the "Paint It, Ellicot" plein aire competition July 7 - 9, 2012.

"Round 'n Round" won an Award of Merit at the 2012 33rd Annual Virginia Watercolor Society jurored exhibition.

Catherine was one of 30 artists selected to paint in the June, 2012, "Mountain Maryland Plein Aire" event in Cumberland, MD. She was awarded an Honorable Mention by judge Stephen Dougherty for her painting "Off Route 40."

"Radda, en plein aire" was selected for exhibit for the “Il Chiostro: The Eyes Have It” exhibit at the 25CPW Gallery in NYC, from March 21 - end of April, 2012.

"Burano Reflections" was selected for the February, March, 2012 Rockies West National Exhibition in Grand Junction, CO.

"Morning in the City" was included in the Signature American Watercolor Show at the Fallbrook Arts Center in Fallbrook, CA, January of 2012.
Catherine Hillis has had paintings selected for the following regional and national exhibits/events:

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Paint It! Ellicott City, Maryland

July 5 - 9, 2012

The weather:  HOT

Ellicott City:  an APPROPRIATELY historic and desirable location

Juried Artists:  30

The temperature hovered around (and above) 100 degrees during the 2012 plein aire paint out in Ellicott City.

Working with the weather is always one of the primary factors in successful plein aire painting.  I viewed the weather forecast several times leading up to my date of departure.  The Washington D.C. area was stuck in an unusual heat wave of stifling temperatures and unhealthy air, and some households were still without electricity after an unusually violent derecho a week earlier. 

I decided that I'd work very early each morning and stay indoors during the hot afternoons for siesta, returning in the early evenings to work again.  This schedule worked well for me.  I woke up the first morning at 5 am, and light was breaking, so I ate breakfast, put on my sunblock and hat, and left for work.  This first painting of Ellicott City, MD was started at 6 am and completed by 10:30.  I sat right on Main Street and saw many of the artists as they arrived in town to paint.

I saw more unjuried artists during this event.  I guess the juried artists were staying out of the sun and in the shady nooks - which is a sign of experience.  Many of the unjuried artists had a habit of talking .... and talking......and talking.  I don't mind chatting, but it becomes difficult to concentrate and complete work when folks want to continue their conversations while perspiration is pouring down your back, your brain is heating up, and you'd rather nap than paint because of the extreme temperatures. 

Plein aire politeness rules  dictate that one can greet the artist, and make a comment or two - after that , though, remember...this artist is trying to complete a fine painting and is COMPETING for prizes.  Visitors, please respect the artist's space and concentration, and remember - this is their vocation, not their hobby.....thank you!

If you saw a surgeon working away on an appendix, how much chatting would you commit to...really???  The concentration required, and the final goals are fairly similar.  The artist is focusing on a complex set of circumstances and wants to leave with some well... constructed... handiwork.  Please keep this in mind.  I was particularly surprised at the lack of respect the unjuried artists demonstrated in the field.......experienced plein aire artists know not to linger and distract the working artist.

Heat always seems to bring out loquaciousness.  I can remember painting en plein aire is Rousillion, France, when it was 102 degrees and fellow tourists saw me painting, and  wanted to know where I was from....when they discovered I was an American, they insisted on beginning long discussions about George Bush, and how they hated him.......politics and heat...that was one difficult day.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Seriously Seeking Spiritual Food ... in Florence, Italy

Seriously Seeking Spiritual Food

June 20, 2012
My husband, John, was in a plane en route to America for emergency eye surgery.  It was 6:00 on Friday morning, and I was sitting in a cab in Florence, returning to my hotel from the airport,  preparing to teach 8 American women how to paint Italy in watercolors – eight lovely,  interesting women (each one with a story of their own),  who had spent a great deal of money to take a workshop and fly to Italy.  My heart was in one place; my body in another.

My anxiety level was through the roof; my husband and I have experienced enough drama in our lives during the past few years. This…. was too much.  Since the day I was conceived, my life has been one dramatic episode after another, and this latest jolt just exacerbated my feelings of belligerence and doubt towards the higher power.  What IS he or she thinking?  What kind of joke is this thing called my life to the omnipotent being?

How was I to find peace in this situation and prepare myself, body and soul, to teach these eight wonderful women, support my husband and still take care of myself in a good way?  In truth, my husband would be in the very capable hands of my adult son, David, and his surgeons, once he landed in Virginia.  My students had already assured me that they supported me.  I knew everything would be taken care of by the staff at San Fedele once we arrived.  So…..I decided to spend Friday trying to reconnect with the Omnipotent Being in the pursuit of personal peace.

I decided to spend the day getting lost in Florence, walking every step of it, and visiting every church I came across, so that I could light candles and pray for my husband’s recovery.  I’m not Catholic, and I’ve never lit a candle in a church before in my life…..but if ever there was a time for it, this was it!  I was in the process of “letting go….”  This was truly a situation where I had ABSOLUTELY NO CONTROL.  Letting go and getting my head into a good place was absolutely necessary in order for me to perform the tasks ahead….

I guess there’s a church on every corner in Florence.  I walked just a few paces towards  the first church I saw, when….

a group of about 40 Italian men, all types, shapes and styles, in colorful regalia, spread themselves out along the steps and, following their wonderful conductor, burst into song.  I don’t know who this group was, but they appeared to be a professional men’s choir….and I enjoyed a free concert of Italian folk music and religious songs.  The masculine voices were…glorious.

After five songs, the men dispersed, seemingly to perform in their next location, and I entered the church to the sound of…..more music! 

There, in front of the altar, were a dozen nuns and priests, dressed in hooded white robes, chanting acapella.  It was beautiful …spiritual….strange…. and other worldly.  I sat there, spell bound by the intricate, woven patterns of monastic chant…..and there I remained for the entire service.

I was feeling very peaceful…and strange.  I left the chapel, and headed down the street, finding that I had walked in a giant circle around the city and there I was …. on the steps of the very church that I’d been in the day before, when John told me he needed to go to the hospital - immediately. 

I entered the church door and was jolted by a loud cacophony of full throttle, gloriously loud, fully loaded - organ music.  I was, once again, the recipient of a free concert, this time receiving the glory of Italian composers, performed in the woody tones of a centuries old cathedral sized organ.  It was marvelous.

At the end of this concert, I lit my final candle, feeling satiated and peaceful and ready to meet my challenges.  I could stop walking around Florence.  My head, and my heart, felt good.  I had made a sort of agreement with the omnipotent one. I would keep moving forward in this journey called life, and he/she would provide me with enough peace to continue….one…step….at…..a…..time.

I was seeking spiritual food and I found it, through three musical WORSHIP encounters.  I don’t know how or why these unexpected musical events happened, but I felt like they were planned just for me, and the music helped settle my head and spirit  and I found a little peace in Florence…..

Included in this blog are some photographs I took that day in Florence, Italy, June 8, 2012.  I hope this story brings YOU a little peace….