Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Les Femmes Folles

Women in art

Here's a recent interview by Sally Brown Deskins:


Catherine Hillis is one of the exhibiting artists in Monongalia Arts Center’s “Aqueous 2013" exhibit by the West Virginia Watercolor Society thru August 3.
The artist has painted all her life, winning awards and honors at competitive shows regionally and nationally.  
In July of 2007, she served as Artist in Residence in Dinan, France, and in 2010, she served as Artist in Residence at Hot Springs National Park in Arkansas.  Her work has been published in “The Artistic Touch 5,” and in “Splash 12;” and, the recently released “Splash 14.”    The Splash books are a collection of 100 top contemporary American watercolor paintings; in May, 2011, she won the “Creativity Challenge” in Watercolor Artist Magazine (online version).  She regularly competes in national watercolor exhibitions and plein aire competitions, including the Plein Aire Brandywine competition in 2011, Easels in Frederick, Frederick, MD, 2011, and Ellicott City,  MD, 2012, Cranford, NJ 2013 and the Bucks County 2013 Plein Air Paint Out.  She won an award for her painting in the 2012 Mountain Maryland Plein Aire competition in Cumberland, MD, awarded by well known judge and “Plein Aire” Magazine editor, Stephen Dougherty.
Hillis’ work has been featured in “Best of American Watercolorists, 2007;” she garnered second place in watercolors for the state of Virginia in 2005, her work being published in the book, “Best of Virginia Artists and Artisans, 2005;” her biography is included in “Who’s Who Among American Women, 2006 - 2013.”  
She primarily paints in watermedia, including busy street scenes, coastal landscapes, and her favorite, the historic sites near her home on the Blue Ridge in Virginia.  The hallmarks of her work are rich color and a touch of humor.
The artist offers classes and workshops across the country and abroad: see her website at for workshop and class information.  You can also view the artist teaching a series of brief watercolor lessons at (type in watercolors onto the subject line), with F&W Media online, and on YouTube at “Watercolor Tips” with Catherine Hillis.
She generously shares with LFF about how she went from modeling to acting to mothering and making visual art, feminism, her artistic process, teaching and more…
How’d you get into art?
I’ve been interested in the arts for as long as I can remember.  As a child, I performed in theater and did some modeling.  The income I made as a child ended up paying for my college education.  I majored in theater at the University of Georgia and did a lot of acting there ( my major love), but I learned skills as a costumer and costume designer, so that I’d have something to fall back on that might generate income.  I ended up working in costumes for several years after graduating.  I did some acting as well.

I started a family before hitting my thirty’s and once I had children, I became a stay at home mom and dropped out of theater.  I really enjoyed those years of raising my 3 children:  reading books and telling stories was my favorite part.

Once my youngest child began toddling, I became hungry for the arts again and began taking watercolor classes.  I could always draw and paint well and watercolors seemed like a good fit because they’re clean, relatively non toxic, I could use them in my kitchen and I could achieve fast results.  I fell in love with the arts all over again and now, after many years, I think it would be difficult to stop me from painting.

I guess painting is a positive sort of …. addiction.  I hate to admit that, but I think it’s true.

I paint because it’s my destiny.  I have to do it.

"Round and Round" watercolor by Catherine Hillis

Tell me about your work. What do you hope viewers get out of your work? Does feminism play a role?
I often like to insert a twist or a sense of humor in my work.  I like to take complex, chaotic scenes and make some sense out of them.  I think this is a reflection of my life…I’d like to be able to do that same thing with life in general…..take chaos, create something, and  make it serene.

I hope that when the observer sees my work they sense a bit of humor, or reflect on some moment in their own life. I like to tell stories with my work and I think that comes from my background in drama.  I always think art should tell a story.

I think the main way feminism may play a role in my work is because I now realize that while I was home watching the children, I did, without a doubt, lose time in my own journey as a professional.  I think about it often, wondering if I can make up that time in my career.  I feel like I’m in a hurry.  I want to express life the way that I see it.  I want to paint and take those chaotic scenes and…work them.

"The David, My Perspective," watercolor by Catherine Hillis

What’s your artistic process like?
I work in my north light studio at home every single day that I can.  I usually start with my first cup of coffee and paint for several hours in the early morning.  If I have a great piece going, I stop for short breaks but will generally work all day.  I’m very disciplined and extremely focused. 
When I’m teaching, though, it’s hard to focus on my own work, so I don’t paint on days that I teach.

What would people be surprised to know about you?
People might be surprised to know that I was a child model and was in a feature in Vogue Magazine in the 60’s.

Any advice for aspiring artists?

I feel very strongly about people following their destiny.  I feel very strongly that painting is my job right now, along with teaching, and that this is the way I’m affecting lives at this time.
More on Catherine Hillis:
Monongalia Art Center:

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

This Virginia farm is one of my favorite locations to paint.

I'm trying to focus on the next few days, when I'll be painting in another plein air competition.

My goal is to create better work than I have in the past.  I want to further develop my skills as a plein air painter. 

This has been a good summer for thinking, painting, drawing and considering what direction I want my work to go in next, although I haven't come up with any decisions.  But, it's all a process and I think these things take time.....