Sunday, February 2, 2014

Inspired by Beauty ~ Artist Kathleen Hill

"Change the world with your ideas" ~ is a nice quote I read somewhere and thought to share. In upcoming weeks I will publish a new series of articles and interviews of artists who have been collaborating with one another in various endeavors. They've come together from all walks, became friends and joined in as part of a team or formed a tight partnership.

I myself will be collaborating with various artists and groups on exciting art projects in the months to come. Another exciting and fun endeavor is this publishing project by my friend Matteo Grilli. He illustrated this wonderful book and I want to share it with you: Watercolour Explorations on Australian Wildlife Vol.1 with 90 pages of beautiful paintings.

I also want to share with you artist Kathleen Hill's story - I met Kathleen online during the holidays as part of a group of artists who shared a Secret Santa ornament. She paints beautiful realistic art and it is "always about the animals," she says.

Artist Kathleen Hill
"My very first adventure was escaping from my yard at the age of three and walking down to the corner fire station to visit with the Dalmation dog that lived there. When I got a little older I was bitten by the 'horse bug' that so many little girls experience," she continues. Kathleen's school time was spent doodling horses on all of her papers and she became known as "the girl who could draw horses." Her teachers noted that she had artistic ability that should be cultivated.

"Unfortunately, the other side of my brain that was trying to do the math lost out in my education! I wanted to be a veterinarian and my biological sciences studies were excellent, but, again, the math and chemistry skills were woefully behind! I am grateful now because I think as a vet, I would have died of a broken heart! When we moved from Chicago to Walnut Creek, California, one of the most heavily populated horse areas at the time, I secured a job with a horse trainer. I got to be around them every day, clean their stalls, feed them, turn them out; it was absolute Heaven!! (And I got paid for it!!)."

© Kathleen Hill
Eventually, Kathleen got to assist the trainer and was, in essence, a groom for him, she adds. "More touching and feeling the beauty of the horses. This is where I learned the unique qualities, bone structures, and personalities that made each and every one as individual as a snowflake. I started painting portraits on decoupage wood plaques and my business was born! The people who owned the horses in training were thrilled and also paid me money!"

So after graduating from high school, she had a choice as to what to do with her earnings that she had saved: take flying lessons or go to art school in San Francisco? "Art school was the practical choice," she concluded. "Long bus rides to the city twice a day for two weeks, all for the joy of doing figure drawing and fashion design. After two weeks, I went to my counselor and asked if I could just take the course on drawing and painting animals? When he looked at me like I was nuts and said 'no!' I left never to return. Now, I can add a lot of stuff about what happened in between then and now, like being married to a wonderful man and raising two amazing children, but I am supposed to be brief!"

© Kathleen Hill
Kathleen, can you give us a description of your art and style, I asked? She replied, "I am definitely a realist. I want my critters to look so real they can almost breathe. I want you to see the softness of the fur and feathers and how it flows, the glimmer of life in each eye. As a main art theme I'd say I am a portraitist first and foremost. That has always been my focus, the unique qualities that make each one unique." This hasn’t necessarily been a benefit for licensing, she says. "The licensing industry needs to lean toward appealing to masses. While I've done okay in niche markets, the art needs to do more than just be a portrait, it should tell some sort of story."

She continues to say: "I work in oils and also in colored pencil. My ideal way of working is to see an animal and be able to take photos of it, render a pencil sketch of how I want it to be done, transfer the drawing to either canvas or mat board, and then start blocking it in with the desired medium. Then it is just a matter of working until I get the desired detailing which can take many layers. The preliminary drawing is an important step because it familiarizes me with the individuality of that bird or animal and the things that are particular to it."

© Kathleen Hill
What's exciting about her creative work, she says, is seeing the critters come alive and then "seeing the emotion on people's faces when they pick up their portraits, especially if it is an animal that has meant the world to them and has crossed the Rainbow Bridge."

Birds and animals are her inspiration. "I love them in every sense of the word. They connect with my heart, and my way of expressing that deep feeling is through my art. I am inspired by beauty, from a delicate flower to an expansive sunrise or sunset. I hear about artists having creative blocks, but for me, I just need to go outside, breathe, and I always find something to be inspired by!"

She goes on saying: "I just finished my first, and probably last, mural. I had always wanted to do that for one of the animal shelters in the area. One day I saw an article in the paper about a Girl Scout who was working on her Gold project and was looking for artists to do a mural representing one of the five towns that the shelter serviced. Eureka! I was scared to death that it would literally take me the rest of my life to do it because I am used to working on small pieces in my studio. This was 5 feet by 7 feet and had to be done on location! Well, I have to say, it was one of the most exciting and rewarding things I have done. I felt that it literally painted itself. I was so concerned that when I got down to rendering the dog and cat, I would get so nit-picky, and that getting detail on a textured wall would be so impossible that I'd get totally frustrated. It all worked out and it is one of the highlights in my artistic career!"

 © Kathleen Hill
What are your future aspirations and goals, I asked. She immediately said, "my biggest goal for this year is to paint one hundred paintings (and/or drawings) and to improve my abilities with the sheer practice that this would command. I took a workshop with Kevin MacPhearson a long time ago and he, referring to the art of plein air painting, said that you had to get 100 paintings under your belt and then you would get it. There is so much effort spent on marketing and social media, the business side of art, that I feel like my easel time has really suffered over the last few years. So now my goal is to practice, do some experimentation, and see what I can learn.

Find out more about Kathleen Hill here:

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