Archive for the ‘80 Painting Challenge’ Category


There were a couple of unintended consequences of my 2013 challenge. The first was the emphasis on production. On the up side, I completed more paintings in one year than I ever have in the past!!

On the down side, I was often looking to what new piece I could post on my blog and what number it was in the scheme of things. Without being conscious of it, I think this stifled experimentation and exploration, definitely not a good thing for this artist.

I have a couple of projects that I plan to work on in 2014 that are still in the exploration and experimentation stage. Counting finished pieces is not going to help me get these pieces done.

The other unintended consequence is that almost all of my 2013 paintings are small-scale – 8” square and smaller. I’m not sure why this is. It wasn’t done intentionally to create more pieces. It’s probably more reflective of a busier than normal family calendar.

So my new challenge has to encourage experimentation and exploration, even if it means less production. And I need to allow myself to work on some larger pieces, even if they don’t succeed or take up too much time.

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Ethel Hills - 2013 Challenge

Last year, I started my 80 painting challenge part way through the year. I decided that I would produce 80 paintings in 2013 and get them out into the world. That would be up from 65 in 2012. For the challenge, I counted paintings that are ready to go out in the world. That means they are in their final form, aesthetically “complete”.

Based on this definition, I did complete exactly 80 paintings. I pulled back one of the last pieces and decided that it wasn’t done to my satisfaction. I thought I’d end up with 81, but didn’t quite make it.

I’m considering what my challenge will be this year. Should it be the number of paintings completed, the number of paintings exhibited, the number of exhibitions, the number of square inches of painting surface, or the number of days I paint? Perhaps it should be about sales or about the amount of money that I can raise for charity. None of this feels quite right, so I’m still searching for the right idea.

If anyone else is doing some sort of challenge or big goal for the year, I’d love to hear about it.

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I can’t believe it’s been almost a month since I last posted to my blog. I’ll probably get into that a bit more in a later post. For now, let me say that I’m sorry to be away for so long.

As many of you know, I had an 80 painting challenge for 2013. I thought that I was going to end up with 81 paintings for the year. After my last post, I decided that the last painting I posted, Shelter #10, really wasn’t done. I’m still struggling with it. Hopefully, you’ll see the final painting posted here in the next couple of weeks.

Here is the other painting that I was working on at the time. I finished this just before the end of the year.

Ethel Hills - "Just Beyond Peak" - Mixed Media Collage on MDF Panel - 6" x 6"

Ethel Hills – “Just Beyond Peak” – Mixed Media Collage on MDF Panel – 6″ x 6″

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I apologize. I’ve gotten behind on my weekly posts. I hope to get back to my regular schedule by next week.

Today, I’ve got two paintings for you. I started these at the same time and have been having a very difficult time finishing them. I think I finally have it “under control”. These started out to be just acrylic paintings with no collage, but I ended up adding pieces of paper to pull the paintings together.

The simple line drawings that started these paintings didn’t seem to be enough, so I struggled with collage elements as well. I like the way they’ve come out even though they’re very different from my original idea. I’m pretty sure that Shelter #9 is done, but am not as confident that I’m finished with Shelter #10. Any thoughts??

These are #78 and #80 in my 80 painting challenge. (More on this later in the week.)

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The painting I have for you this week is part of a new series that I’m working on. The working title for the series and so far for the paintings is “Shelter”. The idea starting in a kind of straightforward manner, but it’s blossoming into something kind of interesting. Initially, it had to do with a charity I support, the York County Shelter Program, Inc. in York, ME. Now, I’m realizing it may be as much about emotional shelter and refuge as it is about physical shelter.

This is one of three paintings that I started almost 2 months ago. They’re all the same size – 7″ x 5″. Initially, they were just stylized houses, painted in solid colors. The background was also divided up into different color and value shapes. Once I got the initial painting done, they didn’t seem to be working. In other words, they were boring. In the end, I added bits of collage to enliven the work. This piece has just a bit of collage. So maybe it’s not quite as flat and boring as it was before. I toyed with the idea of putting a moon in the night sky, but decided against it. The light and texture in the door and window seemed to be enough. What do you think?

This is #75 of my 80 painting challenge. It looks like it’s going to be kind of close, but I think I’ll make it by the end of the year. More on that later.


Ethel Hills - Shelter #8 - Mixed Media on Panel - 7" x 5"

Ethel Hills – Shelter #8 – Mixed Media on Panel – 7″ x 5″

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I’ve been working on some small pieces over the last couple of weeks. These are tiny collages. I start by painting a “background” on watercolor paper. Then I tear the paper into smaller pieces, each approximately 3 1/2″ x 3 1/2″. Then I look for bits and pieces with colors that seem to go together.

Once the composition is set up, I glue the pieces onto the “background” piece. Normally, I’ll glue just one piece or layer at a time. Once the piece of paper is glued down, I’ll layer it between wax paper and cover it with books and weight it down. I’ll then leave it to dry overnight.

These small pieces usually have only 3 or 4 pieces glued, so they are normally completed in less than a week. I finished these up last month. These are #61 – #64 in my 80 Painting Challenge.  (I might still make it.)


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This week’s post is an old/new painting. I actually started this quite a while ago with no particular plan in mind. I just had some nice colors and some fun papers collaged onto the panel. It’s been sitting in my studio waiting for a decision. Although this doesn’t look that much like the other work that I’ve been doing, I really like it. It makes me think of the riotous color of a garden in full bloom. This is #60 in my 80 painting challenge.

Ethel Hills - Summer Garden - Mixed Media Collage on Panel - 6" x 6"

Ethel Hills – Summer Garden – Mixed Media Collage on Panel – 6″ x 6″

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Saturday I dropped off my pieces for WCA-NH’s annual 6 x 6 exhibit. I got them done just in the nick of time, putting the last coat of varnish on the paintings Friday night. The exhibit will be going up sometime the first week of November at Studio 550 Art Center in Manchester.

If you’ve been following this blog, you know that I spent most of September working on ideas for a series of paintings based on the idea of “Shelter”. These are the first paintings that I’ve done based on those studies. I’m pleased with the way they came out. I drew directly in pencil on the gessoed surface and then painted with acrylic. I primarily used liquid and fluid acrylics, which I think gives it more of the feel of the original watercolor studies.

I’m pleased with these pieces and am quite excited to be starting on this new series. It will be interesting to see the reception of these, as they are quite different in some ways from my recent work. I have several different ideas for ways to explore this theme, so I think the final body of work is going to be interesting and diverse.

After taking more than a month when I did mostly studies, It’s time for me to get back to my 80 painting challenge. These are respectively #53, 54, 55 & 56 in my 80 painting challenge.

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As I mentioned last week, I’m going to be including older pieces in my Painting of the Week posts for the month of September. (I’m posting enough new work with the 30 in 30 challenge.)

This one comes to mind because I just hung it at The Provident Bank in Amesbury, MA as part of our “Shape, Line, and Color” exhibit. One of our artists had to remove work early, so I brought in this piece to help fill out the wall.

This is one of my earlier collages. It was done on watercolor paper instead of a wooden panel. That means that it’s matted and framed under glass.

Ethel Hills - Arrangement in Blue & Orange I - Mixed Media Collage on Paper - 6 3/4" x 6 3/4" - Framed to 12" x 12"

Ethel Hills – Arrangement in Blue & Orange I – Mixed Media Collage on Paper – 6 3/4″ x 6 3/4″ – Framed to 12″ x 12″

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This is Day 4 of Leslie Saeta’s 30 paintings in 30 days challenge. I’m one of 412 painters who have joined the challenge. I have a couple more things to do at home before I head to my studio, but I figured I could add my painting for the day anyway. Well, actually, paintings #4 and #5 of 30.  (These are also #51 and 52 of my personal 80 paintings challenge.)

For #4/30, I glued a piece of tissue paper already painted in blues and greens to a wooden painting panel. Since this was painted in acrylic, it made for a slightly slippery surface. I painted on it using gouache. The bright blue tissue peeks through in a few places. Over all, It’s a bit dull, but I kind of like the way the paint almost granulates on the surface. These are all experiments, so I’m learning as I go.

Ethel Hills - Shelter #3 - Mixed Media Collage on Panel - 4" x 4"

Ethel Hills – Shelter #3 – Mixed Media Collage on Panel – 4″ x 4″


#5/30 is done on a 6″ x 6″ panel made of MDF (medium density fiberboard). This is the same surface WCA-NH uses for our annual 6 x 6 exhibit. I had some extra panels in my studio, so they became fodder for another experiment. Again, I glued on brown paper and then painted over it in gouache. I’m still not convinced about this one way of another. I sort of like the brown paper as a surface, but the gouache on top takes on a very soft pastelly texture. The brown keeps the colors fairly soft, not as colorful and bright as I usually paint.

Ethel Hills - Shelter #4 - Gouache on Paper on MDF - 6" x 6"

Ethel Hills – Shelter #4 – Gouache on Paper on MDF – 6″ x 6″


There is something that I like about both of these, but I’m not sure what will carry over into more serious work. My goal for this month is to get some serious studio time in, primarily experimenting with ideas, surfaces, techniques, materials, and approaches. I’ve had this “Shelter” idea in the back of my head for a while, now is the time to see if I can make it a reality.




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