Archive for the ‘Creativity’ Category

The next phase started in late July. I started a slightly different series. These were done on a slightly different playing card, one with 2 opposing corners cut off. When I went to buy more cards, I found these. They seemed like the same size, so I just went ahead. The different shape made me think a bit differently about these. I drew a fairly simple grid that was “off”, just a little bit funky. It’s a format that I’ve experimented with in the past.
This format seemed right for words. The off kilter grid left an uneven border. I filled some of the borders with words. Words of prayer, words of hope, words of love. Some days these were prayers for healing and patience. Other times, it might be a thank you for a particularly lovely day, but more often a general thank you for the blessings we often take for granted – Health, Love, Family, Home.


GraceNotesSample1- Large

They have evolved to be part daily prayer and part gratitude journal.

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By June, I had established a routine. I was doing at least one sketch in my sketchbook and one on my origami covered playing cards. And it occurred to me that it might be good to share these with the world. There were a couple of reasons to do this. First of all, art doesn’t do much if it’s stuck in a drawer and no one sees it. The other reason to share it was to see what others thought.

I also had to get over the equally obvious reasons not to share. First, this work is very different than what I had been working on. Second, I’m just starting, so nothing is polished. Third, it was hard for me to decide how much to share.

The most immediate way seemed to be Instagram. I could take a photo with my phone and then immediately post it to Instagram. It was simple and quick. That meant it was simple to add this additional step to my art making routine. To keep things simple, I haven’t done much editing. I’ve posted daily even when I wasn’t overjoyed with my results. You can catch my feed @ethelhills.

This has another advantage. I quickly added a brief review of my feed when I was done posting my pieces. That’s given me the opportunity to see what other artists and friends have been up to.


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Throughout all of this, I’ve been trying to find a daily art practice that would sustain me during a difficult time in my life.

I figured that it had to be small and portable. After doing some daily sketching and thinking, I came up with an interesting idea. Why not use an unusual surface and size? What about using playing cards? They’re easily available, relatively consistent in terms of size, tiny enough to carry easily and just stiff enough for a very small piece of art.

After several false starts, I came up with the idea of gluing colorful Origami paper over the playing cards. That gave me the color I crave while maintaining the simplicity of the earlier black and white drawings.

Almost 10 years ago, I started doing small landscape collages under similar circumstances. I needed something small that I could work on in small chunks of time.  Sometimes, your art has to fit the time and space available. That’s often when something really interesting happens.


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Back in April I started a very teeny tiny art practice. The intent was something small, doable, and daily. Other than that, I didn’t really have a lot of constraints.
I started with just a page in a small sketchbook. It started out as just that, one page. It didn’t even have to be a piece of art, it could be notes, or questions, or ideas for future projects. Just something about art put down on paper.
I started out with a small 4 x 6 sketchbook, just because it was convenient. And I fell in love with these small sketches and explorations, always working in pencil, which is not my normal media. I think the switch in medium and the use of the sketchbook helped me avoid the trap of immediately worrying about a finished product. These felt like thoughts and ideas, not finished works of art.

But it was a beginning. I had the beginnings of my daily art practice. It was very teeny tiny, but it was a start.


Ethel Hills – Sketchbook Spread



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Life is uncertain. This fact is hammered home all the time. You lose a friend quite suddenly, you experience a natural disaster, a crazy driver misses the bend in the road and drives into your house, you trip doing something you’ve done a hundred times and end up in the Emergency Room with multiple fractures and a whole new set of limitations. Life can change on a dime in a million different ways.

When life gets difficult, my way of dealing with this is to take it one day at a time. (A bit of a cliché, but it works.)

• Take it one day at a time, or one hour, or one minute.
• Stay positive.
• Count my blessings. And there are lots of them.
• Keep art in my life.
• Don’t forget to breathe.
• Get some exercise, outside if possible.

About 4 months ago, I started a very small daily art practice to ensure that I “keep art in my life” during a difficult time. That was the beginning of Art Everyday. I started with getting something in my sketchbook every evening before going to sleep. Sometimes a sketch, sometimes just an idea or a project to consider.


Ethel Hills - Sketchbook Page - 02

Ethel Hills – Sketchbook Spread

Ethel Hills - Sketchbook Page - 01

Ethel Hills – Sketchbook Spread

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It’s time to get my 6 x 6 panels ready for our annual 6 x 6 exhibition and sale. The exhibit starts the first of November, but the work needs to be delivered shortly.

I thought you might like a sneak peek at the process. We all use the same panels – 6″ x 6″ MDF with a key-hole slot on the back. After prepping the surface, I painted the panels with a couple of coats of white acrylic paint.

And then I start to glue on pieces of paper – newspaper, phone book pages, pieces torn from damaged books, along with my normal selection of bits & pieces of discarded painting pieces.

To continue with the social media idea and to keep in mind the shape of the panel, I started with cutouts shaped like a generic icon (of a woman’s head) similar to what you sometimes see displayed when a user hasn’t provided a profile picture. These were glued onto a rectangular shaped colored background.

The initial pieces look like this –

I’ll be adding more Work-In-Progress shots as these paintings develop.


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Now I want to speak about this new series that I’m working on. I’m still in the early stages, so it might end up being a lot of paintings or it might be just a few. I wish I knew at the beginning which ideas will bear the most fruit, but alas I do not have that skill.

First off, I’m calling this my Social Media Series.

Here are some of the parameters. These may change over time.

  • Collage
  • Some type of collage element that relates to people. The initial pieces use torn up phone book pages for this element
  • Strong black & white element
  • Text is used as a graphic element
  • Text is also used as a titling element. Seemingly random bits of text will be visible in the completed piece and will help to title the piece and perhaps give it additional meaning

Where did the ideas come from?

Previous work – I’ve been doing some work that involves using newspaper as a collage element. I recently posted a piece that’s been hanging around my studio for a couple of months. I posted it on Facebook in two different orientations and asked the questions – Is it done? Which orientation do you like?

The second question sparked a flurry of discussion over whether the text in the collage element should be readable or not. So the idea of having readable, identifiable text in a piece came from this discussion. In the past, I’ve usually down played the text – sometimes putting lines through it or flipping it.

What’s going on in my head – This may be a bit harder to explain. I’m just starting to really use Facebook, both for my art and to connect with friends and family. The whole social media thing is really interesting, but still confusing to me. In some ways, it’s just great to be able to easily connect with others. On the other hand, it sometimes feels artificial.

This is a different world for me. There are some very short exchanges that are heart-felt. I’ve gotten great advice from friends over problems or questions. I’m “Friends” with people I’ve never met, but I feel like I know them, at least a little bit. It’s confusing.

What’s going on around me – There are several things here which tied into this. I already mentioned Facebook and social media.

I’ve just read Austin Kleon’s book Show Your Work. This book includes some of his Newspaper Blackout pieces, which just fascinate me. I keep wondering how he does them. I’m not sure, but I’m guessing that they’re the result of a different type of seeing than I have. Sort of like my father could just glance at the ground and find the four-leaf clover.

I’ve been making collage pieces from newspaper with lines drawn over and through the words to render at least most of them unreadable. Is that a coincidence?

Resources – I don’t think this is as much of an issue on this series, because I don’t feel like there’s a limitation that’s imposed by my materials or anything like that. However, I did start out with a stash of collage pieces that were already prepared and that worked well with the initial painting. They were newspaper pieces with most of the words obliterated with black lines and squiggles.

Now I wonder if I’ve shed any light on the creative process or if I’ve just muddied the water. I guess one of the things that I need to remember is that creativity does not fit into neat little boxes or nice easy steps. It’s exciting, messy, and confusing.

Here are the next two pieces in the series. I’m still considering these pieces as works-in-progress. They may look very different in a few days.

Ethel Hills - In Process Collage

Ethel Hills – In Process Paintings – Collage – Social Media Series #2

Ethel Hills - In Process Collage

Ethel Hills – In Process Paintings – Collage – Social Media Series #3

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