Archive for the ‘Hollis Land Project’ Category



The second exhibit I have coming up next month is at the Barn Gallery, home of Ogunquit Art Association. I will be one of the Showcase artists for our last exhibit of the season. The exhibit runs from September 12 – October 8, 2018. There is a gallery talk on Thursday, September 13 at 6pm and a reception on Saturday, September 15 from 5 to 7:30pm.
I’m very excited about this exhibit. It was a chance for me to take some time to explore and experiment with a few of the ideas swirling around in my head and some already on paper. I’ve been working on my Land Project paintings off and on for a number of years. This was a chance to do some concentrated work on my abstract take on the landscape.
Paintings of my family farm include bits and pieces of family history and make me think of a treasure map more than anything. Other paintings are a combination of aerial view and map view. These depict geographic variances as well as the “imaginary” boundaries of property lines and political divisions. Some are more sketch than anything else. Some are relatively realistic and others are just whimsical.
Although, it’s been fun to just play around with these ideas, it’s daunting to figure out where to go next. I want to explore all these different paths, but in what order and intensity?


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I’m excited to be in the current show at Twiggs Gallery in Boscawen, NH. “COZY: NH Artists celebrate the joys and comforts of home” will run from November 21 through December 20, 2015.
Please join us for the opening reception: Saturday, November 28th from 3 to 5 pm.

Two of my farm/land paintings are included in this exhibit. “Home on Pine Hill Road #1” depicts the home I grew up in and the area immediately surrounding it. It includes my mother’s favorite maple tree, the huge sycamores in front of the house, the lady slippers and yellow violets which grew in the woods across the street. All the little items on the painting represent a memory from my childhood, a memory of my family, or sometimes just a memory of the stories we grew up with.

“Our Street” is much more explicit. The notes about the neighbors and my family are still visible on this painting. The neighborhood is a checkerboard of land, houses, and families. And some of the little stories that connected us all.


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As I mentioned yesterday, I just finished up a workshop. Now I’m trying to digest the information and make some changes to my studio practice.

One part of the workshop was weekly assignments.

In the past, I haven’t been that organized in my studio. Basically, I paint intuitively. This means that I’m not terribly structured about what I’m going to be working on in any given day. I’m often off on a tangent based on a new idea of some sort. The idea of going into the studio with an assignment is something of a foreign concept. It may not be exactly the right way for me to approach my work, but I’m willing to experiment.

I’ve been thinking about this a lot and I’ve come up with a similar idea that I think may work better for me. Instead of an assignment, I’m going to try a “What if?”

Our last class assignment involved the idea of repetition. My solution was to do lots of small paintings with repeating elements – straight pencil lines to mark the painting, then watercolor painted on the pencil grid and then pencil embellishment on top. I didn’t have all of this worked out ahead of time. It was more of a – What if I made lots of tiny paintings based on these ideas? This looser idea was more a place to start than a specific assignment and seems to fit better with the way I naturally work.


Here are some of the results:


One of the larger paintings in this series –

Ethel Hills - Series Class Assignment #6 - Mixed Media - 11" x 15"

Ethel Hills – Series Class Assignment #6 – Mixed Media – 11″ x 15″


A few of the tiny paintings that I did.

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This turned out to be a great What If? I love these tiny little paintings. I started out by dividing my paper with masking tape into smaller blocks. Then I drew lines in pencil representing potential divisions of land. I didn’t think about this too much, just that I wanted some larger and some smaller shapes.

Then I painted these with just a little bit of watercolor, not to cover the paper, but to separate and emphasize the different shapes. After this dried, I started looking at the pieces and trying to picture farmland.

The farm where I grew up was part  , part wood lot, part garden and part pasture. Where we just had a small family garden, the farmer who now rents the land has various types of veggies and sometimes sunflowers. The orchards have been replanted and there are still some cattle on the property.

With all these thoughts whirling around in my head, I used pencil to draw in the indication of some of these elements – orchards in almost all of the paintings, wood lots with dense pencil marks, trees – lighter pencil marks, row crops indicated by pencil lines in rows and then a few small dark rectangles to indicate buildings.

Clearly some of these are more successful than others, but in general, I really like them. Unfortunately, I was rather casual with the masking tape, so they are not all the exact same size. That means that I’m going to have to custom cut the mats for these, which will be a little bit tedious. And I did a lot of these odd sized ones before I figured out how to do a better job of sizing them. I’m embarrassed to say that figuring that out took me way too long.

Tomorrow I’ll show you the next batch of tiny paintings.

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I just finished up a 10 week on-line class with Lisa Call. I took her class on working in a series, so I’ve been diligently working on one of my ongoing series of land paintings. I’ll be showing you some of the work from that series as I move forward, but today I want to talk more about the process of ending a class/project/whatever and sorting out where to go from here.

This happens to us all the time. You take a workshop, go to a conference, meet with other artists, listen to a great lecture or series of lectures. And you’ve got all these great ideas.

Quick grab one before it disappears!! To get the most out of something like this, you need to implement some of the great ideas that you generated.

So my first step in solidifying what I learned is to pick one idea and implement it. The class had weekly assignments, generally based on a specific design element – for example, color, line, value, etc. This seems like a great place to start.

The first thing I’m going to try out is the idea of going into the studio with an “assignment” of sorts. I tend to paint intuitively, so this will give me a bit more structure than I normally have, which I think will be a good thing.

There are a few things about working with an assignment that worked out great during the workshop. First of all, there was a deadline, a due date for the assignment. Secondly, there was a plan, a very rough plan, but still a plan. Thirdly, there’s a point of comparison. And finally, I think that this fairly light structure will help me keep the work moving forward.

Having a deadline helped me start working, keep working and also made me stop working and finish a piece when I ran out of time. That may not be the way I want to run my studio practice all the time, but I think having an element of that will be helpful to me.

Having a plan, even this really simple plan, is helping me to be more thoughtful about my art. It helps me focus on my objectives. And even when I totally lose it half way through the painting, I still have that idea to come back to at the end of the day. I have the option of trying again or moving in a different direction and I do it by choice, not by accident.

Having a point of comparison was very helpful in evaluating and critiquing the art. Knowing what I planned to do was very helpful in evaluating the finished product and the process.

Having this relatively simple structure is going to be very helpful in keeping the work moving. Over the next few months, I’m going to be experimenting to develop a simple system for recording and evaluating, but it must be something that works for ME. For the moment, I’ve just taken a ruled journal to keep some notes on what I’m working on and why. I’m thinking that the simpler I can keep this the better off I’ll be.

So one simple idea that I’ll be implementing immediately is really not much more than the old adage – go into the studio with a plan.

Tomorrow, I’m going to explain a bit more about my own twist on the idea of an “assignment”. Something a bit looser that fits my personality better and is closer to the way I naturally produce art.

Since I really like posts better if they have images, I’m including one of the pieces from my land project series that began this whole thing years ago.

Ethel Hills - " Hills Farm #5" - Watercolor - 22" x 30"

Ethel Hills – ” Hills Farm #5″ – Watercolor – 22″ x 30″


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Again, I’m excited to be included in an exhibit at the Children’s Museum of New Hampshire. This exhibit is titled “What is Home?”. They always do an excellent job of selecting interesting, quality and diverse artwork exploring their theme. You’ll see work in a variety of mediums and styles all exploring the idea of home often from very different perspectives.

Two of my “Hollis Land Project” paintings are included. These paintings explore issues of home, family, land, neighborhood and include both family history and local stories. The paintings are a bit like treasure maps. Larger blocks of color and line indicate houses, boundaries, roads and water and landscape features. Smaller marks indicate favorite trees, patches of flowers, and even a few cows. Both paintings have little bits of family and neighborhood history and stories written into the paintings. Many of these are still clearly visible in the painting “Our Street”, whereas most of the writing is almost totally hidden in the painting “Home on Pine Hill Road #1”.

If you were doing a similar painting of your home, what would your marks indicate? Maybe there is a low spot that is loud with the sound of peepers in the spring or the tree you climbed as a child or the shrub near a window where robins nested every year. Maybe there was a small garden, a chicken coop or a dog house? What are your memories that are tied to a specific place, a specific piece of land, a specific building, a specific tree or pond?

Ethel Hills - "Our Street" - Watercolor - 22" x 30"

Ethel Hills - "Our Street" - Watercolor - 22" x 30"

E. Hills - Home on Pine Hills Rd. #1 - Watercolor - 22" x 30"

E. Hills - Home on Pine Hills Rd. #1 - Watercolor - 22" x 30"

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Last Saturday, I dropped off my work for the “Water – Blue Gold:  Essential to all Life on Earth” exhibit at the Children’s Museum of New Hampshire. While there I got a peek at some of the work that will be in this show. If what I saw was any indication, this is going to be a fabulous show. The reception will be next Wednesday, June 1st from 5:30 to 7pm. Due to a scheduling conflict, I’ll probably miss this.  For more information, “Water – Blue Gold” Invitation

This exhibit includes 3 pieces of work completed over a two-year period. All of the pieces show my connection to the land and the  water that shapes our lives.

Ethel Hills - "Hills Farm #5" - Watercolor - 22" x 30"

Ethel Hills - "Hills Farm #5" - Watercolor - 22" x 30"

“Hills Farm #5” is part of a series of paintings depicting the farm land where I grew up in Hollis, NH. Not only are there fields, orchards and barns, but also the fresh water marsh, brooks, and the water hole where we played as children. The water that runs through this land is probably more important to its value as farmland than the land itself.

Ethel Hills - "At Pond's Edge" - Mixed Media Collage - 6 1/2" x 6 1/2" - 12" x 12" Framed

Ethel Hills - "At Pond's Edge" - Mixed Media Collage - 6 1/2" x 6 1/2"

“At Pond’s Edge” makes me think very much of the waterhole on a summer day. It was just a hole dug in the brook to make a pool for fire protection, but it felt like a playground of sorts to us complete with frogs, tadpoles, fish, crawdads and turtles.

Ethel Hills - "Color Block #7 (4 inch)" - Mixed Media Collage on Panel

Ethel Hills - "Color Block #7 (4 inch)" - Mixed Media Collage on Panel

“Color Block # 7 – 4 inch panel” is a reminder of my current home near the ocean in Hampton.

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Ethel Hills - "Evensong" - Mixed Media Collage - approx. 7" x 7"

Ethel Hills - "Evensong" - Mixed Media Collage - approx. 7" x 7"

I am fortunate enough to have been accepted into two juried exhibitions. The first is the 25th Annual Omer T. Lassonde Juried Exhibition open through April 29th at the Robert Lincoln Levy Gallery of the New Hampshire Art Association, 136 State Street, Portsmouth, NH. This is the biggest year ever for this exhibit. They received almost 200 admissions. I’m very excited that one of my paintings, “Evensong”, was accepted into this show.

One of my “Hollis Land Project” paintings was accepted into “Dig It: Locally Grown Art”. This exhibit is sponsored by WCA-NH (Women’s Caucus for Art, New Hampshire Chapter) and The Framers Market Gallery in Manchester. The theme for this exhibit is organic and locally grown food. I think this will be a fabulous show. The reception is this coming Thursday, April 14th from 5 to 8pm. This is part of Open Doors Trolley Night in Manchester, which is a wonderful opportunity to check out lots of arts venues. Start anywhere on the route, then travel to other venues via trolley.

Here’s a sneak peek of the exhibit. My painting “Woodmont East #4” depicts one small part of the extensive Woodmont Orchards in Hollis, NH.

Ethel Hills - "Woodmont East #4" - Acrylic on Panel - 8" x 8"

Ethel Hills - "Woodmont East #4" - Acrylic on Panel - 8" x 8"

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