Archive for the ‘Social Media Series’ Category


One of the local art associations that I belong to is Newburyport Art Association. We’re in the middle of the Winter Members Juried Shows. Part I, which included sculpture, watercolor, digital art, drawing, oil and printmaking, just finished up. Part II, which includes acrylic, fine crafts, mixed media, pastel, and photography, will be open to the public on Friday, February 12th.

I’m hoping that you will see two of my social media pieces in the exhibit. For this exhibit, the work is actually brought to the gallery and the juror will choose which pieces to include by looking at the actual artwork. Then the pieces not selected will be stored for a few days until the artists can pick them up.

Although this can be a cumbersome process, there are some distinct advantages over selecting from digital images. First of all, the juror sees the real work, in particular the real colors and textures, and can even compare pieces side by side. Secondly, it is easier to judge scale when you’re seeing the real thing. A third minor issue is the framing. And good or bad framing can really change the overall look of the artwork.

Tomorrow is jury day and I get to help. YAY!! One advantage of working on jury day is that you can see what is selected and what is declined. (Because my job is to store the declined pieces.) I get to see at least some of the pieces that don’t make it, but rarely know why they were declined. It’s still fun. And it’s great exercise. The storage area is on the second floor, so it’s a lot of up and down stairs.

It also means that I can pick up my pieces tomorrow if they don’t make it. Hopefully, they will get in. Keep your fingers crossed!

Here are the two pieces I submitted –

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OK. This is really embarrassing. It has once again been a long time of silence on my blog. I’m not sure that I can explain why I go through these phases where I want to share everything I create and other times when I’m not nearly as comfortable sharing. I do find it harder to share when the work isn’t going smoothly or when I’m in a transition period.

I have been working on more of the social media series, but felt like this series is ending, at least temporarily. The pieces were interesting, but not nearly as fun as I thought they’d be. I’ve been feeling that it was time to back off for a while now, but I still had several in process. I hesitated to abandon work that is already started, but it just didn’t feel right. For the time being, I’m abandoning the series and the few pieces that remain incomplete. I’ll go back to finish them up when I feel like it’s time. Trying to force these pieces to be done just hasn’t worked.

So for my next experiment, I’m back in play, search, and experiment mode. My plan, such as it is, is to take the next few weeks, maybe a month, and just play around the studio without expectations – without worrying about consistency, or completion, or product, or even permanency.

In some sense, it’s very difficult to totally let go of results. In another sense, it’s very freeing. It will be interesting to see how this experiment goes.

Yesterday, I did some small sketches, just to get back to playing with paint & line.

Today, I just kind of noodled around, prepped some panels, experimented with some ideas, and painted some scraps of paper to use at a later time. Again, there is nothing profound or even particularly interesting about any of this, but it does seem to be part of my process. I’ll keep on painting and playing until I figure out where I’m headed next.

Here are some shots from my studio:

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I must admit that I’ve skipped some steps. I showed you the first couple of days of developing these paintings. Now I’m skipping to the end. (I do have images of the in-between stages, but haven’t downloaded and processed those photos yet.)

These paintings went through lots of different stages, but I believe they are finally resolved.

What do you think?

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These will be going into the WCA-NH Annual 6 x 6 Exhibition.

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The different framework of these pieces is causing me to rethink how I’ll structure these paintings. What I was doing on the earlier pieces doesn’t seem like it will work on these, so I’m looking for other ideas. For this reason, the process is going a bit slower than I would like.

I miss the rhythm from those other pieces, but I like the more focused and colorful look of these. I’m hoping this will all work out. Time will tell.

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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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Just heard back from ALL, Arts League of Lowell. All three of my pieces were accepted into this show. YAY!!

It will open tomorrow and run through November 15th.

The reception is Saturday, October 17, 4 – 6 pm.

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Abstractions 2015 is the next exhibit at the Arts League of Lowell, ALL. This is an open juried show.

I have a soft spot for this exhibit, because this is how I came to know ALL. I think I’ve been in this exhibit 2 or maybe even 3 times in the past. Hopefully, at least one of my pieces will make the cut. (I wish I had 3 of the new series to submit, but I didn’t get them completed in time to be framed. )

These are the pieces. Keep your fingers crossed for me.

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I’ve finished two more pieces in my new Social Media Series. I know these are finished because I took them to the framer yesterday. They are now out of my studio, so no more last-minute tweaking.

I’m enjoying working on these, but can see that I’m having a problem finishing them up. It just seems so tempting to add one more piece of collage or another wash of color or just a little bit more line work.

Here are the latest. These will probably go into a juried exhibit which is coming up later this month.

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Choosing  a title for a painting is always an interesting proposition. In general, I either title the pieces individually or I use a series title and a number. For the large number of small pieces that I make, the series and number approach works well. For larger work, I prefer more individual titles.

Now here is my dilemma. This work is part of a series, but it also sort of has its own title.

The initial title for the series was the Facebook Series. I figured that might get me in trouble, so I’ve titled it the Social Media Series.

This painting is part of a series, so it could be Social Media Series #1, which is kind of how I’m thinking of it. BUT one of the ideas behind this series was to use text as a graphic and a titling element. Most of the text will be covered up or drawn through – obliterated in some fashion. There will however be some text that’s still readable. This could be the title as well.

OK. So should this be “Social Media Series #1” or “”food to last the trip” or maybe “Social Media #1 – food to last the trip”? In some ways, calling it “food to last the trip” is a bit confusing. On the other hand, one of the ideas behind using the text is to put in glimpses of the conversations we have in Facebook, Twitter, and the like.

Any ideas?

Ethel Hills - Mixed Media Collage - Black & White on white background with bits of gold & red

Ethel Hills – Social Media Series #1 – Mixed Media Collage on Paper – 7 1/2″ x 5 1/2




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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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