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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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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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“Cut It Out” April 30 – May 30, 2015
Framers Market
1301 Elm Street, Manchester, NH  03101
Reception:  Thursday. April 30th, 5 – 8pm

The reception is in conjunction with Open Doors Manchester, an art and cultural trolley ride tour

I’m pleased to be included in the next exhibit at Framers Market in Manchester. The exhibit – “Cut It Out” features collage art by five local artists – Karen Bessette, Ann Trainor Dominque, Ethel Hills, Lorraine Kulik, and Laura Morrison.

Please join us for the reception on Thursday, April 30th from 5 to 8 pm. This is in conjunction with Open Doors Manchester, an art and cultural trolley ride tour.

In addition to enjoying the art and some light refreshments at the reception, you can be creative and make your own collages. They will provide the paper, scissors and paint!

Look for 4 of my collages in this exhibit!

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Earlier this week, I delivered work to the Children’s Museum of New Hampshire for the show Driven to Abstraction which will run through then end of February. It was fun because several of us came at the same time, so we all got a chance to catchup and see some of the work that would be in the exhibit.

This is a colorful show and lots of fun. And this is a great place for an exhibit of abstract art. Children are much more accepting of art in all it’s forms. They seem to be less likely to get caught up in the kind of questions that adults often ask such as – what is it? what does it mean? I think children are more likely to just look at it and enjoy it.

If you’re in the area, please check out this exhibit. Tess Feltes, curator for Gallery 6, always does a fabulous job of selecting and hanging the art. And if you have children, even better. Look at the art through the eyes of a child and enjoy it just that much more.

These are my pieces which are included.

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I was invited by talented artist and fellow WCA-NH board member, Deb Claffey, to be part of this blog hop.  The project consists of answering some questions about my art and my process and then introducing three more artists/creatives whose work I admire. They will continue the hop by posting their answers next Saturday.  Thanks so much Deb for this opportunity.

First of all, here are my answers to the questions asked of me for the blog hop project.

1. What am I working on/writing?

Basically, what I’m working on now is my artistic development. I’m taking some time to basically work on anything that takes my fancy. I call it noodling. I’m just trying things, experimenting with my materials, experimenting with my process and experimenting with my imagery.

I’ve recently finished a few paintings based on Vivaldi’s “Four Seasons” as part of a “show within a show” in the Abstract Artists Group of New England’s annual exhibit. Producing paintings based on music is not part of my normal process. Consequently, the pieces that came out of this are just a bit different.

The materials are mostly acrylic with only a little collage. The process involves direct reference to something outside, where my normal process is much more intuitive and internally focused. Even the forms are showing differences. For one piece, I took 4 paintings and bolted them together to form a larger one. Now I’m wondering how I can expand this idea. On another piece, I built one relatively complete painting and then glued a smaller painting on top.

All of these thoughts, methods and ideas can be explored further. I’m in the middle of a series of questions and possibilities, which is kind of exciting. Although, I enjoy the more stable work of being in the middle of an established series, this is also exciting and just as much a part of my process.

2. How does my work/writing differ from others in this genre?

I consider my genre as semi-abstract landscape. My pieces run the gamut from stylized to almost non-objective. My current work is primarily collage based small-scale paintings.

These collages differ primarily in my choice of materials, forms and colors. I use a variety of materials to assemble my collages, but all of them are my own hand painted pieces, either bits of old paintings or new pieces painted specifically for a project or painting. In general, the pieces are either torn or cut with a straight edge. You will find very few hard-edged cut out shapes. The forms are simple, strong horizontals with vertical and angled shapes in lesser amounts. The colors are strong and bright, not the normal traditional “landscape” colors. You’ll find a strong positive emotional component to all of my work. If it doesn’t “feel” right as I’m making it, I’ll make changes until it does.

3. Why do I do what I do?

I think we all do what we do for some very simple reasons. I believe the urge to create is universal. So we create in whatever form makes sense at the moment.

Some choices are almost soul-deep – the way we look at the world. As a child, I loved the little details of the landscape, patterns made by the lengthening shadows in the woods, the ripples on a pond, or the intricate swirls made when water freezes in a brook or puddle. Long before I knew anything about art, I was viewing the world in terms of pattern, movement and simple intimate compositions. I was noticing abstract design elements, not just objects.

Other choices are based on seemingly unrelated events or physical restrictions. For example, I worked in straight watercolor for a number of years, but switched to small-scale collages due to a change in my life. When my mother became quite ill, I simply didn’t have the time to do the larger wet in wet paintings that I had previously been working on. I also found a book on collage which I read a few moments at a time. So I started making small collages, which fit in perfectly with the small bits of time I had to devote to art making.

So the size and the technique were a combination of circumstances (limited time) and chance (finding a book on collage to keep up with some art during a difficult time.)

And having found this direction, almost by chance, I fell in love with the process and the finished product. I love the juxtaposition of color and texture that is a natural part of the collage process, but not easily achieved with straight paints.

4. How does my writing/working process work?

I still think of myself as an intuitive painter even though my collages are usually pretty well planned before I start to glue.

My collages usually start with a painted surface to work on, either watercolor on paper or acrylic on panel. I’ll paint an idea for the sky, the middle-ground and the foreground. Then I look for pieces to build a space, pieces that either match or nicely contrast with what I’ve already painted, trying to find a beautiful combination of color and texture.

One of the things that I’ll often do as I’m beginning a piece is to just stack, layer, and overlap possible papers, sort of the way a quilter will stack fabric. That gives me an idea of color, texture, value, etc.

Once I have the basic idea down, I’ll start gluing. Since my papers tend to be heavy, I usually glue one layer at a time, then weight it down and leave it overnight. After each step, I’ll look again to decide it if still looks right. If not, I’ll go looking for something else. Some pieces go right in order as I originally planned. Other times, I’m “off schedule” in the first few steps.


Thank you Deb for inviting me to participate in this project. The process has been fun and informative. Answering the questions has been a rewarding project and actually quite timely, so thank you for that. And choosing three more artists to participate was both easy and hard. I loved your answers and sometimes wish that I was that much clearer on my art and my process. Read Deb’s post here.



Debra Claffey is a visual artist who uses encaustic, oil, and mixed media in her work. Raised in Connecticut, schooled in Massachusetts, she now lives and works in New Boston, New Hampshire. She holds a BFA in Painting from the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston and Tufts University and an Associate’s Degree in Horticultural Technology from the University of New Hampshire.

Claffey writes a blog, Making Something Out of Nothing, and a Facebook page. In June 2013, she organized her first curated exhibition, Natura Viva: Flora, Fauna, and Us, at ArtCurrent Gallery in Provincetown in conjunction with The Seventh International Encaustic Conference.

Debra Claffey’s blog: http://debraclaffey.blogspot.com


And now for the fun part, introducing three more artists to this project –

Madalene Axford Murphy

I met Madalene a little over a year ago when she joined an artists group that I belonged to. Her art quilts are exquisite.


Madalene Axford Murphy

Madalene Axford Murphy

I took my first quilting class over thirty years ago and immediately connected with this tactile approach to working with color and pattern. I dutifully learned the basic skills I needed but I soon realized that what I enjoyed the most was translating my own images and visions into fabric. When I further realized the same elements and principles of design that governed painting also applied to fabric, I knew I could spend a lifetime with this medium.

My lifetime has also included teaching college English, working as the director of an art and cultural center and gallery and later as the assistant director of the town library, and homeschooling my three creative children. I have lived in Ohio, Kentucky, Iowa, Illinois, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, and, finally, Massachusetts. Now I spend most of my days working with cotton and silk that I hand dye and print and then often hand stitch with perle cotton.


Madalene Axford Murphy’s blog:  http://workingwall.blogspot.com



Laura Morrison

Laura is one of the first people I met when I joined WCA-NH, ( Women’s Caucus for Art, New Hampshire Chapter) and I’ve watched her build lots of amazing things since then.

Laura Morrison

Laura Morrison

Laura Morrison, primarily a fiber artist, combines traditional fiber art techniques such as felting, embroidery, crochet and knitting to create her artwork. Rich in color and texture, the work is so tempting to the viewer that Morrison often finds people subversively “petting” her sculptures and wall hangings. Morrison muses, “My art tends to take on a life of its own. By touching the artwork, something that is often forbidden in the art world, people become more intimate with the work and connect on a deeper level.”

She attended the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign where she studied graphic design. After graduation, Morrison worked as a designer in Chicago. During that time, she became fascinated with the needle arts and worked on embroidery projects during her train commute into the city. However, her move to New Hampshire was the catalyst that changed her life. It was then that she decided to concentrate her creative energy more fully on her art. “Moving to New Hampshire opened my eyes to the beauty of nature with its wild, open spaces. My surroundings directly influence my art. Here, I can truly breathe deeply and be the artist and person I want to be. ”

Morrison exhibits her work in galleries throughout New England. Her public art commissions were awarded through The NH State Council on the Arts Percent for Art Program and are installed at the New Hampshire Technical Institute’s Dental Building in Concord, NH and at the Merrimack Courthouse in Merrimack, NH.

Laura Morrison’s Blog:  http://lauramorrisonart.wordpress.com
Laura Morrison’s Website:  http://www.lauramorrisonart.com

Rosemary Conroy

I’ve also know Rosemary for a number of years as well and I just love her work. Her love of the natural world and her joy in her subjects shines through in her paintings.


Rosemary Conroy

Rosemary Conroy

Rosemary Conroy’s path in life has been somewhat off-beat in nature. She only came to art after two previous (and quite) successful careers — the first being an explainer of computers to stockbrokers in New York City; and the second being a promoter of land conservation to the good people of New Hampshire.
Rosemary was inspired to fulfill her life-long dream of painting full-time after the witnessing (from afar) her former office building collapse on 9/11. Largely self-taught, she nevertheless has enjoyed ever-increasing success as an artist, exhibiting her work on both the regional and national level. Rosemary truly believes that passion for your subject is just as important as any formal pedigree.
“I feel so blessed to be living my dream and doing what I love,” says Rosemary. Passionate about wildlife, she regularly visits nature centers to find inspiration for her colorful paintings and has served on local land trust boards to help protect habitat. Rosemary shows locally in several galleries in New Hampshire and hosts an open studio each fall. Please visit her website at www.studiobuteo.com and sign up for her mailing list or visit her fan-page on Facebook at www.facebook.com/studiobuteo.

Rosemary Conroy’s Blog:  http://studiobuteo.com/blog/
Rosemary Conroy’s Website:  www.studiobuteo.com


Look for their posts next Saturday.


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