Archive for the ‘Watercolor’ Category

Ethel Hills - "Summer Day Rhapsody" - Watercolor - approx 7" x 7"
Ethel Hills – “Summer Day Rhapsody” – Watercolor – approx 7″ x 7″ – Framed size 12″ x 12″

My father used to say that mockingbirds were one of the birds that just sang for the pure joy of it. They sing anytime of the year, not just when they’re courting or raising a family. Not sure if this is true, but mockingbirds are amazing. If you’ve ever lived really near a mockingbird, you’ll also know that they don’t keep traditional hours. We used to live quite close to a family of mockingbirds and they were always up and singing in the wee wee small hours of the morning.

There’s often been one that will sit on one of the telephone poles down near the ocean. It is such a joy to go for a morning walk and hear him singing his little heart out. And sometimes there’s an unexpected twist to the song. They’re not called mockingbirds for nothing.

Whether it’s just a beautiful song or an imitation of a tree frog, it’s always pure joy for me to hear him.

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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’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 in an earlier post, I’ve had mixed results on scaling up my teeny farm paintings. I’ve finished the 3rd of the 6 x 6 MDF pieces. This one actually feels like the small pieces, which makes me feel good. This is only about 4 times the size of the teeny farm paintings, so it’s not a very large jump.

Ethel Hills - Farm Painting - Mixed Media on MDF Panel - 6" x 6"

Ethel Hills – Farm Painting – Mixed Media on MDF Panel – 6″ x 6″


The next step is a piece that I’ve been working on for a week and a half. It’s watercolor & collage on watercolor paper – 22″ x 30″. I’m enjoying it, but it’s not coming out anything like I thought it would. That’s not necessarily a bad thing.

I was hoping to finish before the holidays, but that’s unlikely.

Here’s the piece as of last night.

Ethel Hills - Farm Painting - In Process 12/21/14 - Mixed Media & Collage - 22" x 30"

Ethel Hills – Farm Painting – In Process 12/21/14 – Mixed Media & Collage – 22″ x 30″

I’ll tell you more about it when it’s finished. At that point, I’ll introduce my next What If?.

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Ethel Hills - Vivaldi - Spring #1 - Mixed Media - 7 1/2" x 7 1/4"

Ethel Hills – Vivaldi – Spring #1 – Mixed Media – 7 1/2″ x 7 1/4″

It started out innocently enough, a simple idea to add some fun to our annual exhibit. I belong to the Abstract Artists Group of New England, a group of abstract and experimental artists based at Newburyport Art Association (NAA) and we’re adding Vivaldi’s “Four Seasons” to our annual exhibit.

Now, 4 months after our initial discussion, I’ve decided that I had procrastinated long enough and it was time to finally start. Last night I listened to the “Four Seasons” one season at a time. I took notes about the music and made sketches of ideas I might use. And today I started doing small watercolors based on these rough notes. The image above is a sketch of an idea for the “Spring” painting. I’m going to reserve judgement until I get further into this process.

Have you ever tried to interpret music in a painting? For me, it’s not all that easy and I think my initial ideas will just be jumping off points. In some ways, it’s a fascinating exercise. You’re taking something abstract, reprocessing it and returning it to something abstract, but different. I’m not sure if these particular pieces will be successful, but I think it’s going to be both fun and helpful.

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Today, I’m including an older painting instead of one I’ve just finished. This one is a bit different from my normal work, but certainly has enough elements of my style that it’s recognizable. This one happens to be up on the wall in my studio at the moment, so I’m looking at it every day.

Although I really like this piece, I’m wondering if the title is wrong. The solid blue is an important part of the composition, which is why I named it “Nothing But Blue Skies”. Now I’m not sure that matches the feel of the painting. To me, it feels more like deep woods, not sunny skies. Do you ever rename paintings?

Ethel Hills - "Nothing But Blue Skies" - Watercolor - 7" x 7" - Framed to 12" x 12"

Ethel Hills – “Nothing But Blue Skies” – Watercolor – 7″ x 7″ – Framed to 12″ x 12″

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It’s fall, so I’ve been posting a few of the many paintings I’ve done of this colorful season. Here’s another one of my favorites.

Ethel Hills - Vision of Fall - Watercolor - 15" x 11"

Ethel Hills – Vision of Fall – Watercolor – 15″ x 11″

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As I’ve been doing for the past month or so, I’m still featuring some older paintings you may not have seen before.

The weather is changing, the days are getting shorter, and the leaves are turning. I hear it’s supposed to be “peak” further north this weekend. We do have some lovely bright maples, but it’s still early for us.

Here’s a taste of fall for all of us who aren’t right in the middle of peak foliage season.

Ethel Hills - October Color - Watercolor & Collage - Approx. 11" x 15"

Ethel Hills – October Color – Watercolor & Collage – Approx. 11″ x 15″


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A month ago, I signed up for Leslie Saeta’s 30 in 30 Challenge – 30 paintings in 30 days. I’m painter #346 out of 432 who signed up. I’ve completed the challenge – posting 30 paintings in the month of September. And quite honestly, I’m glad it’s over.  I’m stubborn, so I wasn’t going to skip a day. (Even when it would have made more sense to skip.) I’ve painted ahead and posted using my Kindle Fire when I was away from home.  It’s been a very busy month and it would have been a lot simpler without this challenge.

That’s not to say there weren’t benefits. I’ve had “shelter series” on my to-do list for quite a while and this gave me a chance to explore this idea. Unfortunately, while I’ve done several small paintings, I haven’t had the time to do any larger paintings and really explore the options. I’m hoping that October will give me the time to expand on some of these ideas.

Most of the paintings I’ve done this month are small watercolor studies. I still haven’t figured out how to present these. In most of these I’ve painted to the edge, so I think they might look better floated than matted. I may wait until I’m closer to an exhibition of the “Shelter Series” before I worry too much about it.  Another possibility is to frame just a few of them, maybe 6 or 8. I love watercolor, but the matting and framing can be time-consuming and expensive.


Ethel Hills - Untitled - Watercolor on paper - 7 1/2" x 5 1/2"

Ethel Hills – Untitled – Watercolor on paper – 7 1/2″ x 5 1/2″

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I’ve decided that labelling this in terms of days is confusing me. Right along, I’ve been thinking of it as 30 paintings in 30 days, but have been trying to conform to the process of posting the paintings every day. I’m going to still post on Leslie’s blog daily where possible, but plan to keep my blog posts to every other day.

I’m posting two more paintings today – #16/30 and #17/30. This is a different take on the idea of Shelter, represented by a house – roof line, walls, doors & windows. I initially tried this in a larger version. Although the idea seemed to be interesting, the paintings weren’t outstanding. So I tried a smaller version. These seem to be working, although they don’t have spontaneity of the earlier ones.

I’m kind of looking forward to the end of this challenge. And not just to be able to say that I did it, but also to be able to line up a month’s worth of thoughts about one project. I’m kind of intrigued with the different approaches that I’ve found in little more than 2 weeks.

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