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I was recently talking to another artist about the bright cheery colors of my paintings and I realized something that I have never said before. “My paintings are always positive.” I’m not sure that I had ever thought of it before. Once I said it though, it felt true. I tend to use very bright cheery colors.

Ethel Hills - Arrangement in Blue & Orange I - Mixed Media Collage on Paper - 6 3/4" x 6 3/4" - Framed to 12" x 12"

Ethel Hills – Arrangement in Blue & Orange I – Mixed Media Collage on Paper – 6 3/4″ x 6 3/4″ – Framed to 12″ x 12″ – SOLD

As I learn more about myself as an artist, I know that my art is instinctively about love and joy and wonder. For me, that all ties into the landscape. I love where I live and spent my life with my husband. I love the marsh and the birds that live there. I love walking the beach. I also love where I grew up, on land that had been in my family for generations. So I not only love these spaces, but I Iove and revere the family connections and love these spaces remind me of.

Although most of my paintings are abstract and don’t represent specific land, I think that they’re always about those things which are important to me – love, family, wonder, joy, peace and tranquility.

 

I don’t enter a lot of juried shows anymore, but I did decide to enter the Open Juried Show at the Barn Gallery this year. I’m a member of the Ogunquit Art Association, so I’m often volunteering for take in and jurying of this show. It’s fun to see the artists and the artwork. When I work the show, I get to see all the artwork, not just the ones that make the final cut. This time I worked on the paperwork, so I didn’t see as much of the juror’s decision making as usual. It was still fun.

I took a chance on entering this exhibit for a very specific reason. I have this painting that I have kind of a love/hate relationship with. Although hate is way too strong a word. I love the colors in this piece and the overall look and feel, but I’ve never been completely confident that it “measures up”. There are gorgeous reds and greens in it, but together, they’re a bit on the loud side. I’ve always been kind of curious about what someone else would think of it.

It made the cut. So, for what it’s worth, this juror thought it had merit. If you come to the exhibit you can judge for yourself. If not, take a look at the image and see what you think. I’d love to hear someone else’s take on it.

Ethel Hills – “Heartland #1″ – Mixed Media Collage on Paper – 11″ x 15”

 

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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?

 

I have two exhibits coming up in September. Kind of odd, since I haven’t been doing much exhibiting the last couple of years. But that’s another story……

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I’m really excited about both of these opportunities. The first one is at The Gallery at WREN (Women’s Rural Entrepreneurial Network) in Bethlehem, NH. I’m exhibiting with two other NH artist friends, Rosemary Conroy and Ann Trainor Dominque. Although I’ve known both Rosemary and Ann a long time, this is our first group exhibit. “Color Love – 3 Artists, 3 Visions” will run from September 7th through October 1st. Our artists’ reception is Friday, September 7th from 5 to 7pm.

And let me tell you, it’s all about the color! There will be a roomful of vibrant color for you to check out. And in quite a range of sizes. I can pretty much guarantee that my pieces are the smallest, most of them ranging from 4 inches square to 8 inches square, the perfect size to tuck a bit of color and inspiration into a corner, a bookcase, or a nightstand. Ann and Rosemary will both have larger pieces, strong enough to hold the focus of your room. I think this is going to be an incredible exhibit with lots to offer both buyers and viewers.

Come on the evening of the 7th to meet the artists or come later in the show when it might be a bit quieter.

 

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.

 

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

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.

 

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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