Workshops – what fun!

Last month I taught a workshop at The Barn Gallery in Ogunquit, Maine. I was teaching a technique that I use when creating my colorful abstract landscape collages.

I don’t think of myself as a teacher, so this felt like a stretch to me. Although I was very nervous about it, I knew the process and I knew the basic things I wanted to share. I had to make a few minor adjustments to materials to make it work in the time allotted, but most everything else stayed the same.

What I didn’t realize was how much fun I’d have. I was worried about whether I’d be able to explain things well enough, whether everyone would “get it”, and also whether everyone would have fun.

I had the ideal class. It was a great mix of artists and styles. And it was amazing to see what these artists created with a brand new technique and a relatively short amount of time. What a rush!

I pull my paintings together a bit at a time over the course of several days, but we only had one day. And these artists made the most amazing paintings. I suspect that a good chunk of them are already framed and on the wall by now.

The great thing about this is that I got to share something that brings me great joy. To me this is a fun process and I wanted to share it with others.

So, I’m going to do it again. Several friends and acquaintances couldn’t make it to that one, so I’m doing another one next month.

Here’s an image of one of my most recent pieces –

Abstract landscape in Blue and orange
Ethel Hills – Bands of Color – Mixed Media Collage on Paper – 7″ x 5″

Mockingbird Joy

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.


Ethel Hills - Ocean & Sky #3 - Mixed Media Collage on Panel - 12" x 12"

Ethel Hills – Ocean & Sky #3 – Mixed Media Collage on Panel – 12″ x 12″

My mission is to help others appreciate, acknowledge and embrace the love and joy and wonder in their lives in the moment.

This morning, I did a quick walk down to the beach to get a bit of exercise, some fresh air and a good start to the day. The first person I spoke to was a young gentleman new to the area. I’m not sure if he’d never seen the ocean before or if he’d just never seen this one. He was in awe and had a smile that went from here to there and back again.

I also saw a young couple further down the beach. They were talking and then embracing.

I was only on the beach for a few minutes, but that was a lovely start to my day. It reminded me of similar joyful moments in my own life.

It also made me wonder if my mission is needed. These people certainly didn’t seem to need help with this.

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”



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……


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.