How did you get started and then develop your career?
Catherine Hillis: I began focusing on watercolor painting in my mid-30s. I’d been involved in the arts all my life, majoring in Theatre in college and working as an actress and costume designer. I initially selected watercolors as my medium because it’s clean and generally non-toxic, and I could paint in my home, but it didn’t take long for me to understand I had a natural affinity for it. I’ve always exhibited a talent for drawing, too, and watercolors and drawing go hand in hand.
Within a few years, I was entering local competitions in the Washington, DC metro area and winning awards and that encouraged me to enter national competitions. I eventually earned eight signature memberships in watercolor organizations around the country, concurrently teaching, writing articles and entering plein air events. Of course, I was selling my work, too.
It’s important to note that I approach my career as a business and try very hard to commit to good business practices. I paint every day and dedicate part of those days to other business-related needs.
How do you describe success?
To me, success is enjoying the self-satisfaction that I have put forth every effort to become the best I can be while working towards realizing my artistic and business goals. I set goals for myself annually, and while I don’t expect to meet all those objectives, it provides me with aspirations to work toward.
How do you find inspiration?
I am a constant observer, watching the world around me. I feel an overflowing of emotion wash over me when I spot a scene to paint. When I experience that overwhelming feeling, I stop, put up my easel and get to work or I point my camera and shoot. A typical scene for me is usually an ordinary spot or moment that most people pass by without noticing; it’s something that tells me it must be painted.
I enjoy working both in the studio and in the field.
What is the best thing about being an artist?
I love my job and I enjoy hard work. Being a self-employed artist is the most difficult job I’ve ever had — but also the most satisfying. I have the freedom and autonomy to select my own subjects, my own goals, the hours I prefer and my own workspace, whether I select to work outdoors or in the studio. Of course, there are things that accompany the job that aren’t as likeable, such as accounting, shipping, packing, traveling, advertising and promoting myself, but I’m grateful to be self-employed, and I’m proud of my tenacity and focus.
Who do you collect?
I collect mostly the work of contemporary watercolor painters I admire such as John Salminen, Jean Grastorf and Joseph Zbukvic, along with Russian, Ukrainian and Canadian painters.
To see more of Catherine’s work, visit: www.catherinehillis.com