Female artist standing in front of her paintings
Catherine Hillis works both in the studio and en plein air. Her work is included in corporate and private collections around the world.
Artist studio interior
The artist works in her north light studio every day when she’s not working in the field.

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.

Watercolor painting of a dock with pelicans
Catherine Hillis, “Plenty of Pelicans,” 28 x 22 in., watercolor, 2021. — I created this piece after a plein air event in Apalachicola and St. George Island, FL. Many artists have painted this familiar scene, but I wanted to express it a little differently to illustrate the humor in the situation.
Watercolor painting of a restaurant table from outside the window
Catherine Hillis, “Reservations Required,” 26 x 22 in., watercolor, 2021. — There’s a nearby restaurant that’s always booked and I still haven’t been able to get a reservation. I painted it, instead.
Watercolor painting of boats in dry dock stacked high
Catherine Hillis, “Bottoms Up!,” 18 x 17 in., watercolor, 2020. — A nearby marina is a feast of color and light in my opinion, and it’s led to an entire series of paintings.
Watercolor of Savannah Bee store interior from view outside the window
Catherine Hillis, “Don’t Worry! Bee Happy,” 26 x 18 in., watercolor, 2021. — I enjoy painting window reflections because they’re challenging and there are intriguing narratives within those panes of glass.

To see more of Catherine’s work, visit: www.catherinehillis.com



  1. Have followed and admired Catherine Hillis for quite a few years now – all the way back to her days in Round Hill and Purcellville, VA. Without a doubt she deserves her success. It’s been such a pleasure to have watched her development. Catherine just gets better and better.


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