Thursday, March 7, 2013

DPW Spotlight Interview: Ria Hills

Each week we will spotlight a different DPW artist who will give away one of their best paintings. 

To enter to win Ria Hills' painting, "Nautilus," go to Daily Paintworks and click on the link at the top of the page announcing her interview.

From Ria's DPW Gallery page:
In 2006, I set a goal to complete a painting a day making small works more affordable to collectors. What I discovered through the process was improvement in my work through discipline and the joy of painting simple subjects. Although I do not complete a painting each day, I devote a few hours a day to working in my studio.
Tell us a bit about how you first started painting.

For the longest time, I wanted to be an artist. I've been painting on and off since I was a teenager. I lived on Long Island, NY at the time. As soon I got my driver's license, I spent many weekends in NYC at art museums. I'd go home and copy paintings I liked to see if I could do the same.

I started taking my path seriously after being introduced to a sculptor/painter by the name of Alfred Van Loen. I visited him in his home where the walls were filled with paintings from artist friends. This man spent most of his time creating and was able to make a living from it. This is the life I want, I thought. His best advice to me was: never stop drawing.  A very common bit of advice and I still adhere to it.

(click here to see original image)

Enter to win by clicking on the link at the top of the home page announcing Ria's interview.

Did you have any stops and starts in your painting career?

I have had many interruptions in my painting career. Work, family obligations, procrastination. When I was twenty-four, my husband and I started a family. During that time I took occasional commissions but my main focus was my children. I greatly admire painters who raise a family and also continue with their art. I didn't think it was possible at the time.

About twenty years ago, a friend of mine was writing a children's book and asked me to draw the illustrations. We decided that pastel would be a great medium for it. Prior to this, I had worked mostly in pen and ink for a number of years. I fell in love with the vivid color and the direct contact of pastels at this time.

In 2006, I joined the online daily painting community and as a result, I started selling my work on a regular basis. Being a professional painter has always been a goal and it has finally been realized.
My stops at times lasted for years. Now, it's just a matter of days until I get back to studio work. Although I don't complete a painting a day, I spend everyday doing something related to my art.

Blue Boat
(click here to see original image)

What mediums and genres have you experimented with? Which ones have "stuck" and which ones have fallen away?

For much of my life, I have bounced from one medium to another. I've worked with watercolor, acrylics and oils. I had a clay period. Someday, I would really enjoy sculpting.

Before I became a daily painter, a lot of my work was surreal. Although I enjoy building on a concept, I don't feel that I have the time to pursue this genre partly because the paintings would be larger than what I usually paint and the planning takes longer.

What is freeing about daily painting is that I need to complete a painting in a matter of days. There's not much time for rumination.

Pastel has become my main medium and it's here to stay. I love working with oils, but I don't feel that I can offer the quality of work that I do with pastels. At least, not yet. I plan to work in oils more in the near future.

As far as genres go, I love them all. I would love to explore abstract landscape painting, but there's only so much time in a day.

Artesa Vineyards & Winery, Napa CA
(click here to see original image)

What does procrastination look like for you? What techniques work to ensure that you make time for your art?

I mentioned this awful word already, didn't I? Procrastination has had many faces. It was my favorite pastime until I started selling work on a regular basis. Some days procrastination looked like a monitor and keyboard, then it took the form of incessantly cleaning and rearranging the studio. Other days, I just thought too much about what to paint rather than painting it. For the most part, I've overcome this demon. These days I have more deadlines to meet, which I love. As a result, the length of my procrastination is much shorter than it was in the past.

Making time for art is my top priority. The word "schedule" comes to mind. I can become seriously side tracked and overwhelmed with life stuff. The more I schedule things that need to get done (and actually do them), the more time I have for painting.

How do you handle criticism (from yourself or others) and how do you use it to propel you forward with your art?

I'm my worst critic. I'm extremely harsh on myself and I didn't always take it very well from others. I think I've gained a bit more humility over the years. At least I hope I have. Self criticism once kept me from growing as a painter. As I've become older, I've learned to separate from my ego and look at my work with a more objective eye rather than throwing in the towel.

How do you generally arrive at ideas for your paintings?

It varies. For my surreal work, I see images in my head. Some are inspired by music, others by dreams. I either write them down or make a quick sketch. I'd like to get back to completing the process by painting these images. I'm working towards spending more time in the studio so I can.

Some of my paintings are inspired by the subjects themselves. The shape of a piece of fruit, the visual stimulation of unusual pairing of objects, the humor in a formal arrangement of food. Ninety-five percent of the time, the painting looks better than the object. Once I remember this, it's easier to just grab anything, arrange it if it's paired with other stuff and then just get to painting. It's the process and progress of the piece that makes me happiest.

Blue and Orange
(click here to see original image)

How do you keep art "fresh?" What techniques have helped you avoid burnout and keep your work vibrant and engaging?

I hope that my work stays fresh by continually challenging myself. I want each new piece to be better than the previous one. I keep saying to myself, I'm pleased with this but I can do better by struggling a bit more each time.

In the distant past, more paintings were trashed than not. I'm improving, so the odds of trashing a painting these days are unlikely. I learn from my "mistakes" rather than allowing my mistakes to set me back.

What do you feel you are learning about right now as an artist?

I'm learning to step out of my comfort zone in my work and also as an artist trying to make her business grow. I've also learned that success is not only for other people, which I once believed.

Scout and Benny
(click here to see original image)

What makes you happiest about your art?

Besides the actual process, it's that people want to hang it on their walls. I receive wonderful emails from people who have purchased my work and they always make me smile.

I really appreciate them. They have provided encouragement and helped me pay my bills, which I'll always be grateful for.

Thanks, Ria!

© 2013 Sophie Marine

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