Thursday, August 7, 2014

DPW Spotlight Interview: Amy Hillenbrand

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

To enter to win Amy's painting, "Out of the Blue" go to Daily Paintworks and click on the link at the top of the page announcing their interview.

From Amy's DPW Gallery page:

In a previous life, I lived my life designing corporate offices, restaurants and health care facilities as the owner of a successful commercial Interior and Architectural Design Firm. I wore suits and high heels every day, ouch. Then my life took a turn. I sold the firm, loaded up the car and moved to Beverly Hills. No, not really but, I did move to San Diego - close enough, right? I swapped my suits for flowing skirts and flip-flops, ahh. (click to continue reading)

Tell us a bit about how you first started painting.

I only started painting in my early forties. I really never painted before that. I do know in kindergarten all I did was color every single day. I also recall painting two pieces in high school. One watercolor of a nocturne scene of a boatyard and an acrylic of a vase of flowers. I had no idea of what I was doing, but my Mother still framed them and hung them up in our house anyway.

Out of the Blue
(click to see original image)

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

Back to my forties... I was recovering from major job/life burnout. I had owned a commercial Interior Design and Architectural firm. I worked fifteen hours per day, seven days and week and most holidays. It took a toll on my life and body. I sold the business after my body said "enough!" and the voice inside me kept saying, "stop the madness." I moved from the Midwest to the West coast. As I was lying in bed trying to regain my health (now be prepared for what I am going to say next, it might sound kind of out there), I heard a voice say softly and clearly two words: oil painting. I hadn’t even asked a question. I was a little startled since oil painting wasn’t something I had ever done nor was it on my radar to do so. I paid attention though, since this voice was different than my normal intuitive voice. I sought out a teacher, a wonderful Australian Artist, Concetta Antico. She really has a gift for teaching. I took classes once a week for about two years. I found my calling and not surprisingly, my health started to rebound at a quicker pace.

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

Yes, I have. As I shared above, I painted about once a week and some Sundays for two years. My husband and I then moved to Texas in 2006. I did cry when I left my teacher and my wonderful classes in her cute little ocean side studio in La Jolla. I painted in spurts as a hobby while I pursued other career paths. I had been Life Coaching for several years and was wanting to take it up a notch. So in 2009, I flew to Las Vegas to attend a business seminar for Life Coaches. While sitting among one thousand coaches, I began to question if I was doing the right thing; wondering if this was the right path for me.

Three Pair
(click to see original image)

Right then and there, I received an answer. I heard the same voice from 2003. Almost jokingly it answered, “I already answered that question. You are supposed to be an artist.” I came home and started my blog. Art was no longer just a hobby. I was following the Voice. Recently, I also had a couple of months break from painting when my husband and I built a new home in a new city. I now have a beautiful new studio in my home with gorgeous northern light which is a complete joy to work in. I’m a happy camper.

What mediums and genres have you experimented with?

Oil painting is my love. I often hear many artists talk about wanting to try this and that and they can’t wait to try the other. Sometimes I think there must be something wrong with me because I have absolutely no desire for other mediums. I suppose I subscribe to Malcom Gladwell’s theory. He states in his book ‘Outliers’, it takes someone ten thousand hours of practice to master a skill. Besides that, I just like it.

Orchid Ovation
(click to see original image)

Who or what inspires you most?

Inspiration happens to me in a pop. Typically, when I’m not thinking about art at all. I do have a dialog playing constantly in the background of my mind which sounds like this: What should I paint? How should I paint it? Sometimes this a a conscious conversation I’m having with myself, but most times it is unconscious. It is always running. Then, when I’m doing other things like taking a walk, shopping or even watching TV, I will have a pop - an idea will flash in my mind. I like to make a quick sketch of the idea because it will leave as quickly as it comes. I feel like when I get a quick pop or inspiration it is a ‘God-wink’ and I just happen to catch it. I do get inspired every time I go to an art museum or visit a gallery. Every timeI get this feeling like I can’t wait to get home to paint.

What does procrastination look like for you?

I would have to say I am quite familiar with Procrastination. Really wish I could say it is not the case. I know I’m in procrastination mode when I think cleaning the house is more fun than painting. Once I notice that I’m in resistance to painting, I try to drill down and find out what’s really going on. I have uncovered all kinds of hidden treasures; such as the feeling that I’m not enough. I may slip into that kind of thinking when I start comparing myself to others, whether it is their style or their progress on their path. I’ve learned a) don’t compare myself to others and b) trust everything is unfolding as it should.

I’m beginning to think there is a reason why I have had to suffer with this terrible bug-a-boo. I believe it is because as I disassemble it and conquer it I am to teach others how to move past it in their lives as well. For if I never felt the frustration of its grip, I don’t think I could relate to those who still wrestle with it. For that reason I write about my tales with the big P on my blog. I have come a long way and I do believe that, very soon, it will be something in my past.

Charlie the Boxer
(click to see original image)

What techniques work to ensure that you make time for your art?

The technique that has helped the most was finding the best time of day to paint. Without thinking too much about it, I started painting in the afternoons around 2-3 o’clock. But then I had this brilliant idea that I should paint in the mornings since I am a morning person. I figured since I function so well in the morning my painting would be even better. Wrong. My brain is too engaged in the morning, too left-brain. I could not settle into the painting and it felt like a struggle.

I went back to doing what I just naturally did in the beginning. After doing my “chores” and emptying my brain out onto a to-do list, I then paint. My body and mind are relaxed and I easily get into the zone. I am also finding the more organized I am in my life and in my studio the more it fosters productivity. When I have a cluttered space or a cluttered mind I feel very unsettled inside my body. It feels like static is playing and I cannot focus. This also helps ward off procrastination which I talked about earlier.

How do you generally arrive at ideas for your paintings?

Using the inspiration that arrives to me in a a pop (see above), I set out to reproduce that with my camera. I make a trip to the store to buy the flowers I’m after and then typically they don’t have what I wanted which leads me to bring home something I hadn’t even thought of. As serendipity would have it, the flowers end up being perfect for what I wanted. I spend lots of time “posing” my flower subjects and taking fifty to one hundred photos. I then look at them on the computer at the smallest thumbnail possible. I look to see which ones jump out at me with a strong composition even in their little form. Many times it turns out to be the first picture I took.

Mint Tulep
(click 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 like to to mix things up by sometimes painting larger and then other times painting smaller works. I will also go between the two subjects I mostly do these days, flowers and animals, or as I like to say, critters. I try to paint four to five days a week. I have found I do need my non-painting days to do things with my hubby, friends or other things I enjoy. When I do it seven days a week, it starts to feel un-fun. As I learned a big lesson in my previous life, I need other interests and people to make a balanced happy life. When I do come back from my two day break I feel energized. It is fun again. I trust when I’m having fun, it will radiate through my paintings.

What makes you happiest about your art?

The most rewarding feeling is when someone tells me they actually feel happy or peaceful when they are looking at my work. It is so fulfilling because that is my intention.

Thanks, Amy!

© 2014 Sophie Catalina Marine Cruse

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