Catherine Hillis has worked as a professional artist for several decades.
Art studio interior
Catherine Hillis paints daily in her studio or en plein air.

How did you get started and then develop your career?

Catherine Hillis: I’ve always been involved in the arts. I began my career in theatre working as an actress and costume designer, but I always enjoyed painting and drawing. Once I discovered watercolors, it became my primary medium, and it wasn’t long before I focused entirely on painting. Within a few years, I was entering competitions in the Washington, DC metro area and winning awards, and that led me to enter national competitions. I’ve worked as a professional artist for several decades, writing articles, teaching, selling original artwork, and competing in plein air events. My theatrical background is helpful in developing the narratives I so love in painting and in my colorful approach to teaching. And yes, I paint every day.

How do you describe success?

To me, success is knowing I’ve put forth every effort to become the best I can be while working towards realizing my goals. Every year I set artistic and business goals for myself, and while I don’t expect to meet all those objectives, it provides me with aspirations to work towards.

How do you find inspiration?

I don’t look for inspiration — it finds me! I love those corners of the world that most people pass by without realizing how beautiful or interesting they are. When I find a scene to paint, an overwhelming compulsion forces me to stop, put up my easel and get to work or point my camera and shoot. The scene informs me when it must be painted.

I enjoy working both in the studio and in the field, and I can encounter that compulsion to paint in either location.

What is the best thing about being an artist?

I love my job and I enjoy hard work. Even though working as a self-employed artist is difficult and time consuming, I love what I do. 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 and marketing, but I’m grateful to work at something that I love so much.

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 man wearing a hat sitting at a diner booth
Catherine Hillis, “Thanks for the Memories,” 22 x 18 in., watercolor, 2021. I love painting reflections. This scene provided plenty of opportunity to recreate reflective surfaces while relaying a story about an individual who was just enjoying the moment.
Watercolor painting of colorful Adirondack chairs
Catherine Hillis, “Color Blocking,” 28 x 27 in., watercolor, 2021. Courtesy Anderson Fine Arts Gallery, St. Simons Island, GA. A group of colorful chairs is one of those everyday scenes that people pass every day without realizing how beautiful it is.
Watercolor painting of a dock with pelicans
Catherine Hillis, “Plenty of Pelicans,” 28 x 22 in., watercolor, 2021. Many artists have painted this familiar scene in Apalachicola, Florida, but I wanted to illustrate some of the joy and humor the pelicans provide.
Watercolor painting of a restaurant interior from outside the window
Catherine Hillis, “Reservations Required,” 26 x 22 in., watercolor, 2021. There’s a popular restaurant near my home that’s always booked. I’ve never been able to get a reservation there, so I painted it instead.

To see more of Catherine’s work, visit:


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