Posts

The Bigger Picture

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It's been quite a summer! I'm now cataract-free and adjusting to the changes in my vision-- it was only one cataract, which caused a few months of cloudy vision, but it definitely had an effect on my attitude toward life and painting.
We've had a strange summer this year: extremely hot June, a strong rainstorm in July, and a mild August so far.  Being unable to see meant that I spent a lot of time home, which suited me fine as the traffic here seems to get worse every time I leave the house.  The children were of course bored and bickering much of the time, but they seem to do that whether we're home or not.  The summer definitely had its share of annoying occurrences.

As we read Psalm 136 in church last week, I couldn't help thinking of this view of the ocean.  I love being at the beach and seeing when the light peeks through the clouds and glitters on the water.  It's often a visual reminder that the daily gripes of this world are fleeting when compared to t…

Spring Awakenings

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After a long hiatus, I'm trying to get back into a more productive cycle, which means more painting, creating lessons and teaching, and taking my work out of the house to events.

It's not that I haven't been busy, but I've gotten sort of sidetracked with fun pursuits like gardening, sewing, and breaking up fights between my children.

I did manage to teach my first paint-sip at the beginning of the year (hauling all of the materials in during a rainstorm that dropped an alarming amount of moisture!)  It was a blast, and we did the piece below in about 2 hours:

                                                     "Moonlit Valley" Acrylic on Paper
(We used canvas instead of paper, so it would be easy to hang at home.)

If you're in the North San Diego County or Southwest Riverside County area and would like to do a paint-sip event, please contact me for samples and prices at nicolehilsabeck@yahoo.com.

Since it's now April, it's a busy month for all th…

The Imperfect Butterfly

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When we're first learning to make art as children, we hear a few things that become familiar over time.  Skies are blue! Tree trunks are brown, leaves are green.  Butterflies are supposed to be perfectly symmetrical!

Well, if you take a long look around you, you'll notice that most of that well-intended advice was wrong.  Trees can have blue, purple, and green trunks-- or even red or yellow, depending on the lighting.  Leaves can be just about any color too!  Butterflies, while appearing symmetrical, aren't necessarily so if you look closely.  Most of the butterflies I paint from photos have damaged wings, which isn't noticeable to me until I take the time to examine the photos in detail.









So why do we hear the same advice being repeated to kids over the years?  What's the first question most people have when a child shows us a painting?

 "What is it supposed to be?"

I catch myself asking this with my own kids. I've tried rephrasing it into "What …

Spring Things

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It's spring, and this year that means a few more rain showers, plenty of birds, and rattlesnakes.

It also means time in the garden, along with a spring pastel workshop, which was the artistic  highlight of my month!

We painted spring butterflies, and my daughter managed to turn her face green by rubbing her pastel-laden hands all over her face as she worked.
I originally created this piece as a demo for the workshop, and finished it up a bit later at home:

"Spring Butterfly" 9 x 12 pastel on paper View on Etsy Spring is a time of renewal, and every year I find myself busy in the springtime.  The days last longer, there are plenty of art events on the calendar, and the weather is much more inviting.  The birds return to familiar nesting spots.  The nights here are still pleasantly cool, and the hills are exploding with colorful flowers.

We even did an extra bit of spring cleaning at home, and now there's more space to work.

In the past, spring wasn't my favorite …

Skies of Inspiration

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It's hard not to be inspired by the skies here in Southern California-- particularly at this time of year, with storms moving in and out throughout the days.

At the risk of sounding like a mommy-blogger, I've fallen behind in my artwork and posting since summer ended for a couple of reasons (they rhyme with "mildren").  I've also fallen into a bit of a painting slump, but the sunsets and sunrises here in Fallbrook have drawn me back into making more time for artwork.

We're having a particularly vibrant winter, as the frequent rain invigorates the contrasting colors in the landscape here.  We've also had some noisy horned owls, who like to announce their imminent departure each morning just before the sun begins to rise.  This means I'm usually up early to get a peek at the silhouette of our vocal visitors before they fly off to hide and sleep-- and if I can keep my eyes open, I get to see the occasional glorious sunrise.  I'd love to paint the owl…

Flower Mania: An Inherited Obsession

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I paint flowers, I'm trying to grow flowers, I take pictures of flowers... I guess it's a healthier habit than collecting kittens that turn into full-grown, demanding cats ( which was my previous habit).


Flowers were a favorite subject for my late grandmother, who was my first art teacher.  All the women on my mother's side had prolific green thumbs.  My dad loves to grow flowers too.  I didn't inherit the green thumb, but I've been working diligently on growing my own flowers.  It started as a fun project with my daughter, and now it's become an obsessive hobby.  Maybe in twenty years I'll actually have a decent garden.
Like painting, I'm learning that gardening is intuitive.  I spend a lot of time observing and experimenting, figuring out what works and what doesn't for the soil we have (and all the little monsters that try to eat my plants).  There are plenty of failures-- it was pretty disheartening to see entire bunches of flowers disappear over…

Painting Cats

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After many years of painting cats, I've learned a few things.  Every time I start a new cat painting, it follows its own unique path, bringing challenges that I don't seem to face when I paint my more traditional material (landscapes, birds, floral and botanical pieces, etc.)
For example, cats don't stay put for too long (unless they're asleep, and even then they'll often stretch and change positions when you're least expecting it).  To combat this challenge, I end up working mostly from photographs.  That means adjusting the proportions, since the camera angle causes some distortion depending on the position and location of the cat.
 One of the reasons cats are enjoyable to paint is that they have strong facial expressions.  When I'm painting a cat, I get so focused on rendering the cat's facial features and expression, I forget to make sure I'm paying attention to the overall shape of the cat.  It helps to focus on the shape and values of the hea…