Artist of the Month: Ria Hills

0611aom3_436x567_1Ria Hills, our Artist of the Month for November, is a pastel painter who celebrates the quiet loveliness of the ordinary.

by Edith Zimmerman

pastel, 5 x 7. Collection the artist.

Ria Hills, our Artist of the Month for November, is a pastel painter who celebrates the quiet loveliness of the ordinary. “Some of my paintings have been inspired by a dream, a song, or sometimes a single word,” she explains. “A few months ago I started painting a 5”-x-7” work every day. These paintings are mostly inspired by small, common objects.” These works—of a cup of coffee, a baseball, a broken egg, or a marble, for instance—all speak of Hills’ fascination with light. “For me, the subject is not as important as the process of trying to translate blocks of color and light into something discernable,” she says. “I very much enjoy the challenge of realism and am captivated by the ways light plays on a subject.”

Hills, a native of the Netherlands who now lives in Massachusetts, has 25 years of professional experience as a fine artist and graphic designer to her credit. For her work in pastel, she prefers Wallis sanded pastel paper and Art Spectrum Colourfix boards for surfaces. “Both papers provide the tooth I need to apply many layers of pastel,” she explains. Hills’ favorite pastel brands are Unison, Sennelier, and Rembrandt. Her method is conventional—“I work from hard to soft pastels in layers,” she describes. “I start each painting with pastel pencils, carefully drawing my shapes. I then block in my colors and shapes with Nupastel and work my way up in layers using progressively softer pastels. I use only my fingers for blending.”

Surreal Dream
pastel, 15 x 11 ½. Private collection.

Although Hills’ tender portraits of everyday objects testify to her passion for realism, she also paints surreal scenes, many of which she executes with very different methods. “For my surreal pieces I start with a raw idea and fully create it before it’s translated onto paper,” she says. “I frequently need reference photos, and I either take them myself or use purchased stock photos. From those I ‘sketch’ on the computer using Photoshop until it matches the idea in my head. I then use the finished composition as a reference for the painting. For my realistic paintings I use either a photo or a found object for reference. I am always inspired by the richness of our visual world.”

Hills’ work has won awards and been displayed in galleries and art shows throughout New England. Visit Hills' website for more information.





pastel, 5 x 7. Private collection.
Blue Marble
pastel, 5 x 7. Private collection.
Cup o’ Joe
pastel, 5 x 7. Collection the artist.
Night Sky
pastel, 15 x 12. Private collection.

Edith Zimmerman is the editorial assistant of American Artist.


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