Kathleen Keil Hill
Kathleen has been a Painted Planet Artist for 9 years. Her exquisite animals have been featured on everything from wall art to fabric, breathing life into inanimate objects. Kathy resides in the ranching community of Livermore Valley, California.
What is your earliest memory of being inspired to create art?
Coloring in coloring books of course but drawing horses on all of my school papers was probably the start of my “art career.”
What do you draw inspiration from? Which artists inspire you?
Animals and birds inspire me, anything with fur or feathers. Not only their appearance but the simple way they maneuver through life. They go about their daily routines unencumbered by a lot of thought and soul searching. It doesn’t matter whether they are wild or domestic, living on the African plains or in an apartment in the city, they just do what comes naturally for them to survive.
The first artist who really inspired me was Canadian artist Robert Bateman. He was the first artist that I encountered who made his living painting animals in the natural world. My experience in art school, a whole two weeks of it, told me this wasn’t an option. When I went to my advisor and asked if I could just learn to paint animals he told me of course not, so I quit school and kept working on my own.
How would you describe your signature style?
Realism, pure and simple! I want my animals to breathe. I work to achieve an effect that has caused viewers to actually reach out and touch my work to see if it is as soft as it appears to be.
Traditionally I am an oil painter, along with working in the colored pencil medium. I just recently started learning about how versatile the colored pencils are and how you can achieve so many different effects with them. They can remain a sketching medium, which I have been using for years, but they can be used to create artwork that looks like paintings as well. I have always considered myself more of a drawer than a painter as I handle my brushes the same way as a pencil.
Describe the most difficult part of your process.
Getting to the “breathing” part. Getting just the amount of detail so that the bird or animal comes to life. Most people are not aware that most artwork goes through an ugly stage at some point. The point where we throw up our hands or worse and think that this piece is never going to make it. If we let it rest a bit and look at it with fresh eyes the next day, most of the time we can tell that it has the makings of a successful piece.
Who’s your go-to person for providing honest feedback on your work?
I am very fortunate to belong to a large community of artists, and I can ask for ideas from the ones I feel comfortable with. We also started a great critique group here at Painted Planet that has been helpful in catering more to the licensing industry, which has been so informative for me!
Describe your studio.
My home studio overlooking the South Hills of Livermore and a beautiful vineyard is inspiring every day even though I am not a landscape painter. I have my easel, lots of storage and my long desk to work on, plus three rows of four-inch deep shelves with end caps to hold my canvases and boards. This is by far the most perfect space I have ever had to create in.
Do you work in silence or with music? If music, what kind?
I love classical if I really want to get into the zone, but I also like to mix it up on occasion. I also like putting old movies on that I don’t really need to watch because I have seen them so many times! Listening to the actors' dialog is fun.
Is there a piece or project that you are especially proud of? Why?
I did a mural for our local Humane Society. Painting that large was a challenging task for me as well as being away from the studio for several weeks. It went exceptionally well – it was a community service benefiting the animals and I was able to cross it off my bucket list!
Have you won any accolades or awards?
I have won my share of ribbons over the years but this past summer one of my paintings was purchased by the Fair Board of Directors at the Alameda County Fair for their permanent collection! That was pretty exciting!
What is your favorite color?
If you were not an artist what would you do?
I wanted to be a veterinarian originally, but chemistry and math were just too hard for me. I would probably work at a humane society and live with a perpetual broken heart.
What are your hobbies (besides art)?
I love being outside when I am not working. I walk about two and a half miles daily with my dog, seven days a week. My children and grandchildren all live in this town so my husband and I enjoy doing things with them.
What are your goals for the future?
To continue to grow as an artist, be a little adventurous in my technique and discover better ways to achieve what I am after in my work.
What is your dream project?
I want to do an inspirational book revolving around animals and their humans. I really enjoy writing and would love to be able to inspire people’s lives with my thoughts and artwork.