Lori Hill has had an eye for art and design from a young age. She studied interior design and dabbled in quilting, but it wasn’t until she lived in Paris in her 40s, frequenting the Musée d’Orsay and the Louvre, that she bought some oil paints and decided to try her hand at the art form. “I thought, how hard can it be?” she says. Looking at the large body of work she’s produced since then, one might mistakenly think the answer is: not hard at all.
Much of Hill’s work is inspired by travel. For many years, Hill traveled with her husband, whose oil company job sent them to countries across the globe. The year following Paris, the couple settled in Azerbaijan. While there, Hill worked one day a week with a New Zealand artist who mentored her through still-life painting.
Throughout her travels, Hill created painted snapshots of her experiences, from whimsical African animals to quaint shops and even abstract color meshes. “It gets in your blood,” Hill says. “I love to go and see different cultures, experience different landscapes. Our last trip was to Iceland, and that beauty was so natural and so raw that I brought back so much inspiration.”
Retirement brought Hill to Bellingham, where she has spent the last nine years painting every day. Although traditional landscape painting had never interested her before, after witnessing the dense trees and oceanic horizons in Washington—like the mountain crests of Azerbaijan and the cityscapes of Paris—she soon became swept up in painting the Pacific Northwest. The challenge then became finding her own style in recreating what inspired her.
Painting, for Hill, has always started with an idea. After the idea, she makes the first brushstroke, which eventually transforms into a simple outline. After this, she moves on to shadowing and lighting, slowly bringing the piece to life over several days. By the end, those first marks are nearly unrecognizable, a transformation that produces a great sense of accomplishment.
Hill has found herself enmeshed in Bellingham’s artist community, and her award-winning work has been featured in galleries and markets in several states. She often looks at her first paintings as a reminder of how far she’s come.
“The more you paint, the better you get. It’s just that simple,” she says. “The exposure, and being here around other artists, it just heightens everything you do.”
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