|I’m a native Oregonian. I’ve been doing art my whole life. In school, I often used it to understand other subjects more deeply. I studied painting and printmaking at The Evergreen State School in Washington (BA 2000). In 2000, I had shows in the Evergreen Art Gallery in Olympia, WA and in WISTEC in Eugene, OR.
I spent many years working in retail to support my family, and not having much time for art. In 2006, we moved to Santa Fe, NM. In 2008, I joined the Santa Fe Society of Artists and showed with them at their outside location, just off the plaza. In 2009, I had a featured artist show in the Joe Justad Gallery in Taos, NM. In 2011, we moved to Halsey, OR.
In the fall of 2014, I took an encaustic workshop offered at the BAA. I had wanted to try encaustic for several years, to make sure I enjoyed it before investing in materials and equipment. I loved it. In the year and a half since that time, I’ve produced more work than in the prior 14 years. This medium does effortlessly what I’ve struggled to make other materials approximate.
1. Full Name: Hilary Norton
2. What is your favorite art medium? My favorite medium is encaustic.
3. How long have you been working with that medium?
I’ve been working with it for about a year and a half.
4. Do you expand outside of your primary medium? Why or why not?
One of the fabulous aspects of encaustic is that it combines well with so many other media. I also paint with oils, draw with pastels and charcoal, and use various printmaking methods.
While working with encaustics, I’ve incorporated all of those. I’ve collaged pieces of prints into works, transferred charcoal and graphite drawings and photographs onto the wax surface, used oil paints and oil pastels to bring out textures in the wax, and also to build up thin layers of color. Thin layers of wax and oil color can create beautiful depth and luminosity.
5. Where do you find inspiration for your art?
I am inspired by the irregular/regular patterns in nature — the way water ripples in a stream, always similar but never the same. The way wood grows, patterns of bark or branches, and patterns of foam on waves. The subtle colors and textures inside a mussel shell.
I also think maps and diagrams, and the lines of old engravings and drawings are really beautiful, and sometimes I like juxtaposing those with natural patterns to see what happens. I like abstracts the way kids like clouds — because I get to learn from the piece as I am creating it, and because it leaves space for others to find their own story in it. I think imperfection is beautiful.
Also, when I try to control the art too much, when I have a particular message I want to say in a particular way, or if I get too realistic, I find that my art gets tight and flat and empty. I admire that kind of work by other artists, perhaps because it is something I just don’t do well.
6. What is the best part of being an artist?
Art is the best anti-depressant I’ve ever had. The best part about being an artist is experimenting and learning something new from every piece. It is fun to do, and it feeds my soul. It makes me happy. I do my best art when I can stay in that space of wonder and discovery, and not worry too much about what other folks will think, or what will sell.
7. What is the hardest part of being an artist?
I have two “hardest parts” of being an artist:
(1) Falling in love with a piece and then letting it go, to sell it or to give it away. I used to not be able to part with 50% of my work because I was too attached, and the other 50% of my work because I didn’t think it was good enough. I’m learning to let go, in part because encaustic is so forgiving — it can always be scraped off off or have a new layer added. So if I don’t like a piece, it just means it isn’t done yet. If I set it aside and then come back to it later, whatever I didn’t like may become an interesting texture under something I love.
(2) The other hardest part of being an artist is excruciating self-doubt. I come from a very artistic family, and I’m the first in three generations to make any attempt to show or sell my artwork. I make it because I love it. And I need to sell it so I can afford to keep making it. But sometimes I’m frozen by doubt that my work is not good enough, not original or interesting enough, and on those days I can barely make myself step into the studio.
8. How and where do you sell/present your art?
I’m working on that. Last year, I did tables at two Holiday Craft Fairs. This month, I will have work at the Brownsville Art Association and in the BAA show at the Albany City Hall. I think I will have a show in the Corrine Woodman Gallery in the Corvallis Art Center later this year or early next. I’ve also just create a website at: www.nortonfinearts.com At some point this year, I plan to either add a commerce page to the website, or to create an Etsy page.
9. Who supported you during the time you decided to become an artist?
My husband has been very supportive. We both support each other — I still work, and expect I will need to continue to do so. But he loves my artwork, he encourages me when I get worried or frustrated, he doesn’t complain about my spending money on art supplies and he helps me to build frames and prepare for shows. I had an opportunity last month to sell a piece to an artist I greatly admire. Instead, I offered to trade her for one of her pieces. My husband laughed and said, “You can’t eat art, Hilary.” I smiled at him, and said, “Art isn’t for eating.”
10. What advice do you for beginning artists?
Do what you love. Keep doing it even when it’s hard. Make connections with other people; welcome them to see your work. Yes, it’s scary — do it anyway. Listen to other artists and learn from them.