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Taking it to New York: Lopez artist Steve Hill’s journey

June 14th, 2009

"Croatian Island port" by Steve Hill.

Lopez pastel artist Steve Hill has just received a special honor: two of his paintings have been accepted into the 24th Annual Chelsea International Juried Art Competition in New York.

One of only 35 artists selected from an international field of entries, Hill’s work was picked by Ira Goldberg, executive director of The Art Student’s League in New York. Both paintings were done during his recent three-month painting trip to Europe and both are plein air pieces from the ancient city of Krk, Croatia.

"It’s always pleasing to know my latest work resonated with someone like Mr. Goldberg, as it raises the bar for my next series of paintings," Hill said. "There has been no greater joy than my total immersion into making art on a daily basis and entering juried competitions like this has helped me connect with other artists, techniques and concepts."

Agora Gallery in the Chelsea District hosts the show, which is billed as New York’s most anticipated annual art event.

"There’s an incredibly broad range and diversity of work coming into this show," Hill said. It’s typically juried by top art world professionals, like the directors of The Guggenheim and Chelsea Museums. It can be viewed online at www.agoragallery.com. The gallery also donates a large percentage of proceeds from the sale of work at the show to support youth art programs in New York.

Hill came to Lopez in the 1970s, after completing his MFA from Washington State University. He and his fellow WSU graduates Shirley Wright and Bernie Sundell started Grayling Gallery on the island. Hill met his wife Judy when they both worked at Lopez School as teachers, raised three sons, and started two well-known businesses: The Islands’ Weekly and Island Graphics. His art career took a backseat to his entrepreneurial projects, until the late 1990s, when he sold both businesses. Since then, he has plunged back into his art career with full force, spending at least two months a year in Europe to paint in the plein air (outdoor) style.

"It’s pure passion now," Hill said. "It’s changed my life incredibly from travel to how I set up my work week and how many hours I put in. I work between 60 and 80 hours a week painting. It’s a seven-day a week thing for me now. I’m making up for lost time. And at the same time, it is so interesting, it’s hard to stay away from it."

Hill’s latest accomplishments include a First Place Award in the Plein Air Washington Painters juried competition on San Juan Island last summer and he was juried as a participating artist into the 16th Annual Carmel Art Festival and has had two solo shows of his work at his galleries in Portland and Vancouver, Wash.

Hill’s work has also been published in the "Best of America, Pastel Artists and Artisans," Volume I, 2007, Kennedy Publications and he was one of only 11 artists from that book invited back into the 2009 Volume II book by the same title, featuring 200 American pastel artists, which will be published later this summer.

He is a member of The Puget Sound Group of Northwest Painters and signature member and past president of The Northwest Pastel Society. His work resides in private collections, university and museums.

His work can be seen locally at Crow Valley Gallery in Eastsound, San Juan Gallery, Friday Harbor, Colin Goode Gallery, Lopez, La Conner Seaside Gallery in La Conner and Art on the Boulevard Gallery, Vancouver, Wash. He also has a small gallery attached to his studio on Lopez, Windswept Fine Art Gallery. Hill’s web site is www.windsweptstudios.com

Hill is also an avid workshop instructor and says he finds "great joy in teaching others to use pastel as a medium for expression." He is hosting a "10-day Painting Experience" on Korcula Island, Croatia in October 2009 and 2010 and a plein air pastel workshop on Lopez in late July.

"Keeping fresh ideas and new work out there, especially competing among some of the best, has made life far more interesting than just making predictable paintings," Hill said.

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