Monday, 23 August 2010

Guest Artist - Rod Hillen

From time to time I like to introduce artists and designers who use 'traditional methods' for their paintings and designs to readers of my blog. I sense that there is a lot of almost hidden talent amongst the members of Greeting Card Universe and Zazzle. On the whole we are a little less prolific than those who create their designs digitally and it's easy for us to get overlooked because of the sheer numbers!

Rod Hillen joined GCU a few months ago and has built up an online store, Blue Dragon Greeting Cards, full of beautiful watercolour designs, many of them with an 'ethereal' look that is very well suited to his 'fairy' cards that any small child - and some older ones! - would love!

 I emailed Rod a few questions about his work as 'prompts' and here are his replies -

How long have you been painting/drawing? I started drawing before I was old enough to go to school. I remember my mom liking something I drew. Then I whipped out something else for more approval and she told me she liked that I had spent time on the first one. that was a good lesson. Later I remember seeing Snoopy and thinking 'I could draw that' and I could! I was on my way.

Do you come from a family of artists or other creative types? My aunt Christie had some great drawings I admired. My grandpa was a cartographer. Both on my mother's side.

Have you had formal art instruction? I have taken classes and lessons all my life. I have a bachelor's degree from Art Center in Pasadena in Illustration.

What is the most useful thing you've been taught by an Art teacher? In college, there were several creative majors. This guy in transportation design told me he thought people in illustration couldn't draw. I brought this up with the assistant chair of the department during my review, and he said; "The people in transportation design all draw the same. That's a form of communication that engineers have to be able to look at and translate it into an actual car. In transportation design they are taught to draw a certain way. In Illustration, we want you to develop your own voice. In Illustration we teach you how to see.
I know I'm not the best draughtsman, so I try to have my own voice, and see things in a unique and interesting way.

What is your favourite subject matter? I love spiritual themes. They are not my exclusive purview, but they are my favourite. When I was a child, my brother and I were allowed to open a present on Christmas Eve to tide us over until morning. My folks would pick it out so we wouldn't get stuck with socks or something. Once my folks gave me a Children's Bible and I hated it! I was so ashamed. I cried and cried. "Why would you think I wanted that?" I asked. "You're always looking at the big Bible," they said. "You couldn't possibly understand it. So we got you this one." I said, "I was looking at the paintings!" We had this awesome Bible that had Rembrandts, and Tiepelos and all these great master paintings of Biblical scenes. That children's Bible had cartoonish watercolors that just didn't do it for me. I guess that's not very spiritual after all. Ha ha!.


What medium do you prefer to use? I prefer watercolours. I like using nice brushes that won't get ruined. No matter how careful I am with oils or acrylics, I end up ruining the brushes. Also, with watercolours the cleanup is quick and easy. I like to take my paints to the park or Starbucks. I use others mediums from time to time. I try to be versatile.

Is there any one person, artist or otherwise, who has had a big influence on you? Rembrandt was way ahead of his time. His paintings contain elements like impasto and abstraction. They are often revealing psychological studies; hundreds of years before psychology existed!

Personally, there have been people in my life, particularly an art history teacher; I can't remember her name, that have encouraged me to think for myself and ask myself what do I want to accomplish? Do I want to make a lot of money? Do I want to have an effect on people's lives? Art is powerful: it changes lives, the way people think. It can change society. I think that's more important than making money. If making money is what you want to do there are easier ways to go about it.

Do you ever suffer from Artists' Block? I go through periods where I just don't feel like painting. That's one thing I love about making greeting cards: I have to force myself to do something: Christmas is coming! I can't put it off until tomorrow; it will be too late!

What made you decide to create greeting cards? I love the opportunity to have a positive impact on people's lives. Greeting cards are generally positive. Also, I get to be challenged by a variety of subjects; birthdays, holidays, condolences... it's almost limitless.

Do you enjoy the business side of selling your Art or is it a chore? No! I'm terrible at it! I have no idea what I'm doing! I try to split my time between painting & designing cards and promoting them. Ugh! I've got to find someone who knows what they're doing and pay them! Actually, it's a learning experience. I can't always do what I want or what's easy.

What are your plans and aspirations for the future? I would love to be able to create art full time. I don't have to be rich and famous. Just pay my bills and support my family. I've worked at "normal" jobs my whole life. They come and go. In this economy I've learned that "regular" jobs aren't anymore secure than "art" jobs. I'd like to illustrate children's books & write them too.
I'd like to thank Rod for taking the time and trouble to share his thoughts with us . (There is much there that 'chimes' with me!). I'm sure he'll be glad to answer any further questions you may have and that he would love you to visit his blog, where you can see more of his work.


Carole Barkett said...

Great post, Judy, you're good at finding all of us struggling artists and befriending us. Thanks! I'm off to check out Rod's art and blog

Judy Adamson said...

Carole - I think it's a case of one struggling artist to another!

jeanlivingsimple said...

Judy, I really enjoyed your interview with Rod and even found parts I related with. I will visit his blog.

Honestly, I never felt any of my photos were good enough to sell. I just read your latest comment on my blog. How does one begin to turn photos into cards and prints and sell them online like you and Carole?

Judy Adamson said...

Jean - I hope you enjoyed Rod's blog!

The best thing re your photos is to go to the Greeting Card Universe site where you'll find all the instructions (or contact me through my blog profile). Don't expect to grow rich overnight but it makes a handy little bit of extra income once you get going.

jeanlivingsimple said...

Judy, Thanks, I will check it out and contact you if I have any questions.:)

I did enjoy Rod's blog and am now following it.

Michele said...

Fantastic and interesting post, brilliant comment that art jobs aren't any less secure than normal jobs. When people try to tell me that 'proper jobs' are more stable, I say "well I am not going to sack myself... but you could lose your job"

Oh, that makes me sound mean!

Unknown said...

Thanks Michele. You are right about self employment. I am finding perserverence to be the key.