I'm thrilled to announce my latest "Art of Conversation" interview is with my pal Hillary Howorth.
I almost feel as if Hillary needs no introduction because her work has completely BLOWN UP and lives in homes and galleries across the country....but, for those of y'all who've been hiding under a rock, Hillary is a self-taught Nashville-based contemporary artist known for her unique medium and layered paintings.
I first connected with Hillary via Instagram where we began following each other a few years ago, and we have both been represented by some of the same gallery partners over the years.
Hillary was kind enough to lend me some art lighting during the Harding Art Show this past May, and we FINALLY met in person. Hillary is as pretty and kind as she is on Instagram!
Hillary was raised just outside of Greenville, South Carolina, but has made Tennessee her home after marrying a Nashville native ten years ago. They are now raising their three young boys (shout out to boy moms!) in the ever-growing Music City. Her collection of original contemporary art has been featured in House Beautiful Magazine, Home Design & Decor Magazine, At Home Arkansas, Serena & Lily, StyleBlueprint, The Scout Guide, and SPANX. Her work.
1. I’m so excited to chat with you! I feel like we have so much in common in terms of becoming professional artists later in life. Tell me how you initially became an artist?
I grew up as a company dancer and even went to a fine arts high school part time. During that time I would sketch and design my company’s dance costumes to send off to our seamstress to bring them to life. I originally thought that I would go into fashion design, but I chickened out last minute. Life has a funny way of calling you back to your passions though. It was not until 2012 when home on bed rest during my first pregnancy with twin girls that I began painting and sketching again. I painted for my home, for friends, for everyone. Sadly the pregnancy of my baby girls ended in a heartbreaking stillbirth. BUT an incredible blessing came out of so much loss and heartbreak. I started painting for them, continued for healing, which eventually led to a beautifully fulfilling career. Something so beautiful out of something so tragic. Their lives continue to have so much meaning and life within my work.
2. How would you describe your style of art?
It is contemporary art, for sure, but to me it is so much more than that. It is a collection of moments layered one on top of the other, creating a story. I like to think of my work as an examination of life—every chapter, every shift, every little moment of clarity, every thought that is the sum of an individual. Just like in the layers of life, there is no going back and correcting with the medium and paint that I work with. What’s done is done, there is only going forward, adding new layers and embracing the willingness to be transformed into something new with each added one.
3. When did you know you were on to something with your artwork?
When I finally perfected the formula of my medium, I knew I was onto something fresh and different, but I wasn’t convinced yet that anyone else would be drawn to it until I did my first in person art show here in Nashville in 2019. I then sold out of all my pieces that were created in this new medium and style. I went home in shock with nonstop tears of joy and relief. It was the validation I needed and the push to the path forward. I was completely blown away by the love and support that I had received, especially after months and months spent experimenting and perfecting the style before showing it. Non-creatives don’t realize when they view one piece of art, the thousands of pieces that were thrown away, painted over and cried over that came before the one they are viewing.
4. Where do you find your inspiration?
I love for my art to reflect the times and the world currently around us. So, the overall composition of my work is deeply inspired by nature, life’s complexities, connection, community, finding a common ground, and making a way for us all to rise together. However, when it comes to color, I am often drawing inspiration for my palettes from interior design and fashion. As long as I can remember I’ve had an affinity for both. I’m fascinated by old trends becoming new again and the way design can influence the world around us.
5. How has your art style evolved over the years?
While my art in recent years has heavily involved precise lines and distinct shapes, I have slowly added in more fluidity and movement within the precision and I am loving the new direction!
6. Tell me about one exciting project you’ve worked on in recent years?
I had the honor and the privilege to create an active-wear set collaboration with SPANX that was released in the summer of 2021. I have always been a huge fan and admirer of SPANX founder, Sara Blakey, as a woman, as a business owner, as a philanthropist and as an overall badass! I had once heard a story about how Sara’s father would ask her and her brother every Friday “what did you fail at this week?” The intent of the question was not to shine a light on failure but to teach that you don’t fail if you never try anything hard and new. That type of inspiration is what finally got me to pursue my own career. Sure I could fail, but it was worth it to try. So to partner with her to place my art on her active-wear, well, it was a full circle dream come true.
7. Describe your process - where do you paint and what does a typical day in the studio look like?
I work out of my home studio which is located in our finished basement, yet still has plenty of windows. I left the concrete floors in the space, which are now covered in paint splatter and look like a piece of art in itself. I typically start my “work” day painting after kid drop offs and a workout and I paint until I forget to blink and then I move onto to emails or packaging etc towards the end of the day. I like to get my creative juices flowing first, it’s like having the first cup of coffee that just gives you the energy you need and sets the tone for the day.
8. What do you do to get out of a rut and push yourself past a block?
Sometimes I have to step away from the canvas and take a break, even if that means taking a day to just write emails and send invoices until I feel inspired again. Or I may need to take a day or two off completely to clear my head. Other times, I just sit down and force myself to just play around with digital sketches until something worth putting on a canvas comes out. Some days they are all garbage, but I keep deleting and starting over anyway until I have an “a-ha” moment.
9. What is a goal you’d like to accomplish in the next year? 5 years?
I would love to do additional collaborations with more well known brands as well as branch out into textiles or wallpaper on a larger scale with my work. There are only so many hours in the day to paint and create, so being able to put my work onto clothing or textiles would be another creative outlet with more reach that wouldn’t necessarily require me to paint 24hrs a day.
10. I know you’re also a mom to three boys - what is one tip or trick you’ve learned to manage all of the energy required of being a boy mom?
I know I’ll never be able to manage their energy, but I can manage mine, which is just as crucial to the overall dynamic. I’ve learned that taking time for myself every now and then and having a village of moms in my corner in the same phase of life, is a must! Being a boy mom is such a blessing, an exhausting blessing, but one that I wouldn’t trade! Sometimes stepping away for a minute helps me to return as a better and more engaged mother. Because they need me to be active and engaged, not just present.
11. What do you like to do when you’re not painting?
Exercise! It’s such a great stress reliever for me. I take Barre3 classes about 5 days a week. As a former dancer, it’s the perfect mix of movement, cardio, strength training and mindfulness. It’s a necessity for me and a nonnegotiable in my schedule.
12. Favorite place to travel?
Any tropical beach! My husband and I decided after we had children that in lieu of gifts for anniversaries, birthdays and holidays, we would take at least one trip a year just the two of us! We do it for our sanity, we do it for our kids and we do it for our marriage. It’s such a gift! This year we are heading to Antigua in December and I can’t wait!
13. Where can people find your work?
Right now, My goal is to have releases at least every other month, whether they be through my own website or the galleries that represent me— Liz Lidgett Gallery, Liza Pruitt Gallery and Paloma & Co. I always announce a release ahead of time on my Instagram.
14. Finally, what is one piece of advice you’d like to give other artists who are just getting their start?
Always offer and seek support and encouragement from your peers—the artists who came before you and those who will come in after you. Do not be afraid to reach out and ask questions. That has truly been invaluable in my career as an artist as well as has helped create lifelong and unexpected friendships. I truly believe that we all rise together and there is room for everyone at the table!