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Cascades Blog: A local artist heads south

One of the works from Catherine Hillis, a local artist who is moving to Georgia.
Catherine Hillis, an award-winning artist and chronicler of vanishing Loudoun landmarks, is moving her base of operations from Loudoun County to St. Simons Island, Ga., in mid-August. Originally from Georgia, Hillis has been teaching watercolor and art skills for many years in Eastern Loudoun, Round Hill and other spots in the area.

“My quest when I moved to Loudoun County was to paint a lot of the history of the county as it changed,” Hillis said. “In the 13 years I’ve been here, it changed a lot.”

Hillis’s renderings of iconic landmarks in Sterling, Ashburn, Leesburg, Waterford, Hamilton, Purcellville and other spots have become cherished reminders for many of times gone by.

Judy Gruner of Reston, a longtime student of Hillis’s watercolor classes and the person who brought Hillis to Eastern Loudoun to teach, owns the artist’s watercolor of the recently demolished Sterling United Methodist church. The church, built in 1860 at what would become the corner of Church and Davis streets in Sterling, was torn down to make way for a planned storage facility, despite community opposition to the plan.

Hillis painted the church during a demonstration for her Sterling watercolor class focused on outdoor plein-air painting techniques. The class suggested the subject for the painting, Gruner said.

Hillis worked on the painting during the class demonstration, took a photo of the church and finished the painting in her studio. She donated the completed work to the annual fundraising auction for the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Sterling, the location of her watercolor classes. Gruner was the successful bidder for the artwork at that auction.

“Teaching has been a great thing for me because it’s taught me probably as much as the students have learned from me,” Hillis said. She enjoys seeing the unique aspects of her students in class and how differently they express themselves in paint, she said.

Hillis, who works mostly in water media, has won hundreds of national and regional awards and honors for her artwork. Her paintings appear in several art books and have been published in a variety of art-focused magazines. She has earned signature memberships in eight art organizations, including the Virginia Watercolor Society and the Southern Watercolor Society, and was elected to one of the 40 memberships in the Washington Society of Landscape Painters.

Artwork by Catherine Hillis is available for purchase online at catherinehillis.com and at American Painting Fine Art in Washington, D.C.

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