‘It’s very rewarding to be able to see people excited about what they can create’

By on February 24, 2023

Art surrounds the Catherine Hamill Gallery sign. (Photo credit: Mary Ellen Riddle/OBV)

A welcoming sign announcing Catherine Hamill’s studio and home gallery hangs outside her Manteo home. Paintings flank the front door and fill the inside walls of her abode. Rows and rows of canvases show off realistic flowers, land- and seascapes, architecture, and abstract, mystical and impressionistic work.

Hamill has been sharing her love of painting by not only creating but teaching art in a number of Dare County locations for the last 15 years. This includes Dare Arts where she is hosting painting workshops on scheduled Saturdays that can include up to 14 students. Hamill finds it gratifying.

“All my workshop students are first time painters or very new painters,” she said. “It’s very rewarding to be able to see people excited about what they can create.”

Before moving to the Outer Banks in 2008 to be closer to family, Hamill spent a good part of her life in Connecticut. She studied chemistry and economics at the University of Connecticut. Her resume includes a diverse mix of jobs including working as a lab technician for Clairol, Inc. and Davis & Geck Medical Group, and as a Service Consultant/Administrative Supervisor for SNET Co. Telecommunications.

It wasn’t until she was 50 that Hamill took her first art class. Someone in the ceramics class asked her if she had ever taken art lesson. “And the next week, she brought in an article that was in the paper about an artist giving lessons,” Hamill recounted. She asked her boss if she could use vacation time to take the lessons. This started a lengthy journey into studying painting and teaching art. Excited, she runs into her studio just off the kitchen and returns with a stunning still life of apples and a pitcher—her first painting.

Catherine Hamill with her first painting. (Photo credit: Mary Ellen Riddle/OBV)

While Hamill began teaching art in Connecticut and when she first arrived in Dare County, she took classes to get established before hanging out her shingle in the new location. She began by holding paint parties in people’s homes. She approached Dare Arts and asked about holding painting classes. For approximately a decade on and off, she has been giving painting workshops there. She also offers private lessons and has taught at the Dare Center and Elizabethan Gardens.

Despite having a portfolio of accomplished acrylic and oil paintings that is as eclectic as Outer Banks weather, Hamill continues to take lessons. She channels 30 years of study into her workshops.

Her commitment to learning is a great example for students. She has travelled to Europe to take En plein air (outdoor painting) group workshops in Italy, Spain, Portugal, Greece, and has attended workshops in Brazil and Block Island. “I just enjoy being outside in nature and the freshness of nature,” she shared.

Painting puts Hammill in a relaxed state. She is inspired by water and clouds and the view from a mountain overlook and drawn to colors in sunsets and sunrises. She is a natural when it comes to mixing color, which is evident in her first painting. One of many tips she shares with students is that painting nature calls for mixing a specific black rather than simply squeezing it out of a tube. “In nature you don’t really see a true black,” she explained.

As opposed to conceptual art that came on the scene in the 60s and 70s where an idea or concept took center stage and materials, aesthetics and techniques were not the focus, Hamill’s workshops emphasize technique—and having fun.

Her approach at Dare Arts is user friendly. Students set up their palettes with acrylic paint colors, and she gives them a dab of a mixed color that she wants them to create on their own to paint the background. If they struggle with mixing the color, she glides over and instructs them. “I don’t give them the option that they can’t do something,” she confides. “I just say you have to add a little of this and a little of that.”

As drawing is not one of her skills and painting is her focus – Hamill finds an alternative. She gives her students a photograph of the day’s subject, has them cover the back of the photo with charcoal, then flip it over and trace the photo therefore leaving an outline on the stretched canvas. She uses this technique for her own paintings. The method saves time and allows the students who may or may not be able to draw, to jump into painting.

“The first time I took an art class, I had never painted before,” Hamill shared. “I knew I couldn’t draw. The teacher said to me ‘it’s 95% desire and 5% talent.’”

“I started painting with Catherine several years ago and find her to be very knowledgeable, with a good sense of humor, and very artistic.” said 69-year-old Manteo resident Barbara Robinson. “Catherine makes sure that nobody leaves with questions unanswered and will stay a little longer after class to be sure.”

Hamill shares a technical skill set that not only includes how to mix colors, but also how to control a composition to keep the viewer interested. Students learn how to hold and move a brush to make the best strokes with their paint to form specific things such as waves and clouds.

As Hamill showed how to do brush strokes, moving from one direction to another across the canvas, she noticed that left-handed people were having challenges. She realized that she needed to tell them to go in the opposite direction that she, a right hander, was going.

It’s important to note that despite having directions and a photograph to paint from, there is plenty of room to be oneself in the class. Say the subject of the day includes a scene with a fence, but some students aren’t keen on the fence or its size or placement in the composition. Hamill embraces students making choices on their own—omitting or resizing or moving the fence.

“I enjoy Catherine’s classes so much,” says Manteo resident Debbie Montgomery. “She is very patient with us newbies.”

Montgomery, 71, has taken multiple classes with Hamill and is signing up for more. “I feel so accomplished when I leave with my painting,” she said. “I am always amazed at the variation in the paintings of the participants, but each one is beautiful in its own way.”

“You can always pick up something,” noted Hamill about the workshops, “or get confirmation on what you think is the right thing when you are painting with another artist.”

And students get to take a painting home after every class.

(Students can come to classes with their own supplies – Hamill supplies a list, or she will furnish the supplies for a $10 fee. Classes cost $35 and are held from 9 a.m. to noon on scheduled Saturdays. To see the calendar, go to darearts.org. To visit Catherine Hamill’s gallery, call 203-435-3050)


Barnhill Building Group has been selected as the Construction Manager @ Risk by the College of the Albemarle and is seeking to pre-qualify construction trade contractors to submit bids for the furnishing labor, materials, equipment, and tools for the new College of The Albemarle – Allied Health Sciences Simulation Lab (COA Health Sciences) located in Elizabeth City, NC. Please note: Only subcontractors who have been prequalified by Barnhill will be able to submit a Bid.

The project consists of the new construction of a 38,000-sf, 2-story expansion to the existing Owens Health Sciences Center and will house classrooms, labs, and a simulation lab. The site is just over just over 4.5 acres and is located on an active campus. This new construction will be a steel structure with a brick and metal panel veneer, curtainwall, and storefront glazing with a PVC roof membrane.

Principal trade and specialty contractors are solicited for the following Bid Packages:

BP0100: General Trades

BP0105: Final Cleaning

BP0390: Turnkey Concrete

BP0400: Turnkey Masonry

BP0500: Structural Steel & Misc. Steel

BP0740: Roofing

BP0750: Metal Panels

BP0790: Caulking / Caulking

BP0800: Turnkey Doors/Frames/Hardware

BP0840: Glass & Glazing

BP0925: Drywall

BP0960: Resilient Flooring

BP0980: Acoustical Ceilings

BP0990: Painting & Wallcovering

BP1005: Toilet Specialties / Accessories / Division 10

BP1010: Signage

BP1098: Demountable Partitions

BP1230: Finish Carpentry and Casework

BP1250: Window Treatment

BP1400: Elevators

BP2100: Fire Protection

BP2200: Plumbing

BP2300: HVAC

BP2600: Turnkey Electrical

BP3100: Turnkey Sitework

BP3290: Landscaping

Packages may be added and/or deleted at the discretion of the Construction Manager. Historically underutilized business firms are encouraged to complete participation submittals.

HUB/MWBE OUTREACH MEETING: Barnhill Building Group will be conducting a HUB/MWBE Informational Session. You are encouraged to attend the following session to learn more about project participation opportunities available to you. These seminars will help to: Learn about project and scope; Inform and train Minority/HUB contractors in preparation for bidding this project; Assist in registration on the State of North Carolina Vendor link; Stimulate opportunities for Networking with other firms. Location and time TBD. Please visit our planroom at https://app.buildingconnected.com/public/54da832ce3edb5050017438b for more information.

Interested contractors should submit their completed prequalification submittals, by July 22, 2024, to Meredith Terrell at mterrell@barnhillcontracting.com or hardcopies can be mailed to Barnhill Contracting Company PO Box 31765 Raleigh, NC 27622 (4325 Pleasant Valley Road, NC 27612).


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