By Mary Ellen Riddle | Outer Banks Voice on February 24, 2023
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.
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)
Notice of Public Auction
The public will take notice that the Dare County Tourism Board, at its meeting of October 20, 2022, adopted Resolution 2022-5 authorizing the sale of surplus personal property by public auction.
Saturday, April 1, 2023.
6708 S. Croatan Highway
Nags Head, NC 27959
10am: Back of the House Auction – Complete Commercial Kitchen
Partial List: True refrigerators and coolers, Hatco drawer warmers, Hobart mixer, Vulcan, 6 & 10 burner gas ovens/stoves, Vulcan 2 basket gas fryer, Vulcan 2-door oven, stainless prep tables, DCS 6 burner LPAS range & oven, Hobart dishwasher, pots & pans & more.
2pm: Front of the House Auction – Selling Everything in the Building + Architectural Salvage by room
Partial List: Antique ships wheel chandelier, Nautical & pirate decor, sword & pistol displays, polyword tables & chairs, ship models, nautical lanterns, art, commercial bar equipment, tables and chairs, NC decoys, fish mounts, signal cannon, architectural salvage, Several bars, pirate bar & more.
Preview 3/31: 11 AM – 5 PM & Auction Day starting @ 9am
Online Absentee Bidding Catalog Closes: 3/31 @ 8pm
Catalog + Thousands of photos @ SSAOBX.HIBID.COM
Island Auction Co. (252)489-5513 – Jason P. Humphries, Auctioneer NCAL #8423
Visa / MC / Cash / Good Check – NC Sales Tax, 15% Buyers Premium