Greensboro artist wants to ‘paint that feeling’
*Editor’s note: The 100 x 100 One Night Art Sale is on June 7, not June 6, from 6 to 9 p.m. This article has been updated.
Hillary Clement was barely 2 years old and watching T.V. when she first realized she wanted to be an artist. When she told her parents that she wanted to be an artist they said, “absolutely not, you’re gonna get a job!” She said she was taught to be quiet and contain her natural enthusiasm for life in public. It was just how her family’s family had been raised. It wasn’t until Clement was much older that her mother confessed that she believed that Clement’s art was better than the famous art instructor they liked to watch on T.V. But she didn’t want her daughter to be prideful, it just wasn’t the way she had been taught.
So, Clement set her art aside and listened to her loving parents and went to school. A West Virginia native, she got her degree in biology from The West Virginia University Institute of Technology in Montgomery, West Virginia. She took a job at LabCorp and was transferred to Burlington, North Carolina, in 2001 where she “uses the other side of her brain” every day in DNA testing.
Clement said she thinks her DNA testing comes across in her art due to the realism and how she has to plan her drawings. She said she is not a spur-of-the-moment spontaneous artist and she even has to plan out the colors. She continually stretches her techniques to transition realism with abstract art.
“I love abstract art, but it’s hard for me,” she admitted. “I know my forte is realism. I blend my realistic art of animals with loose, soft backgrounds. Sometimes I use geometric shapes in the backgrounds, like on the ‘Corvus’ painting with the geometric rectangles applied with silver leaf.”
Some of Clement’s background techniques look hauntingly ethereal and complexly engaging in the way she captures the animal’s essence. She said she is self-taught. “You have to find something inside you that is natural. I’ve been painting 10 years trying to find the right thing inside me.”
Although she really loves the nostalgia that gleams forth in some of her work, she said she wouldn’t call her works “folk art,” she prefers to call it “contemporary Americana.” Clement said she is finally ready for gallery presentation, and to let someone else put the time it takes into getting her art out there. She used to have a pop-up gallery in the old Glitters building in Greensboro with 35 artists in 2017.
“I’m not flowery in how I talk about my art,” she said. “It’s just something I have to do. I just do it.”
How does this biology major artist do it? She said she has to think about what she wants to work on next and sometimes she has to think about it for a long time. She likes creating realistic animals with feathers, scales and bumps and strives to capture the wildness of the animal. (In other words, she doesn’t paint cute bunnies.) She usually uses three to four reference photos and takes her time in working through the problems to figure out what is going to look best. She paints in oil and acrylic incorporating gold and silver leaf. Her paintings vary in sizes from 20 x 20 to 48 x 60 and she has a waiting list for her commissioned paintings.
Clement is busy and not just with biology and art. In 2017, she and her husband bought The Historic T. Austin Finch House in Thomasville and renovated it as a venue for weddings and parties. She said they are scaling back to a limited, more manageable number of weddings a year where Renaissance revival architecture provides photography opportunities. They are now accepting applications for two artist studios for rent in the building where the Davidson Arts Council has its office.
On top of all of that, she also cares for a feral colony of 14 cats. She and her neighbor take the cats to Feral Cat Assistance Program (FCAP) for spaying and neutering.
For now, the only art event she is featured in will be on June 7 from 6-9 p.m. in the 100 x 100 One Night Art Sale fundraiser at The Center for Visual Artists in Greensboro. She is one of 100 artists who have agreed to paint and donate one 10 x 10 painting. She said she’ll be donating an elephant painting. All art will be sold on a first-come, first-serve basis and will be taken down at the end of the night. Clement said that Tracey Marshall has been a big help to her, especially with the business side of art.
“You know how you feel when you drive in the country and see that one old barn and it feels somewhat romantic of a time gone by?” she asked. “It’s got a past and a story behind it. People leave and farms don’t stay around, I want to get that down and share it. I want to paint that feeling.”
TERRY RADER is a freelance writer, wedding vows writer, storyteller, poet, emerging singer-songwriter, wellness herbalist, flower essences practitioner, and owner of Paws n’ Peace o’ Mind cat/dog/house sitting.
June 7, 6-9 p.m., 100 × 100 One Night Art Sale All art will be sold on a first-come, first-served basis and will be taken down at the end of the night. The Center for Visual Artists, 200 N. Davie St., Greensboro, (336) 333-7475, The Historic T. Austin Finch House in Thomasville, by appointment only, (336) 312-6101