Marcie Hill Q&A

May 26, 2020
Marcie Hill is an exquisite sketch artist.

“Everyone sucks at everything at first. So, find something that you love to look at or look at often, preferably both. Then grab a sharp #2 and a pad of unlined paper and have at it for a few minutes. When you’re convinced it sucks, turn the page and do it again. And one more time. Maybe once more. Then open to another blank sheet, sit for 20 minutes and get as much as you can. Work on it again a day or two later to add detail. Repeat a week or so later. In other words, practice: warm up, draw hard, add more. Then do the whole thing over again with the same subject or something else. And keep doing that.”

You have one of the most interesting Instagram accounts as you’re always sharing exquisite pencil sketches. Do you sketch most every day?

Thanks for saying that! It’s true, I share a lot — to the point of oversharing, probably. I do that to keep myself honest about my skills, and moving forward to build them up. I do draw very often. Sometimes for daily stretches, for sure. I think the longest I’ve gone without is about a week. Generally, if I go any longer, I start getting a little funny in the head. Especially lately.

When did your interest in pencil and charcoal work ignite?

I remember being about five years old and focusing on getting certain details into a pencil drawing I was working on. Of course since I had the fine motor control of your average a five-year-old, that’s not saying much. So let’s just say five is the age when I became aware of making an effort to represent what I was seeing.

Who was the first person to encourage your art?

My mom. My father’s family was full of artists, but unfortunately I lost most of my contact with them when I was little. When my mom saw me making a lot of artwork, given my genetic history, she wanted to make sure I had instruction for skill development. I think I was about 9 when she started looking around for youth art programs for me outside of school. By the time I was 11, I was enrolled in the evening program at Atelier LeSueur in Excelsior, near where I grew up. That was huge for me.

Your work reminds me of Bergman films as he was an artist devoted to people’s faces. Do you have cinematic influences?

I love noir. The drama in the lighting is killer. About a year ago, I had this gorgeous still of Gregory Peck taking a sip from a glass. I rendered it in the Welch Village ski chalet while my son and some friends were on the slopes one Saturday evening. (I don’t ski.) Like a typical noir shot, the shadows across his face were so deep and crisp. Just hypnotic.

You occasionally share water-color pieces, which you sketch with a brush pen, which you say is daunting as you haven’t pre-drawn. Do you like raising the stakes like that?

I’ve been pushing myself to get complete-looking images and likenesses faster, using more gestural moves and fewer strokes. Going kind of alla prima in a sense, but with watercolor, and without drawing first, pushes me out of my shy zone and into a it works-or-it-doesn’t, no-take-backs situation. It’s helping me get smarter about how to plan what to capture in what order, to best quicken my pace.

Whose work can you look at a million times and always find delight?

That list is long. Long! But Sargent, Bouguereau and Fechin are strong faves. I also stan contemporary artists including Roberto Ferri, Stephen Bauman, Clive Bryant and local painter Matthew Madson. His urban scenes have such sublime moods.

Do you find you enjoy sketching the more you do it?

I live for learning, and I always learn new things as I draw (and more recently, paint), so, big yes. It’s ever-unfolding.

Has your creative satisfaction grown through the years or has it just changed?

Given that I took a very extended break from artwork until just a few years ago, at which time commissions started coming in quickly, the short answer is that it’s grown. The long answer is that in this intense recent creative period, it’s evolved from a simple feeling of success in the craft and showing it off, to adding to my skill set through study and testing out my color perception.

Where in town do you get your art supplies?

Blick always has everything, but I’ve done well at Art Materials too. Looking forward to finally walking into Wet Paint when they can reopen. I did a curbside pickup with them the other day that went really well.

A lot of people are intimidated by trying a hand in the visual arts for the suckage factor. But maybe there’s a way to cross this barrier. Any advice?

Well, everyone sucks at everything at first. So, find something that you love to look at or look at often, preferably both. Then grab a sharp #2 and a pad of unlined paper and have at it for a few minutes. When you’re convinced it sucks, turn the page and do it again. And one more time. Maybe once more. Then open to another blank sheet, sit for 20 minutes and get as much as you can. Work on it again a day or two later to add detail. Repeat a week or so later. In other words, practice: warm up, draw hard, add more. Then do the whole thing over again with the same subject or something else. And keep doing that.

You also have great facility with words and digital content as can be seen with your success in copywriting and SEO writing and content marketing. What appeals to you about the ever-changing world of digital content?

It’s a great area to play in professionally. As you say, it’s always changing and evolving, which means I get to master skills and onboard new ones as technologies and modalities advance endlessly. From web to mobile to social to voice, there’s always something cool around the bend to learn about and create.

What’s next for you and your art?

More of it! And I’ve been moving into pastels and oils. I’ve taken some great lessons with Armando Gutierrez recently, just before lockdown actually, and I got a ton out of that. So this summer I plan to work on my current commissions, keep sketching, and start painting much more. When galleries reopen, I hope to start submitting works and getting more involved in the local art scene. We have an incredibly beautiful community of artists here, don’t we?

— Check out Marcie’s art on Instagram here.