P/sunny
64°
P/sunny
Hi 74° | Lo 51°

Jaffrey

Getting back to watercolors

Jaffrey Civic Center: First solo exhibit, after open-heart surgery

  • A series of watercolor paintings of historic Jaffrey Center, including "Melville Academy," left, are among the more than 50 paintings in Howard Hill's solo exhibit at the Jaffrey Civic Center.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Alyssa Dandrea)
  • Watercolorist Howard Hill of Jaffrey discusses his solo exhibit at the Jaffrey Civic Center last week.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Alyssa Dandrea)
  • Watercolorist Howard Hill of Jaffrey discusses his solo exhibit at the Jaffrey Civic Center last week.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Alyssa Dandrea)
  • Watercolorist Howard Hill of Jaffrey discusses his solo exhibit at the Jaffrey Civic Center last week.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Alyssa Dandrea)
  • Watercolorist Howard Hill of Jaffrey discusses his solo exhibit at the Jaffrey Civic Center last week.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Alyssa Dandrea)
  • Watercolorist Howard Hill of Jaffrey discusses his solo exhibit at the Jaffrey Civic Center last week.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Alyssa Dandrea)
  • Watercolorist Howard Hill of Jaffrey discusses his solo exhibit at the Jaffrey Civic Center last week.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Alyssa Dandrea)
  • Watercolorist Howard Hill of Jaffrey discusses his solo exhibit at the Jaffrey Civic Center last week.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Alyssa Dandrea)
  • A series of watercolor paintings of historic Jaffrey Center, including "Melville Academy," left, are among the more than 50 paintings in Howard Hill's solo exhibit at the Jaffrey Civic Center.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Alyssa Dandrea)
  • "Noone's Falls Mill," by watercolorist Howard Hill of Jaffrey, captures a scenic spot in Peterborough on a sunny day. The painting on display at the Jaffrey Civic Center through Saturday.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Alyssa Dandrea)
  • "Noone's Falls Mill," by watercolorist Howard Hill of Jaffrey, captures a scenic spot in Peterborough on a sunny day. The painting on display at the Jaffrey Civic Center through Saturday.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Alyssa Dandrea)

Howard Hill of Jaffrey had always dabbled in the arts, painting the scenic views and airplanes he loves in either oil or pastel. But at the age of 60, after losing his job of more than 20 years, Hill said he decided to embark on a new adventure, a challenge he spent his younger years avoiding: painting with watercolor.

“The thought struck me that this was the time in my life to try it,” Hill said in a recent interview at the Jaffrey Civic Center, where his solo exhibit “New England Watercolor” is on display through Saturday.

Realizing that there was a lot to learn about being a watercolorist, Hill said he bought and read many books on the topic, attended evening classes throughout the region and studied under watercolorist Alan Thompson of Fitzwilliam. Hill also made a pact with his wife, Debbie Hill, that he would paint 100 watercolor paintings and then decide if it was truly a career path he wanted to pursue long-term.

“It only took me about two years to do 100,” Hill said with a smile. “And I was quite intrigued to realize that I’d sold one-third of them.”

After that, Hill said, it seemed as though everything fell into place, with requests to teach watercolor classes and demonstrations at studios in Vermont and New Hampshire, as well as invites to exhibit in juried shows. But in 2003, approximately 10 years after getting his start as a watercolorist, Hill said his world unexpectedly stopped.

“I had to have open heart surgery and that pinned me down for a while,” he said. “I just about got started up again and then I was diagnosed with bladder cancer.” After two major surgeries to remove his bladder and several treatments, Hill is happy to say that he is cancer free. But his heart, he said, has been ticking for nearly 82 years, and it’s timing out.

Hill has a genetic disorder called aortic valve stenosis, an abnormal narrowing of the aortic valve which required him to have open heart surgery at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center in Lebanon in 2003. At that time, Hill said doctors implanted the valve of a bull to replace his own aortic valve and to prolong his life.

“I have to make every day worthy of the young animal that died,” Hill said of the bull.

Having undergone so many health challenges in such a short time, Hill said it wasn’t until 2011 that he was really able to return to his life as a watercolorist. The recovery was long, he said, adding that it took time for him to recapture his fine motor skills. His paintings are different now, he said. But maybe that’s not a bad thing.

“They seem to have a little more of my passion in them,” Hill said. “Earlier, I was trying to do a really nice painting of what was there, but now I want something of me to come through.”

In his first solo exhibit, Hill has 55 paintings on display throughout the Jaffrey Civic Center’s second-floor Cunningham Gallery. A few Hill and his wife uncovered in their home, others came off their walls and the remainder are new works, he said. Seascapes and landscapes characterize the majority of his work, although Hill said he finds historic architecture inspiring, too.

“I truly enjoy watercolor and I’ll still compete and find a gallery or two to show some work,” Hill said. “But I can honestly say that this is my last major exhibit.”

Alyssa Dandrea can be reached at 924-7172 ext. 228 or adandrea@ledgertranscript.com. She’s on Twitter at @alyssadandrea.

There are no comments yet. Be the first!
Post a Comment

You must be registered to comment on stories. Click here to register.