An interview with visiting artist Hillary Parker


MANCHESTER >> Q: Something that really stood out to me about you is the amount of success you've had both as a professional artist as well as an artist instructor. You're an award winning botanical watercolor artist with paintings exhibited and sold worldwide, who's also been teaching workshops and private classes for over 30 years. What would you say most defines you when it comes to this duality?

It's really simple: I do what I love, and love what I do! I am first and foremost a teacher, it is who I am at my core. I was then naturally drawn to the genre of botanical art because it too, is informative, allowing me to educate the viewer with my paintings as well, by showing the fascinating forms, angles and stages of a plant, from bud to bloom to fruit. I am passionate about teaching, painting and nature and I have been fortunate to be able to create a professional art career that combines all three things.

Q: Your workshop "The Art of Nature" is coming up in September. What can students most look forward to learning in this workshop?

This fantastic 4-day workshop is a great opportunity for students to fully engage their senses and focus on developing keen observation skills each morning as we walk, observe, and gather Autumn's treasures of plant and animal life along SVAC's Botany Trail. Our outdoor discoveries will be the focus of our indoor studio time each day, where students will then be developing and strengthening their drawing and watercolor skills and techniques, as we create a portfolio of graphite and watercolor studies.

Q: Students will be using the watercolor medium in your upcoming workshop, what are common hurdles you find yourself guiding students through that may not be as seasoned as others with the medium?

Watercolors have an unfortunate reputation for being "very difficult" and "unforgiving," which too often, discourages artists from ever trying them, or from continuing after they have made repeated mistakes. The 2 most common challenges with watercolors are knowing the right amount of water to use and how to distribute the pigment to get a desired effect. My workshops often have students with a wide range of skill levels and experience and everyone learns and grows from the unique exercises we do that resolves those 2 issues and strengthens and builds a more solid understanding of the 4 variables; brush, paper, water and pigment.

Q: I read that you are self-taught in the watercolor medium. Does this influence a unique approach or style of teaching in anyway? Absolutely! My two best teachers have been trial and error and I have learned everything I know from having made the same mistake my students do. My approach to teaching watercolors emphasizes the process of really understanding the medium, rather than creating the pressure and high expectations by only focusing on a finished product. I like to create a studio environment that embraces and integrates mistakes as important teaching tools. Students not only learn a great deal in a short amount of time, but they also feel successful as they paint their subjects and have lots of fun learning along the way!

Q: With Southern Vermont offering a vastly different landscape from where you are based in South Florida, what natural elements are you most excited about utilizing with students and why?

I love autumn's color palette and light! Having lived in Maine for many years, I am very familiar with the indigenous plant and animal life of New England and looking forward to having the opportunity to explore a bit with students as we bring nature's treasures into the studio to observe and respond by drawing and painting nature studies of Southern Vermont's local flora and fauna.

Q:When did you first begin instructing and do you have any favorite teaching philosophies you want to share with prospective new students?

When I was in high school, I was asked to volunteer to teach 3rd grade Sunday School and absolutely loved it! I knew then that I wanted to be a teacher. I believe that learning, even the most difficult things, can be fun and it has been my joy and privilege to have been teaching art to children and adults for the past 30 years! My philosophy is to bring to each student a strong knowledge of subject, mastery of skills, and contagious enthusiasm for the things I am most passionate about. I apply this approach to teaching to all skill levels, from beginners to professionals, in my ongoing classes at Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden where I currently live in Coral Gables Florida, as well as with my private art students in my own studio, my online private art students from around the country, and the workshops I travel and teach around the world.

Q:What are some of the things you do as a working artist to keep developing your technique and style?

I believe that "Real art is what happens at the end of your comfort zone", so I am always challenging myself to grow, both as a person and also with my career of painting and teaching. My response to new opportunities and painting commissions is to say, "Yes, and thank you very much!" This has brought both change and growth as it continues to expand my portfolio with new subjects that go beyond nature and now include larger paintings reaching up to 9 feet in length. As a member of the American Society of Botanical Artists, I exhibit in juried international exhibitions where panels of judges who are experts in the field of botany and botanical art, scrutinize the artwork, often viewing each painting with a magnifying glass, checking for scientific accuracy and flawless watercolor technique. It is this type of competition that regularly challenges me to do my best work by applying every technique I have ever learned about watercolors to a new painting. When I am creating a whole collections of paintings for juried international exhibitions, that intensity is magnified by needing to maintain the highest level of excellence in every painting, as was the case with my most recent award winning exhibit of 8 paintings of Mangos From Around the World, with The Royal Horticultural Society in London. After 30 years of painting with watercolors, I love the fact that I am still learning!

For more information on SVAC's upcoming visiting artist, Hillary Parker, visit her website at

For details and to register for Hillary Parker's upcoming workshop, "The Art of Nature", please visit or contact Abby Pinkard, Director of Educational Programming at 802.367.1311 or email


If you'd like to leave a comment (or a tip or a question) about this story with the editors, please email us. We also welcome letters to the editor for publication; you can do that by filling out our letters form and submitting it to the newsroom.

Powered by Creative Circle Media Solutions