Bethanne Bethard Hill was born in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. She was raised in Birmingham, the youngest of 6 children. She is a 1985 graduate of the visual arts department at the Alabama School of Fine Arts, and holds a BFA in painting and sculpture from Birmingham-Southern College.
Bethanne and her husband, artist Darius Hill, have three children, Olivia, Esme and Atticus. They live in Avondale/Forest Park in Birmingham. Bethanne works from her studio in the carriage house behind their home, where she paints and illustrates full time.
Illustration projects include cover and interior art on the CD Bullfrog Jumped from the Alabama Folklife Association, the cover illustration of the book All Out of Faith from the University of Alabama Press, the cover of The Makers of the Sacred Harp from the University of Illinois Press, illustration of Why the Oyster Has the Pearl by Johnette Downing, and the cover illustration for the CD, African American Spirituals of Alabama, from the Alabama Folklife Association.
Bethanne’s work can be found in the Permanent collections of the Alabama State Council on the Arts, Alabama Power, Children’s Hospital of Alabama, Ronald McDonald Charities, as well as many private collections throughout the country.
As a young artist, my first great influence was primitive art, specifically Australian Aboriginal art. The bold outlines, patterns and simplified shapes seemed to directly convey the power of the animals depicted. The images were stories, legends, and their energy was there to see. Often, in what is called “x-ray style”, the Aboriginal artist will show the insides of the animals, as well. Their way of filling every inch of the format with mark-making was very appealing to me.
I have always been drawn to rural landscapes. Growing up in Alabama with my family meant long, hot car trips, spent looking out the window as my parents pointed at the scenes which reminded them of their childhood homes in the farmland of southern Ohio. They told their stories and I half-listened with a child’s short attention span. As an adult, these memories hold strong emotion for me, and they represent a time that is lost. I would give most anything to hear my parents’ stories now. I would pay close attention this time. I know now that my fondness for these landscapes is born from these memories.
In the 1990’s, I had a job that had me driving southern back roads for years. Along the way, I stopped to sketch old barns, churches, houses, cemeteries, and animals… whatever caught my eye. I am haunted by these places, thinking of the stories that must exist, all of the untold memories. When you drive back roads, you see many strange and beautiful things, and these are my starting points as I work.
In the South, we enjoy a “gracious plenty”, as you hear folks say. There are plenty of stories, plenty of legends, plenty of moments in lives long gone. Through time, Southerners have spun their lives into tall tales and songs that burst with the lushness of life. In my paintings, I invite the viewer to look at the details, to pay attention to these stories and small moments. Often they are familiar… things we’ve seen ourselves, legends we’ve heard others tell. They always change a bit with each retelling. These paintings are my stories, embellished in that great, Southern tradition. My hope is that they convey a sense of place-our home here in the South.
When I begin a painting, I have a general idea of the type of scene I’m creating, though many changes occur as I work. Much of the initial “under drawing” in black, is visible in each completed painting, almost like a big coloring book. Once I complete the compositional drawing, however, most folks would be hard-pressed to color it in, as there are usually so many lines and forms crashing together. A scene with crows, for instance, may be virtually indecipherable, until I paint the sky color in on top of and around the crow, creating its silhouette as I move the paint along. This drawing with paint, “cutting” the shapes and cleaning up the lines as I go is different every time and there’s always room for change and the occasional accident. If you look closely at the paintings, you can see the layering of tinted colors, each lighter than the last, that give the work some of its tension.
All works are acrylic paint on wood, paper or canvas. Some have india ink and colored pencil, as well.
Nature is Hill’s pattern book. She transforms sparsely set countryside elements into concentrated configurations that heighten the experience of nature.” ~James Nelson, Birmingham News