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Free Up Your Painting: The Advantages of Obscurity-Nancy Hillis, MD-The Artist's Journey

Free Up Your Paintings-The Advantages Of Obscurity by Nancy Hillis, MD. The Artist’s Journey


Free Up Your Abstract Paintings: The Advantages Of Obscurity


Yesterday I had the most delightful experience. A UPS truck pulled up to my house and delivered a heavy package. It was addressed from Wyoming and I realized that it was a surprise from a wonderful student of mine.

I opened up the package to see this gorgeous catalog from the Women Of Abstract Expressionism exhibit at the Denver Art Museum!

My heart quickened as I discovered wondrously alive paintings over the pages. Wow!

My favorites were there: Helen Frankenthaler, Elaine de Kooning, and Joan Mitchell as well as others: Lee Krasner, Jay DeFeo, Grace Hartigan, and Joan Brown.

Yet the astonishing thing was discovering artists I wasn’t previously aware of: Perle Fine, Mary Abbott, Emiko Nakano, Deborah Remington, Ethel Schwabacher, and many more. Of note is the artist using the professional moniker Michael West who sometimes dressed in male attire and whose name was Corinne Michelle West.

These women poured their hearts and souls into their paintings.

The work is raw, visceral, and immediate. It’s alive and personal. Some of the paintings are voluptuous and lush while others are dark and penetrating. For me it’s a window into each artists life.​



abstract expressionism, women

Catalog from “Women Of Abstract Expressionism” exhibit at the Denver Art Museum. Edited by Joan Marter. Intro by Gwen F. Chanzit, Exhibition Curator



The Advantages Of Obscurity


One chapter that particularly captures my imagination is titled: “The Advantages Of Obscurity: Women Abstract Expressionists in San Francisco”. Because the art scene was nascent in San Francisco in the 1940’s and 50’s the artists were liberated to create works that were noncommercial, experimental, and utterly personal.

There’s radical freedom in obscurity.

You’re free to paint for yourself rather than constantly looking over your shoulder comparing your work with others…or continually second guessing your paintings because you fear that your audience (clients, galleries, museums, curators, critics…even yourself) won’t approve of it.

The question is: Will you grab hold of this freedom and give yourself permission to paint whatever wants to come out of you?

Will you allow yourself to not know what’s going to happen when you approach the canvas?

Will you let yourself be surprised?

Will you remain open and vulnerable?

Will you finally trust yourself?


With gratitude,



P.S. NOW is the perfect time to create.

This is the existential moment- this is the time where we see what our life is about. We notice what is meaningful and alive for us.

You might be thinking…I’m just too blocked, too down, too scared or frozen….or even just shy….

You may be feeling that you can’t create now….

But I say to you that you’re a creator…you’re an artist and artists create.

And there are many ways to create and be creative….

Pair your explorations in your art studio with our Art of the Possible Book Series!


The Art of the Possible Book Series

The Art of the Possible Book Series


QR Code- The Art Of The Possible Series

QR Code- The Art Of The Possible Series






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