Meet Laura McRae Hitchcock: No Excuses
"I have been drawing for as long as I can remember, and I’ve thought of myself as an artist for most of my life."
It’s funny how Life, with a capital L, can sometimes sidetrack you from the thing that you most identify yourself with. I was all about art in high school, majored in art in college, and began my marriage as an artist. In fact, our first Christmas together, Steve gave me an antique easel that I still paint on. In those days I’d paint for hours at a time, sometimes late into the night.
When we started having children, I stopped creating paintings. I couldn’t figure out how to paint in short bursts, or at least that was my excuse. Oh, I created — murals, copper and glass garden sculptures, and all kinds of things, but I wasn’t painting.
When my youngest went to kindergarten, I picked up my pastels and took a portraiture class, and that was the beginning of my journey back to myself. I could paint with pastels in shorter periods, and leave them without worrying about paint drying or washing brushes. I had found a balance, and began getting commissions.
Fast forward 8 years. We were living in Texas and I took a class on makeup techniques. That’s right — how to apply cosmetics. We learned how to shade and highlight facial features with a makeup (think paint) brush. I swear, I felt like I was being sucked into some kind of vortex as angels sang and the entire room glowed. All I could think about was, “I have to get home. I have to PAINT!!!” Isn’t it funny how that works? If you are meant to do something, that THING, whatever it is, will find you and somehow get your attention, and keep getting your attention until you hear it and act on it.
At the time, I was working as a photographer taking school pictures and as an art teacher. Every day I would drive to work and think to myself, “If I could just paint all day long, I’d be so happy!” I had my easel — the antique easel Steve gave me — set up in the kitchen, and I’d paint as I cooked and during any spare moment I had. Through necessity, I learned how to paint in short bursts. I started working in oils because they dry more slowly, but most importantly, I realized you have to just paint, no excuses.
I cannot count how many times this has happened to me. I ask a question about my art and the answer comes. I asked for art friends — and was invited to join the Charlotte Artery. I asked if it was time to get my work into a gallery, and lo and behold, not only did that happen, but I became a partner of Ciel Gallery! What!!? It was what I’d asked for and much, much more! It’s thrilling to be fully immersed in the flow of what you are supposed to be doing, especially when you’ve experienced being out of the flow and have managed to return.
Recently, I asked what kind of art I should focus on: my sea paintings with the marshes and beachcombers, or portraits. I’d been making good money on portraits, but they’re somewhat stressful, since you’re basically painting for someone else rather than for yourself. At the start of the year, I accepted an invitation to participate in the 30 Paintings in 30 Days Challenge and paint the beaches and marshes and people on the beach that I love. Along with painting each day, I had to blog about each piece and then post it on Facebook.
The process was enlightening for me. As I wrote about each painting, it helped me understand why I chose that particular scene or image. But just as importantly, I think it helped other people connect with my work in a new way. I sold the first one, then the next one, and when it was all over, I’d sold half of the paintings I’d done that month. I was blown away and felt very humble; once again I had my answer, and in such a powerful way!
Laura's work can be seen at Ciel Gallery
Tuesday - Saturday, 11:00 - 6:00.
More about Laura McRae Hitchcock
When we moved to Charlotte a year later, it just so happened that the only house left to rent in the area we’d chosen was a house with a workshop in the back yard. Once again, I felt like the heavens were opening and saying to me, “Okay, girl, let’s see what you do with THIS!”
I believe things happen and if we pay attention, we can really live in the flow of our purpose.
I began painting every day, spending hours and hours in the beautiful little studio I’d been given. It had windows all around, lots of space, a Dutch door that I painted turquoise, and bookcases filled with all of my favorite books. In short, the universe had handed me exactly what I’d asked for.
One day, I asked out loud if I needed to go out and get a “real” job. Two hours — yes, 2 HOURS later, my best friend brought her friend over to the studio and she ended up commissioning a painting from me. There was my answer! Painting is my job!
Right now, at age 52, I’m so very happy with where I am in my career. The artists at Ciel have been instrumental in my growth and expansion as a creative person and my confidence as an artist. I don’t believe in accidents, so I know that each one of them was put into my life for a reason, and I am so grateful. And the cool thing is that I know that Ciel, with all of its fabulous creative energy and incredible people, is doing the same thing for everyone else. As one of my dearest friends always says, “I’m living the dream!” It just doesn’t get any better than that … or can it? If I’ve learned anything in my life, the answer to that question is always: YES, IT CAN!