I am mostly self-taught, like the kid I was who loved to color and draw but had little to no exposure to art in my rural public school. Heading to college, I was encouraged to major in something more practical than art, so I was excited to be accepted into North Carolina State's School of Design. Here the challenging design curriculum also included studies in the fine arts and I was quick to absorb lots of new ideas and influences. The skills I acquired in college and throughout my design career I see now as interchangeable with those required in art — forming a concept, finding balance in color, light and composition — creating an aesthetic solution that successfully communicates a message.
As a professional graphic designer for more than 25 years, I had jobs in Durham, Michigan and Boston — including 17 years in Raleigh with my own business, Hughes Design. I designed logos, packaging and marketing materials for a variety of clients. But during this time and throughout my life, I always had the desire to simply create art — and in particular I wanted to do it through painting — with oils. I began taking local workshops and began painting a lot on my own. This exposure and practice helped prepare me for a new life-course and in 2007 I closed my design business and became a full-time artist. Realizing the dream from when I was a child with Crayola crayons, notebook paper and vinyl records, I now spend many happy hours in my studio, feeling blessed —streaming music and creating art with oil paints, brushes and canvases.
The marsh provides habitat for fish and birds, it buffers the mainland from storm surges, filters downstream pollution and is a place of inspiring beauty. I love to paint the wetlands, where the water rises and falls with the tides. I pay homage to the fragile marsh ecosystem of the barrier islands, now particularly threatened by climate change and overdevelopment.
I get a serenity from looking up at the sky and I’m inspired to express this in my art. The landscape is not just what I focus on with my paintings. The sky and clouds can be dominant in my compositions and I challenge myself to depict them realistically — in a unique way.
When the full moon is rising, I feel optimism, hope and inspiration. With the big sky views of the beach, I can observe its beauty and power up close. The high tides are amplified and the magical light, not obstructed by trees, glows for hours on a clear night. The moon is a constant reminder that we dwell in a universe of wonder.
I hope my art connects with people and evokes fond memories of a family beach trip. Families have traditions around visiting the beach — some rent the same cottage the same summer week at the same coastal community for years and years. I've heard my art takes them back to special times and places — a reminder of being carefree and relaxed.
Only through my imagination are most of my paintings possible. I hope I'll always find inspiration in the world we have now. Unspoiled, desolate beaches were the norm before cars, high-rise bridges, condos and homes packed the ocean-sides with people. When I paint I feel I'm recreating scenes from long ago — rare and endangered landscapes with nothing man-made imposing on the view.
I hope my scenes of inlet waters winding to the ocean or those with large clouds on the horizon are a calming influence on the viewer. I have a love for barrier islands— but not just for their sandy beaches. To me, relaxing and soothing to view are their tidal, salt marshes separating the islands from the mainland. I find them especially inspiring in mid-summer, when the marsh grass turns brilliant yellow-green. I feature this chartreuse-like color in many of my marsh paintings, combined with varying colors in the sky and water.
at the 2020 Visual Art Exchange Auction Gala, Dorton Arena, Raleigh, NC
As a way of giving back to my community, I have donated many paintings over the years. Some of the non-profits and causes I've supported include Raleigh's Artspace and Visual Art Exchange, Cary Visual Art, Alzheimer's Association of Eastern NC, Veteran's Project Coming Home, Habitat for Humanity-Orange County, The North Carolina Museum of Art, Wake County SPCA, NCSU Vet School, Cary Academy, Durham Academy, Hospice of Wake County, Durham Art Guild, Prevent Child Abuse NC, Raleigh's Alley Cats Feline Rescue Group, UNC Children’s Hospital and Art for Maui fundraising exhibit, Sunset River Gallery.