Painting with words |

Kill Zoners — It is my pleasure and privilege to welcome a great guest to our blog. Ed Hill is a prominent Canadian painter and storyteller. He is a prolific artist and writer who has guided me as a life mentor and protected me as a law enforcement colleague to whom I will be forever grateful. Please welcome Ed Hill to the Kill Zone.

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Garry Rodgers and I have been friends for over 40 years. When he asked me to submit an article for The Kill Zone, I was well aware that my thoughts would be read by any number of established novelists. While I consider myself a writer, particularly within my discipline as an artist, I may find writing in a company like this a little intimidating.

But I don’t. My writing is about emotion, spirit, energy and a very direct connection to my artistic creations in the form of paintings. When I finish a painting, my work is truly completed only when I “paint” the final part with words.

You see, I am a painter first and foremost, and being a writer is nothing more than a part of my artistic expression. A little history will help explain. In the mid-1980s, in the midst of a 34-year career in the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), my journey into painting began. I was taught by an indigenous artist. And as such, a lot of what I learned came from the Indigenous perspective.

It was from those origins that I discovered the value and reality of writing a story with each painting. A visit to my website will show that every image has a story, and that story is as much a part of my painted creation as the painting itself. In fact, every time I sell my work, the story is always attached. I tell anyone who owns my work that if they don’t know the history of the image, they only own half of my artistic creation.

I suppose a little cultural history might be in order here. Within indigenous culture virtually every painting, sculpture, totem, beadwork or song has a story. Just ask. In the natural environment we all live in, indigenous culture has a history. And so, from the origins of my painting career, my Indigenous teacher, Roy Henry Vickers, taught by example. Each painting he creates is accompanied by a written story.

When I started painting in 1985, I wrote a story with the very first image I created. You will find the image of my first painting on my site under the title “Old Man”. And since then, every painting I’ve made has a story. Some are emotional. Some are poetic. Some are a protest. And some can even evoke a spiritual connection in the reader.

Old Man by artist Ed Hill

The painting and the very act of creating it dictate what the story will be. In fact, I’ve written so many stories over the years that could themselves be collected and published as books. In fact, some people have told me they used my website as a “book” as they took the time to view the paintings and read the hundreds of stories attached.

As I have taught my painting techniques to many artists over the years, I have always emphasized the value of composing a story as part of their painting. I would be generous in saying that perhaps 5% of my students practice this teaching. Many find it difficult to express their thoughts and emotions.

As any of you reading this know, it takes discipline to sit down and write. Not everyone has the commitment, energy, creativity, or that unique and special discipline to be a writer. As the old saying goes, “If it were easy, everyone would do it.”

As writers, I know you write from experience, but you also create from emotion, from a place of energy and creativity. You write out of an internal need to bring it out into the open. When your inner writer has a story to tell, your inner muse always calls you. And so it is for me as an artist.

When I have a painting in progress, I often tell my wife while we are away from my painting, that I can “hear it calling me.” And therein lies the story. You see, for me the story develops and reveals itself as I paint. I rarely paint a picture with the title and story made in advance. In the many hours spent painting, lost in the Zen of creativity, I let my brain wander. I could paint a picture that I have seen for decades, yet now I choose to paint it.


What time?

That’s when the story begins to whisper. And as I paint and compose the image, the words of my story also flood my brain. Difficult to explain, the story comes with an inspirational, creative and even “spiritual” wave from within. I’m not exaggerating it. The story comes from the very place inside me where the painting comes from. It is part of my artistic creation. When I compose my story, as I write, I paint with a palette of words.

Sometimes the title is apparent almost immediately. Other times, only when the paint dries and the words of my story turn into sentences, the title takes shape. And when it does, the title in particular is compelling. It must be.

Titles like “Get Over It” or “Covid Blue” are good examples. To understand those titles you need to read history. And when you read the story, you will refer to the painting. The energy of that cycle is complete.

Covid Blue by artist Ed Hill

Get Over It by artist Ed Hill

The image is the first contact one usually has with my creative expression, but it is the title that directs one’s gaze to the story. And I have observed from afar exhibitions where someone would study my painting, focus on the story, then return to the image with their eyes open to the very intention and spirit of the painting. And speaking of a commercial nature, very often it is the story that connects the viewer to the image and that translates into a sale.

I can often sit in my house with a coffee and revisit the many paintings I have hanging on the walls. I always wonder the “why” of a particular painting. I marvel at the creation itself and many times realize that I could never do that painting so well if I were to try it again. That painting was the product of a moment in time, a moment fraught with circumstance, serendipity, and emotion.

I “use” my paintings a lot for this purpose. I find a soothing comfort in simply revisiting them and savoring the color, the composition, the light and darkness, and the very presence of the image itself. But even so, I’ll read the attached story just as often. Those words painted in the composition of the story have an eternal energy. It’s an energy that never gets old.

My family has instructions. When and if one day my time comes to stay in bed as I near the end of my life’s journey, they will have to read me. They need to read those stories of emotion, spirituality and creativity. Because those are the milestones of my life.

I know those words, even if my eyes are closed on the paintings themselves. I also know that those words will resonate with a positive energy that will have meaning and comfort for me. When the lights inevitably go out, it’s those words I want to take with me.

I close these thoughts by referring the reader to one of my paintings entitled “Forever”. I think the story of “Forever” applies to my written words. And so for yours too. Created with our own energy and inspiration, as writers, our words will long outlast us all. They are FOREVER.

Forever by artist Ed Hill

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Bio — Born in Paris, Ontario in 1948 and later moving to Peterborough, Ed Hill’s journey to becoming a distinguished artist began in earnest after a career in the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, which he joined at the age of 20. A simple dream since high school, he began to crystallize in the mid-1980s after moving to Tofino, British Columbia, and meeting the famous artist Roy Henry Vickers.

Under Vickers’ guidance, Hill honed his skills and developed a distinctive style, producing his first notable work, “Old Man.” His art, deeply inspired by the landscapes of British Columbia, seeks to evoke the profound emotions linked to the natural beauty of the region.

Now retired and living in Gibsons, British Columbia, with his wife Joy, Hill continues to explore and represent the essence of the “West Coast”, aiming to capture moments when nature and the observer’s inner world they align harmoniously, hoping that his viewers everywhere can feel the unique “musical” atmosphere of British Columbia landscapes through his work. Visit

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Kill the Zoners — Painting with words. How does this resonate with you? Do you “see” your writing as it is imagined and unfolds? Could you encapsulate your story in an image like Ed does with his? Let’s discuss and please share how you paint with words.

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