Jodi Hills

So this is who I am – a writer that paints, a painter that writes…


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Easy now…

When I’m painting a portrait, I like to find what I call the soft beauty. The resting face. So comfortable in their own skin. The true elegance of ease. It’s the face that a person gives you when they trust you. No tension. No tightening. Nothing awkward. Nothing to worry about. Just the welcoming softness of being.


I want to feel that softness in my own face. Oh, to trust you. What a relief. But perhaps, even more, I want to be the face that allows you to feel the same. The face, that when you look at me you think, this is a safe place, for my feelings, my fears, my joys, my dreams, my not so secret garden.


If we could do that for each other, be a safe place to fly, a safe place to land, oh, my, how beautifully gentle, how elegantly soft this world could be.


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Belonging.

At first, she was always surprised that she was accepted. And more than that, looked to, her company welcomed – enjoyed. How could she fit it? She didn’t have the money, the pedigree – but no one else thought that. She came with me across the country. To shows in Minneapolis, Chicago, New York. She dressed in her curated, tasteful style – tall, elegant, crisp white collars – popped to present her ever smiling face. I was so proud to have her stand beside me, my mom. She knew the pricing, the availability, and more than that, she knew the stories behind each piece of art, each book, each card.


This didn’t surprise me. I knew she could do it. But the real gift came for me when I saw that she knew she could do it. When I saw her belonging. Belonging, not because someone told her she did, but belonging because she herself felt it in her heart, her soul, her being. This is something!!!! To belong.


I think she’s still delighted when people remember her, from galleries in New York, shops in the Midwest, bookstores across the country. And why wouldn’t they?! I’m delighted! I’m delighted every time she tells me what she’s wearing to her doctor’s appointment. She makes the effort, and oh some days what an effort it takes!!! Because she belongs here, in her own skin, in this beautiful life that she has made.


I walked into the art gallery in Rhode Island. The neon sign read, “You belong here.” I knew it in my heart. My soul. My being. This was not my first glowing sign, my mother will always be that.


Welcome to this day. You belong here.


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Delightful.

I picked up an old sketchbook this morning. One I was making a few years ago while traveling in the southern part of the US. We stopped in a store in Mississippi. It was filled with home goods. I was admiring some material between thumb and index finger. The clerk, with great pleasure, not knowing me, nor where I lived, said, “These tablecloths are so French, you can’t even find them in France!” Even as I type this, I’m not really sure what that means, but she said it with such pride, such exuberance, how could I not be delighted as well! Delighted enough to write it in my journal on a January 27th.


Sometimes I think we use the excuses of time, money, location, situation — excuses not to find the joy, the beauty, the magic of the moment. I have been guilty of this for sure. But years ago, I made it my intent to see things. Everything. Everywhere. Anytime. In people. Places. Things. And this intent became habit, and became a life.


I had terrible dreams last night. The kind that want to rattle you through breakfast. But I entered my French kitchen. Heated the croissants. Drank the coffee. Mixed up the bread dough. I love making bread. I love that soon the scent will waft through the halls. Soon we will eat the most delicious bread! Bread so good, so French, it takes an American girl in provence to make it! It doesn’t have to make sense — it’s just delightful!


Let go of the night — any darkness that surrounds you. Enjoy your day!!!


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Being Pelican.

We were on a trip a few years ago. The Florida Keys. It sounds romantic, and it was. I mean everything. When you allow yourself to be swept up in it, the Ernest Hemingwayness of it all. The small details — waves rushing under a beating sun. The boats rocking next to the thatched roof bars. The night heat. The novel being written by the couple you can’t help but overhear at the bar — you start to feel it all, deeper than you could imagine. You can smell the salt in the air. Taste it. Everything is more. Even the pelicans looked beautiful. The pelicans.

We sat for a long time on the pier. Watching them. They had runway model confidence. Up and down the pier with ease. “Go ahead. That’s right. Take our picture.” I couldn’t look away.

I’m always painting in my head as I look at something. Seeing each shape. Color. I stared at them. Bit by bit, this is not a conventionally attractive animal. A little awkward. Weird angles. But I couldn’t look away. They looked back, as if to say, “I know, right? We’re beautiful!” They believed it. They truly believed it. And so did I! I could see them. Really see them. And they were something!!!

I continue to paint them in my sketchbook. Each time I understand them a little more. Appreciate them more. On the days when I really need to be brave, I think, I could be that pelican! I am that pelican! The romance of confidence sweeps in, and I am saved.