As featured in:
The Artist’s Journey Programs
Hi, I’m Dr. Nancy Hillis. I’m an abstract artist, author and Stanford trained existential psychiatrist. The work of my life is to guide artists and creatives to believe in themselves. I foster the creative process as I give artists and creatives the psychological tools to nourish their creativity.
The Artist’s Journey Psychotherapy Program: Psychological treatment and counseling for artists
In this program, I work individually with artists in psychotherapy to overcome creative blocks and uncover the unconscious reasons, the sources of fear, that stop them in their creative work. In 1999 I created and hosted a television program Creativity & Consciousness where I interviewed artists about the creative process. We explored the inner landscape, the interior psychology, the mindset that affects creativity and the psychological and mental blocks that stop artists from creating their deepest work.
I’m featured in the New York Observer (Should Artists Fear Therapy?) about my work counseling artists, as well a in The Registrar of the Royal College of Psychiatrists (The Artist and Psychiatrist: Interview with Dr. Nancy Hillis) and the Stanford magazine Bench & Bedside (Art and Soul: Medicine Meets Creative Expression).
To learn more about my psychotherapy program for artists,
The Artist’s Journey Online Courses
I have a range of online courses for artists interested in exploring their deepest, most personal and authentic self expression in art.
Go HERE to read more about my offerings.
The Artist’s Journey In-Person Workshops
Every year I give in-person workshops for Stanford physicians at Stanford Sierra Camp. These workshops explore the inherent creativity we all possess- creativity that oftentimes has been buried deep within- nascent but still alive. We explore the creativity that is available to all of us. We experiment with personal gestural expression as we discover that we each have our own particular unique lexicon, our own signature of mark making.
This year, I’ll give in-person workshops for my new offering: The Artist’s Journey Masterclass. More information to come soon. Stay tuned.
The Artist’s Journey book
The Artist’s Journey ©2018 by Nancy Hillis, MD
Art mirrors our inner state in ways that are meaningful and mysterious.Creativity is central to feeling alive.— Nancy Hillis, M.D.
Your mission should you choose to accept it is to dive deep and dedicate yourself to your art, to move past the fears and limiting beliefs that stop you from creating your deepest, most expressive art. Learn to loosen up, explore, experiment and trust yourself on your artist’s journey so you can finally feel confident as an artist and create the art of your dreams.
Painting is a mirror. It brings up everything, especially fear and yearning.
Have you always dreamed of being an artist?
Why put off following your dreams?
- one mindset shift will transform your experience of creating art
- one secret studio practice will ignite your creativity
- two technical game changers will take your art to the next level
- one concept will help you create your deepest, most personal art
The Artist’s Journey Presentations
The Artist’s Journey Presents: The Artist’s Journey and Hero’s Journey in Art. Presentation for the San Francisco Opera Guild, August 2018.
Interviews | Presentations | Media
2019: Interview: Lit From Within Show. Interviewed by Jamisyne Blakeley
2019: Featured in film: Nancy’s Story. Behind the scenes of a book launch.
2018: Featured speaker: San Francisco Opera Guild: The Artist’s Journey and the Hero’s Journey in Art & Life
2018: Featured in The Expert Called You book by Jeanine Blackwell
2018: Featured in Inc. magazine article on 8 Female Entrepreneurs
2017: Interview with Artist & Psychiatrist Dr. Nancy Hillis. The Registrar: The Royal College of Psychiatry
2016: Should Artists Fear Therapy? New York Observer
2010: Art and Soul: Medicine Meets Creative Expression. Bench and Bedside. Stanford Medical Alumni Association
2007: Aptos Psychiatrist Seeks Solace In Art. Register Pajaronian. Psychiatrist explores the depths of creativity as well as the psychological processes that stop it.
2000: Created and hosted: Creativity & Consciousness television program: Exploring psychotherapy for artists and creators as well as the underpinnings of creativity.
Artist’s Curriculum Vitae
Nancy Hillis is an existential psychiatrist, author and abstract artist who lives and works in Santa Cruz, California. As a physician she studied radiology at Harvard and psychiatry at Stanford. Her lifelong studies in creativity spurred her to write the bestselling book The Artist’s Journey in 2018 as well as to create The Artist’s Journey courses and workshops in 2016. She’s guided thousands of artists to create their deepest art in her classes. Nancy led live abstract painting workshops in Maine and North Carolina in Doing The Work Of Your Life workshops with fellow artist Katherine Aimone from 2015-2016. In 2000, Nancy produced a television program in California called Creativity and Consciousness where she explored the creative process of artists. Nancy has taught experimental painting at Stanford Sierra Camp since 2011. Nancy is a bestselling author and has been featured in Inc. magazine, The New York Observer, The Register of The Royal College of Psychiatrists and Stanford’s Bench & Bedside magazine.
The Artist’s Journey: Bold Strokes To Spark Creativity, published January 2019
The Artist’s Journey Self Reflection Journal, in publication
The Hero’s Journey in Art and Life presented at the San Francisco Opera Guild Opening Exhibition, August 2018
Exploratory Painting: Stanford Sierra Camp, Medical Alumni, June 2011-2018 (upcoming workshop in June 2019)
Doing The Work Of Your Life, Moving Beyond Fear In Abstract Painting, Thomaston, Maine-August 2016
Doing The Work Of Your Life, Moving Beyond Fear In Abstract Painting, Asheville, North Carolina, April-May, 2016 (2 sessions)
Doing The Work Of Your Life, Moving Beyond Fear In Abstract Painting, Thomaston, Maine-July 2015
The Artist’s Journey: 3 Secrets of the Masters
The Artist’s Journey Masterclass
Experimenting With Color
Activating The Canvas
Solo Exhibition, Marjorie Evans Gallery, The Map and the Territory, Carmel, CA, 2015
Group Exhibition, Pablo Milan Gallery, Abstract Works, Santa Fe, NM, 2014
Group Exhibition, Pablo Milan Gallery, Abstract Horses and Figures, Santa Fe, NM, 2013
Group Exhibition, Contemporary Masters Gallery, The Horse, Maui, HI, 2012
Solo Exhibition, Marjorie Evans Gallery at the Sunset Center, The Horse: A Guide To The Unknown, Carmel, CA, 2012
Group Exhibition, Pablo Milan Gallery, Figurative Abstractions, Santa Fe, NM, 2011
Solo Exhibition, Many Hands Gallery, Capitola, CA, 2011
Group Exhibition, Mary Tomas Gallery, Dallas, TX, 2010
Solo Exhibition, Pasadena Heritage Tour, Pasadena, CA, 2010
Solo Exhibition, Arkansas Lt. Governor’s Office, Little Rock, AR, 2009
Solo Exhibition, Many Hands Gallery, Capitola, CA, 2009
Solo Exhibition, Arkansas State Capitol, Little Rock, AR, 2009
Group Exhibition, Santa Cruz Art League, Irreplaceable Places, Santa Cruz, CA, 2009
Two Woman Exhibition, Santa Cruz Baroque Festival, Listening To Nature: Musique En Plein Air, Santa Cruz, CA, 2009
Group Exhibition, Harmonics, Inc., Going Green, Sunnyvale, CA, 2009
Group Exhibition, Museum of Art and History, Stars Auction, Santa Cruz, CA, 2008
Marjorie Evans Gallery, Carmel, CA
Gallerie Amsterdam, Carmel, CA
Phoebe’s Gallery, Capitola, CA
Inc magazine, September 2018, Experts Can Earn 6 to 7 Figures in This $300 Billion-Dollar Industry. These Women Are Doing It, Why Not You?
The New York Observer, February 2017, Should Artists Fear Therapy?
Studio Visit Magazine, Spring 2015, Volume 27, Published by Open Studios Press
Stanford Bench and Bedside, Spring 2012, Art and Soul: Medicine Meets Creative Expression
Santa Cruz Record, legal newspaper, March 24, 2009, Nancy Leigh Hillis
The Informed Collector, art newsletter, March 17, 2009, Informed Collector Recommends: Nancy Leigh Hillis,
Metro Santa Cruz, article, October 3-10, 2007, House Calls
Register Pajaronian, article, October 8, 2007, Aptos Psychiatrist Finds Solace In Art
Painting brings up everything
All our fears, doubts, and existential angst come to the foreground. A client once said to me: “I’ve made my life so small. I don’t know what the meaning of my life is”. Meaning is so essential in our lives and painting is a beautiful way of getting at it.
Creating art is taking action in ways that are meaningful and mysterious.When we’re being with the mystery, we are our most creative selves.
Full Circle: My Story
When I was four, I would color the bricks of our fireplace and ledge (which my father had beautifully built by hand and which took up an entire 24 foot wall) with my favorite colors: red and purple. My parents could never catch me. They knew it was me and I knew they knew it was me. I left clues. I colored most of the rocks in our backyard, and even the tree bark. I made marks on every clean sheet of paper in the house.
I never had an art class growing up. I desperately wanted to make things, so I began sewing crazy quilts at four or five…especially when I’d visit Granny and Papa in Tomahawk, Arkansas. Granny made quilts from the clothes she and her family had worn. She adorned every bed with her quilts. She kept her family warm with her quilts. She lived with her art.
As a child, I’d stare for hours at reproductions of Rembrandt’s Young Woman With A Broom and Man With A Gold Helmet that hung in my home. I’d study from every angle the sculpture of a warrior that stood in the living room. I’d pull out a ‘Paint By Numbers’ set, transfixed by the smell of oil paint and turpentine and the magic of the emerging picture.
The recurring concern for my parents when I grew up was that I would never be practical. The deeper truth was that I was dreaming of a life that didn’t yet exist but that I believed was possible.
In seventh grade, I announced to my mother that I was going to be a psychiatrist. Years later, I became a physician and at 25 accepted a residency in radiology at Harvard’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital. Radiology was very visual, reading shadows on films and recognizing patterns, but it felt too logical and linear.
Returning to the Bay Area, I was invited to a poetry reading and tea ceremony at the San Francisco Zen Center’s Green Gulch Farm. Something about that stormy night in the tea house was transformative. I realized that I was missing art and beauty. I needed more than medicine in my life.
I shifted course. I called up Stanford and got a position in psychiatry, at which point my mother reminded me of my 13 year old proclamation that I’d be a psychiatrist. Only then did I remember!
For me, psychiatry is relational, intuitive, and creative. The nuances, the unknown are similar to painting. It’s the only part of medicine I can live with. Choosing psychiatry was an act of coming back to my own self. Most of my work in psychotherapy is exploring the mysterious, unknown parts of the self. In this work, I realized that un-lived, orphaned off parts of myself had been patiently waiting to be rediscovered.
I am reminded of Camus’ words:
A person’s life purpose is nothing more than to rediscover
Through the detours of art or love or passionate work
Those one or two images in the presence of which
His heart first opened.
At 36, I was brought to tears when I finally saw original Rembrandt drawings while on a painting trip in southern France. Reaching across four centuries, I felt the aliveness and meaning of Rembrandt’s work.
I found my way back to my art. Back to making things, making marks, making colors. Back to investigating the unknown, ineffable aspects of myself and others. My parents no longer worry about my dreaminess. When I left radiology, John Shillito, MD, the eminence grise of neurosurgery at the Brigham said: ‘you went from shadows to nuances’. My reply now is: I’ve come full circle, back to shadows again, back to my art. I’ve come home.
My vision and the work of my life in art and psychiatry is helping others to trust themselves and to create meaningful lives.
I’ve been an existential psychiatrist and artist for over 20 years. In 2000, I developed ‘Creativity and Consciousness’, a television program where I interviewed artists about the creative process. I learned that the secret to creating alive, meaningful art is by trusting yourself. You have to trust yourself to find your way as you go. Only then will you engage in big risks and bold experimentation.
The Artist’s Journey
I’ve led experimental painting workshops at Stanford Sierra Camp since 2011 exploring the expressive language of mark making, automatic drawing and intuitive painting. I am co-owner of painting workshop Doing The Work Of Your Life: Moving Beyond Fear in Abstract Painting with Katherine Aimone.
In my first offering The Artist’s Journey: 3 Secrets of the Masters online course my goal is to teach you 3 concepts that make 90% of the difference in a painting so that you can consistently and confidently create work that is authentic, mysterious, and alive.
In my forthcoming offering The Artist’s Journey Masterclass my goal is to fuel your creative fire and commitment to your painting practice. This will be an intensive 8 week experience of coursework with live and recorded lessons, exercises to complete and a full painting demo by Nancy in each module of the course. We’ll have a 3 day weekend salon where we can meet in California and explore and discuss your art, your studio practice, creativity and experimentation. More to come on this new offering.
Meanwhile, I invite you to explore my blog for articles on painting, creativity, and cultivating your studio practice. New works and courses on experimental, expressive painting will be posted here as well.
My invitation to you