Article 1 Home | Contact Us | Search

Resume
Upcoming Shows
Gallery
Press

Heather Hedin Peacock

By R.B. Straus

When measuring the success of any artist, talent always takes precedence. However a close second is being at the right place at the right time. Combine the two and you have the career of Heather Hedin Peacock. This Paoli-based painter’s work is ever engaging while her ability to work wonders in all forms – from still lifes to landscapes – immediately connects with the viewer on a number of levels. These qualities find her one of the most sought after artists in the area. And many are the time that success meets her when she least expects it. Indeed, at the outset of her artistic life she found her work in demand. Heady stuff for someone whose art school diploma was still wet. It also pointed her in a direction she never had seriously considered.

After acquiring her BFA in illustration at the prestigious Rhode Island School of Design, she returned home with the ambition of becoming something other than a professional painter. Said Peacock, “When I first came from RISDY I still intended to go down the road of illustration. I sent a portfolio out to numerous greeting card companies. I tried a couple of children’s book publishers and children’s magazines.”

“I was getting back the usual letter of rejection. I didn’t seem to be getting anywhere. In the meantime, just as an outlet for my painting, I started exhibiting in some shows in the area so I’d have something going on. I didn’t want to give up and go down the waitressing route. It was sort of by default that I got into doing the fine art. I found that held more possibilities for me.”

Her first show was with Daylesford Abbey in Paoli. “I had been to the show several years,” she explained. “My mother volunteered for the show a couple of times and helped out with it because she just loves art. She knew the contact person, so it was an easy one to start with and from there it grew. The first show that I was in there I sold twenty-five paintings, which was somewhat unbelievable to me and partly because I was new to the show.”

Since all those paintings had found homes, Ms. Peacock realized that a dream she never even had just came true. It is all the more credit to her that this initial success didn’t go to her head. Instead she knew now which road her life would take, especially as the one that she hoped would lead to an illustration career was blocked. She also had found her niche, as she took inventory of which paintings had sold and which hadn’t and so gained the focus that she has followed through today.

“The more you do this the more you learn what sells and what doesn’t sell,” she explained. “And what sells more easily. As an artist, you want to believe that you’re not influenced by that. But in making a living from it, you can’t help but be influenced by it. Sometimes you have your bread and butter paintings that you know.”

As for the work that sold at the first show, she remembered, “They were little, a lot of them were what I call minis. They were still lifes of fruit and veggies.” As for the momentum of that first momentous show she simply stated, “One person starts buying and then another person starts buying. I still do that show [Daylesford Abbey]. I don’t sell twenty-five paintings anymore, but I usually do pretty well.”

Indeed. Since that time, she has become one of the stalwarts on the local art scene. Her paintings are always in a number of exhibitions spanning New Hope to New Castle, while commissions are also a mainstay. She has painted a church for a congregation that is moving to another location, and what she calls “house portraits” are something of a specialty. She also renders well Chester County locales. As for these, she sees it as an adventure, since she often gets in her car with, to paraphrase Chuck Berry, “no particular place to go,” and discovers sites which would make great paintings. However, what she sees and what winds up as art are two far different things. “I might shoot five hundred photos, and I might get ten to twenty that are worthy of painting.”

The pull of the area is in her blood, like so many other local artists. Why? “When I was growing up I was taken to the Brandywine River Museum endless times. I try to get back there periodically.” As every Chester County artist holds something personal of the local tradition, Heather has her own take too, though one that has been subsumed into her aesthetic. “N.C. Wyeth was a pretty big influence just because I studied illustration in school. I always enjoyed the dramatic light that he has in his paintings. I don’t know if there was something in the back of my head that got me into painting in strong light.

“His thick buttery paint was attractive to me too.” Other artists played their part in her development as well. “Another painter I’ve always liked a lot is John Singer Sargent, for his handling of the paint. It’s just amazing when you see his paintings in person how little information is there and yet when you step back from the piece it all just comes to life. He’ll have one brushstroke turn cotton fabric into silk. Just by that one little highlight that he puts on there.”

As she appreciates a wide range of artists, she also doesn’t limit herself to painting local scenes. In fact, she has cut back on creating Chester County work. “I don’t limit myself to any one subject, so it’s whatever mood I get into. For example, I’ll go off on a tangent and do a bunch of beach scenes for awhile.” These are of the Jersey shore. Peacock has also concentrated on the streets of Center City Philadelphia and the open country of rural Maine.

This diversification goes beyond what she chooses to paint, extending to how she does so, so well. There is a meticulous attention to detail in her work that sets it apart from other local artists’ endeavors. What is her secret? “I get away from everything I learned at school as far as working on the whole painting at the same time. Instead I start focusing in on one little area.” She also keeps a painting in progress fresh by another process as well. “I do occasionally work on multiple things at once if I’m getting bored with one piece sometimes.” And, of course, she paints every day.

For her, it is an organic process of growth. She is constantly changing so nothing ever becomes routine. And that includes the basics of how the painting itself comes into being. “I primarily work in acrylic now.” She likes it because of its versatility. “You can use it like an oil paint or can use it like a watercolor, depending on how much water you mix in with it. It also makes it easier to paint in a small space like this.”

Her studio is in her home, which happens to be the apartment she shares with her husband, though her parents’ place nearby is where she stores a good number of paintings. She also finds that acrylics is a territory she could claim as her own. “I shy away from watercolor for the practical reason – a lot of people are doing that. I felt that doing something different was a good idea.”

This independence has paid off quite well. Her work can be found in a number of galleries, including Southwind Gallery in Narberth, Hardcastle Gallery near Wilmington and Stoney Lonesome Collection in Malvern. This winter finds her work in exhibitions in the “Small Works Christmas Show” at the Chadds Ford Gallery plus February finds her in shows at Immaculata College and the Academy of Notre Dame in Villanova. She also is a member of The Palette of Artists, who have an annual exhibition in Spread Eagle Village in Wayne.

The Internet has also been a surprising resource, as it garnered sales from unexpected and surprising quarters. A woman who lives surprisingly close to her, Heather said, found her way to her Website, www.hhpeacock.com. “She was doing a search on the name of the family farm looking for what info might be out there on the Web and a title of a painting came up and it took her to my Website. And she e-mailed me and said, ‘Oh, my gosh, this is my family’s farm. You’ve painted it and it’s beautiful! Do you still have the painting?’ So I made a sale that way.”

Folks a bit more far afield have also found their way to her Website. “I just had an e-mail from a couple who live in England. Somehow they stumbled across my paintings of St. Lucia that are on my website. They had been on their honeymoon recently and they’re interested in purchasing an original. You never know where things are going to lead.”

For Heather Hedin Peacock, this sense of surprise is what keeps her work, and her career, a success.


This article originally appeared in Chester County Town & Country Living, Volume 10, Number 4 (Winter 2004/2005).

 


Home | Resume | Upcoming Shows | Gallery | Press


Copyright © 2002 The Art of Heather Hedin Peacock. All rights reserved.
Last modified: 12/23/06.