Art of glass

Susen Hille

Photo by Whitney Garcia

For eight years, Susen Hille has made latex paint on glass storefronts her medium of choice for displaying her artistic talents. Self-taught since the age of 15, Hille is familiar with most of the media in the art world. She is skilled in oil painting, ceramics, woodworking, stone carving and jewelry making, but she makes window painting her living with her business Black Cat Window Painting, which she opened in October 2008. Hille moved to Northern California to care for her father in 1998 and held a number of jobs before the opportunity arose for her to start her business. She recently sat down with the CN&R to share her passion for creativity and talk about what life is like as a window painter. Find Black Cat Window Painting on Facebook to see photos of Hille’s work, or look for her signature on the corner of painted windows around town.

Why did you start window painting?

It was kind of a spontaneous combustion. I had moved back from Vancouver, Wash., to care for my father. I was working as a technician for the United Artist Feature, and I quit when the economy tanked. It was a bummer because I thought that no one would want their windows painted! It was during Halloween season, and the “black cat” title came because I wanted to catch people’s attention with the name. It must have worked!

What distinguishes you from other window painters?

For one, I scrape off all my paintings when the customer wants me to. That is important, because I have almost lost business when potential clients think that I won’t and they are stuck with it and have to take care of it themselves. I also freehand all of the work I do. The client gives me an idea of what they want, and I go for it.

Have you had any professional training?

Nope. I took a mandatory art class in high school, and my teacher was floored. He thought I should be going professional. I had an epiphany during that period of my life, and art started to click for me, and it hasn’t stopped.

What are the challenges of the job?

The biggest challenge is the weather! If it’s too wet, too hot, too cold or too windy, a window may take six hours instead of two. One time it was so windy my paint palette, which is styrofoam, flew out of my hand into my face!

What do you love about your work?

I love the amount of creativity and freedom I get. There is also a really positive response to my work from clients and people around town. I love it all. Art is my life. It’s a challenge, but it’s what I love to do.