Hill Country teacher, artist, author leads by example
Thursday, November 15, 2012 | | 3
Photo by Dane Anderson
Surrounded by her first period students, del Hierro shows that working clay can be a nice, messy way to get rid of stress while creating something beautiful – in this case, fish representing rock stars.
Life for Kathie del Hierro is a curious river of decisions. Time is a precious commodity, and she has to stretch it to cover a lot of creative talent.
“A long time ago in my early 20s, I made a conscious decision to start filling my mind with my own creativity instead of focusing in on all the other awesome entertainment there is out there,” said the bundle of restrained energy. “But, I felt it was time to start producing. I remind myself of that frequently. Do I have time to sit down and watch this movie? Or would I rather be in the entertainment of my own brain?”
It’s no wonder the Hill Country Middle School art teacher is a hit with students. She has two young adult fiction books under her belt already and is hard at work on a third. She is an accomplished oil painter, with works in galleries and private collections across the country. As if that were not enough, she spends her summers taking groups of students through Europe to open their eyes to new cultures and new ideas.
“I tease people; I tell them I never sleep,” she said. “Actually, I wake up early, and I sit down in front of the computer. Coming out of that dream state of sleep is one of my most highly creative times of the day. I just start pounding it out. The ideas are fresh, they just flow.”
Painting is something del Hierro can do any time, anywhere. Her large canvases tell stories in vibrant color, stories of trees, gardens, rivers and Texas landscapes. You don’t just see a del Hierro painting; you feel it.
“For me, painting is spiritual,” she said. “There are certain musicians and certain artists where it is almost like the wind is blowing through them. Like Stevie Ray Vaughn – when he went through a guitar solo, it is almost like a spirit moving through him. It’s like that with painting for me. There is an energy that flows through you. You know it when you see something like that or hear it, smell it or taste it. That kind of experience captures us all.”
When she was three, del Hierro used to take pistachio shells, color them with markers and turn them into tiny shoes. She had an impressive collection. That’s when her mother told her she realized that she had an unusual child.
One of the things you notice about del Hierro right off the bat is her focus. Whatever has her attention is subject to a powerful force. One of the secrets to her success in so many different areas is her ability to channel that focus.
“I really believe I was put here to be creative and explore,” del Hierro said. “Everything inspires me. Traveling is a great inspiration. It’s one of the finest ways to grow and expand a person’s innate curiosity and creativity.”
Even with her success with paintings and books, del Hierro continues to teach. She loves her students too much to give them up.
“The delightfulness and spontaneity and laughter of my students helps keep me positive,” she said. ”You can’t be around young people without having a smile in your heart.”
Last summer, del Hierro decided to find a way to share the wonders of travel with the students she adores. Undaunted, she packed her bags and loaded up 22 students aged 11–18 on a trip across the Adriatic.
“I watched them open up creatively in a big way,” she said. “In another country, I can give them a take on art history and architecture that you just can’t get out of books or watching YouTube videos. You get a sense of scale, a sense of history, and you get the chance to talk to people who can tell you what happened.”
This summer, del Hierro will take students and a few lucky adults on a 12-day excursion through Paris, the Cote d’Azur and Barcelona. Don’t think the trips will get in the way of her books. The author is hard at work on the second book of her trilogy, which she expects to release soon. Her first book, “Riding Polluto,” and the first book in her current young adult trilogy, “Day of the 15th Party,” are available on her website at kdelhierro.com. Get a sneak peak at her artwork on the site as well. To learn more about her European trips, click on the Adventures tab.
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