Jim Hillegass is a native of Nebraska.  He's lived in Minnesota for nearly 40 years.  A childhood interest in nature, encouraged by his mother, taught him to look closely.  He looked at butterflies and bugs, and at farms around Lincoln.  College years were spent near New York City, and Jim spent many weekends looking at architecture, and at art at the Met, MOMA, and other places.
He was a casual watercolorist and illustrator from the time he graduated from college and headed west to California.  The illustrations were often architectural or botanical.
Several things have influenced his painting.  At 50, he learned to sail on Lake Minnetonka, then did a little ocean sailing with friends in Holland and in the Caribbean.  At 60, he learned to fly.  After getting a pilot's license and an instrument rating, he began making cross country trips, first in rental aircraft, then in two planes he owned.  He covered a lot of ground over the next few years.
Jim has always had a passion for the West.  In 2002, he bought a small ranch in the Sandhills of Nebraska, which surprisingly look a little like Cape Cod.  It's pasture for cows in the summer.  It has a nice woods bordering the Niobrara River.
These pastimes gave Jim a deep appreciation of landscapes and of the horizon.
When he began to paint more seriously, he thought he most admired Mark Rothko.  This led to a lot of experimentation with color.
Jim paints under a skylight in an old warehouse.  He usually listens to jazz, often Duke Ellington, Thelonious Monk, or Django Reinhardt.  He sometimes thinks of other painters like Pierre Bonnard or Gerhard Richter or Richard Diebenkorn.