Hills was an inveterate draughtsman. Following the establishment of the Society of Painters in Watercolours – of which he was a founding member and Secretary – in 1804, the watercolours of deer and cattle, farmyard and parkland, for which he became well known were characterised by the quality with which the animals were observed and drawn. From his first teacher, the Royal drawing master John Alexander Gresse (1741-1794), he learnt the practice of washing his line drawings with greys, blues and browns. During the 1790s, he began the (780 published) etchings of animals intended as ‘rudiments of drawing and groups for the embellishment of landscape’, for which innumerable fellow and amateur artists were to be grateful. He moved in an artistic circle that believed in the importance of drawing from life and the Sketching Society of which he was a member with James Ward (1769-1859), Samuel Shelley (1750-1808) and John-Claude Nattes (1765-1822) from 1800 made excursions to places like Windsor Forest and Knole Park in pursuit of subjects to draw.
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