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Birch Trees in the Fall – ‘Autumn Reds’

'Autumn Reds', Oil painting by Holly Van Hart

Autumn Reds
30 x 24″ oil painting by Holly Van Hart (sold)
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The other day, a friend asked why I had started painting birch trees. One reason is that they are so darn gorgeous!!  (I get reminded of this just about every day, because we have a lot of birch trees here in Saratoga.)

Birch tree trunks are highly textured and have a wide range of values, from white to very very dark in the shadows. And the leaves, in an autumn setting, offer a huge range of warm colors to work with – reds, oranges, yellows, golds.  An artist’s dream!

 

Click here for more forest paintings.

The gift of time

Have you ever been drawn to something so strongly that you needed to do it? Even if it was risky and even if you might not succeed, you knew this was the right direction for you?

With ‘Into the World of Light’, I wanted the viewer to feel compelled to enter the painting. To bask in the warmth of the sun. To explore what’s over those hills. To ponder the freedoms that lie ahead.

To find the right direction for myself, I usually need lots of time to think and let my mind wander freely.  Without that, it’s too easy to get pulled into everyday obligations and routines.

‘The gift of time’ is one of the best things I can do for myself. Do you find the same?

Here are in-progress pics for Into the World of Light –

acrylic painting by Holly Van Hart | green brown forest field

The start of the painting. It may look like fog, but my plan is for this to become a well-lit forest.

abstract forest painting by Holly Van Hart | sunlit field branches leaves

Next I painted in the sunlit field and (at the top) some branches and leaves.

mixed media forest painting by Holly Van Hart | watercolor techniques

Here I’m using my new watercolor techniques (but with acrylic paints).

Mountain, tree trunks, watercolor and drip painting techniques | by Holly Van Hart

Close-up of the sunlit mountain.

forest painting | sunlight tree trunks hills field | painting by Holly Van Hart | shown at Desta Gallery solo show 'Embracing the Light'

Finished!
Into the World of Light
48 x 60″ mixed media painting by Holly Van Hart

 

This painting is sold, but you can view available paintings here.

Video by Holly Van Hart – How a painting is created

Many of you have been curious about the painting process, and how paintings are created.  Watch this video to learn my take on this topic.

This is the first of a series of videos I’ll publish on how a painting is created.  Enjoy!

 

Which artists are you most influenced by?

Great question.  I like all artists who push the envelope in some exciting way.

Some of my favorite artistic influences include JMW Turner’s late expressionistic landscapes, Georgia O’Keeffe’s magnified images of nature, Mark Rothko’s color-fields, and Joan Mitchell’s huge abstract expressionist paintings.  I’m also a huge fan of Walt Whitman, an American poet.

How about you? Who are your faves?

Click here to see the rest of the Top 50 Questions

 

Grand Prize Award – California Painting Competition

Oil painting by Holly Van Hart, nest, blue, nature's colors abstracted

Possibilities Abound
30″ x 40″ oil painting by Holly Van Hart (sold)
Grand Prize Award – California Statewide Painting Competition

Originally published in 2013, and just updated with info on upcoming events and prints.

I’m walking on air . . . I was honored to have won Grand Prize at the California Statewide Painting Competition.

The 1st place award was a solo exhibition at the Triton Museum of Art.  (To see pics and videos of my solo show, click here.)

In the words of the curators of the Triton Museum of Art . . .

“Holly van Hart warmed the jurors with her painting Possibilities Abound. A nest cradles eggs, rendered with a confident, loose brushstroke that evokes a sense that this could be any nest, anywhere. And as with all great art, the metaphor returns the image to contemplations of us, the viewers. Avian becomes human, the unborn promise becomes our own possibilities, to be nurtured and explored. We are seeing nothing less than the potential of the human spirit, nestled in nature’s bed.”

– Preston Metcalf, Chief Curator
– Ester Fernandez, Curator of Education/Curator
– Stephanie Learmonth, Registrar/Curator

Click here for photos taken at the Triton Museum during the 2013 California Statewide Painting Competition Exhibition.

For upcoming events, click here.

This painting is sold. For prints, click here.

Loaded with lush flowers

‘Possibilities in Full Bloom’ is meant to convey the idea that life is chock full with possibilities.  The eggs in the nest are radiating warmth, and the magnolia tree is loaded with lush flowers.  Life abounds!

This painting was fun to create for many reasons.  One of my favorite parts was leaving the underlying red color and texture showing through  in many places.  (Can you see this?  Click on the image to see a larger version.)   To me, this gives the work a fresh feel.

In case you’re wondering . . . click here to read “What’s up with all the nests?

What advice would you give to your younger self?

Here’s an interesting question for you  . . . ‘What advice would you give to your younger self?’

If you feel like sharing your answer, please drop me a note at holly.vanhart@gmail.com.

After giving lots of thought to this question, and tossing aside a few false starts, I found my answer . . . ‘To be successful in your career, you need to work smart, work hard, and add a healthy dose of self promotion.’ In the past I was pretty good at the 1st two (working hard and smart), and totally oblivious to the self-promotion part.

I’m starting to get better at it now (if I didn’t, no one would know my art existed!), but still have plenty to learn.

Do you have any tips? I’m all ears!

Holly

P.S.  Speaking about self-promotion, the painting shown above is named ‘Every Restless Night’ and it’s for sale 🙂 The price is $6,500 (+ tax in California). If you live nearby, I can come to your home or office and hang it on the wall for you.  If you’re interested, email me at holly.vanhart@gmail.com.


What gives you the most joy?

Abstract nature painting by Silicon Valley artist Holly Van Hart, containing yellow daffodils and red-orange flowers

Your Highest Potential
30 x 40″ oil painting by Holly Van Hart
$3,200
To purchase, contact Pam Regan at Bluestone Fine Art Gallery
or email holly.vanhart@gmail.com

Joy, delight, happiness, gladness, glee, exhilaration, exuberance, elation, euphoria, bliss, ecstasy, rapture.
We want it all!

How do you like to create joy in your life?

If your world is anything like mine, sometimes the days are so busy that it takes conscious thought to make time for life’s most delightful moments.

For me, in any one week I’m abundantly happy when I’ve enjoyed all of these experiences –

  • time connecting with my 3 men (husband and 2 sons), other family, and friends
  • lots of laughter
  • absorbing nature and getting some exercise with hikes and bike rides
  • contributing to an important cause, usually with a focus on children, women, or art
  • feeling that I’ve advanced in life in some meaningful way (relationships, health, career)
  • painting, of course!
  • remembering to be full of thanks, wonder and awe for all of the above

What makes you happy?

 

If you have any tips for creating more bliss in life, please drop me a line at holly.vanhart@gmail.com, I’m all ears.

 

Top questions I’m asked as an artist –

How do you know when a painting is done?

How much time does it take to complete a painting?

 

 

Amazing Portrayals of Light

If you look at a painting of a mountain or lake or sky and then gasp because of its beauty, it’s often because of an amazing portrayal of light.

Two of the all-time masters at portraying light were JMW Turner and Claude Monet. You’ve probably heard of them  🙂


“Keelmen Heaving in Coals by Moonlight”, JMW Turner, 1835

Turner was known as ‘the painter of light’, and was one of the greatest British landscape painters of his time.  In the above work, take a look at Turner’s portrayal of the moonlight on the clouds and in the water, and the firelight and its reflections. Amazing!


“Haystacks (Sunset)”, Claude Monet, 1891

Twenty years after Turner’s death, Claude Monet founded Impressionism. Impressionism was all about the portrayal of light, and Monet would sometimes work on a dozen paintings a day; each one depicted a slightly different aspect of light.

Monet would continue working on these paintings over the course of days, switching from one painting to the next when the time and light were just right.

“Haystacks (Sunset)”, above, is one excellent example. What do you think of those sunset purples and reds? They just take my breath away.

“Morning Light”
Oil painting by Holly Van Hart (sold)

This last work (very humbly put after the two above it) is mine. It is here as an example of a painting that was intended to capture the morning light over a beautiful little lake in the Sierra Nevada mountains in California.

Painting light was (and is) the focus of a great many artists.  Other masters include Vermeer, Valazquez, and Rembrandt.

Who are your faves? Drop me a line at holly.vanhart@gmail.com and let me know.

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[Top 50 Questions] What subjects inspire you?

My husband is a gardener.  I feel very fortunate to have his beautiful trees and and flowers growing all around us as inspiration for my paintings.

On my short walk to the studio each day, I pass bougainvillea, roses, amaryllis, daffodils, lemons, oranges, figs and more (depending on the season).  Lucky me!

I am also inspired every time I go for a walk in our neighborhood and on local hiking trails.

 

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Let’s stay in touch!  Learn more

Do you like to dream big?

Do you like to dream big?

I do!  As a die-hard optimist, my art (and life) are inspired by the idea of limitless possibilities.

In ‘How Dreams Are Made’, the flowers  represent the colorful opportunities in our lives . . . exciting and bountiful opportunities swirling all around us.

The visual inspiration came during a walk in Saratoga on a windy day. Out of the corner of my eye, I caught some gorgeous yellow flowers getting tossed around by the wind. A quick snap of the camera gave me a photo reference to work with.

Back in the studio, I quickly got to work. I wanted the painting to have a breezy look and lots of movement, like Field of Dreams.

This painting was fun, but it did not come easy!  There were many points when I wondered whether it would succeed.

For some strange reason, a lot of my best work comes after those sinking moments of doubt. I think the uncertainty frees me up to make bold decisions.

Speaking of which . . . bold decisions are exactly what we need to chase big dreams.  Let’s go for it!!

 

btw, you might also be interested in this article How do you know when a painting is done?  One of the hardest decisions in making a painting is knowing when to stop!

 

Does drinking help with creativity?

Question #23   Does drinking help with creativity?

For me, the answer is both yes and no.  With a glass of wine or two, my mind sometimes opens up to new ideas.

But if I have a drink and then try to apply paint to canvas, mostly I make a big mess.

So, the trick is to harness the ideas without messing up any in-progress paintings!

Click here to see the rest of the Top 50 Questions

Have a question to add to the top 50?  Email me at holly.vanhart@gmail.com. I’d love to hear from you.

Why do we love birch trees so much?

Do you love birch and aspen trees as much as I do? These days, I’m happily immersed in autumnal birch tree forests.

Here are some details from my in-progress painting, Autumn Dance (48 x 36″) –

Abstract Birch |Aspen painting by Holly Van Hart, detail

Abstract Birch |Aspen painting by Holly Van Hart, detail

Abstract Birch |Aspen painting by Holly Van Hart, detail

There’s something about them that seems to be universally appealing. For one thing, they are so gorgeous.

Birch and aspens look very similar to each other, so I had to look up what the differences are. If you’re curious, here are the highlights –

  • Birch are famous for having bark that peels back like paper; aspen bark does not peel.
  • Birch trees grow in the eastern US and Canada, while Aspens are found all over North America, Europe and Russia.
  • And, amazingly . . . each ‘colony’ of aspen trees actually shares a single large root system. The root system can be huge, covering multiple acres, and can be thousands of years old. As old trees die off, the root system sends up new trunks. Incredible!How about you . . . what are your favorite trees?

btw, here’s the completed painting –

And here’s the completed painting hanging on my living room wall (left) –

Abstract-Nature-Paintings | Autumn Dreams | SummerSparkle-AmidTheScentofRoses-by-HollyVanHart | Installed paintings | Living Room

‘Autumn Dance’ ‘Summer Sparkle’ and ‘Amid the Scent of Roses’

These paintings are hanging in my living room, but they could be in yours 🙂

Would you like to see this painting in person?

To purchase, email holly.vanhart@gmail.com.  Free shipping in the US.

Purchase details

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To see all available paintings, click here.

New Tree Painting Inspired by a New York Forest

Here’s the story of the inspiration and making of a new tree painting named Summer Sparkle –

Inspiration for Abstract Forest Painting | Holly Van Hart | son | Forests Trees | New York

Erik (our younger son) gave me a tour of the lush New York forest. He drove my Dad’s ATV. I sat behind him and snapped photos.

Inspiration for Abstract Forest Painting | Holly Van Hart | son | Forests Trees | New York | Photo

One of the 100+ photos I took while on the ATV that afternoon.
 

In keeping with my theme of limitless possibilities, I’m inspired by subjects that reveal life and growth and abundance. In this case, lush green trees were everywhere. I also like the sense of motion in this pic.

Abstract Forest Painting | Holly Van Hart | in progress painting | Forests Trees

Back in the studio . . . the start of a new forest painting, ‘Summer Sparkle’

Abstract Forest Painting | Holly Van Hart | in progress painting | Forests Trees

In progress pic of ‘Summer Sparkle’ (detail)

Abstract Forest Painting | Holly Van Hart | in progress painting | Forests Trees

Completed painting – Summer Sparkle
48 x 36″ oil painting by Holly Van Hart

Abstract-Nature-Paintings | Autumn Dance | SummerSparkle-AmidTheScentofRoses-by-HollyVanHart | Installed paintings | Living Room

Autumn Dance‘ ‘Summer Sparkle’ and ‘Amid the Scent of Roses
They are hanging in my living room, but they could be in yours :-).

 

This story was first published for my VIP subscribers. If you would like to be first to see new paintings, please become a VIP.

To see all tree and forest paintings, click here.

Abstract forest painting, ‘Every Restless Night’

Hi there! Thanks for being here to check out my new work.  Here’s the latest!

This painting has gotten great feedback & has been featured on the cover of Denver Life magazine.

Denver Life October 2019 - painting by Holly Van Hart over fireplace

Every Restless Night, 48×48″ painting by Holly Van Hart
Featured on the cover of Denver Life Magazine

Questions? Interested? Please contact Steve Sonnen of Mirada Fine Art gallelry, (303) 697-9006, info@miradafineart.com or holly.vanhart@gmail.com

What’s your work-day like?

In “Top Fifty Questions”, I’ll answer the questions I’m most frequently asked as an artist (usually at cocktail parties and other fun social events).

What’s your work-day like as an artist?

Some of you have been curious about my work-day as an artist. Believe it or not, I’m working more hours per week now than I did in high tech.  (I left a fun and fulfilling career in high tech for an even ‘funner’ career as a full-time artist.)

I have a home studio, and am in the studio painting every day from 8 am til 3 or 4pm. Every day. (Well, every weekday, and sometimes on the weekends.)

Chuck Close, a famous American painter, offers a great perspective on this. “Inspiration is for amateurs. The rest of us just show up and get to work. . . . All the best ideas come out of the process; they come out of the work itself.”

I buy into that. Through the process of painting every day, I challenge myself to create my very best work. And to keep learning and experimenting.

An artist’s job is not done when the art is created. Part of the role is running your own art business, with your website, blog, marketing, galleries, exhibits, etc.

I try to dedicate my daytime to painting, and take care of the business stuff in the evenings. (When my sons are doing their homework, I’m doing mine!)  This takes many hours, on most days. Having come from a long business career, I like this part of the job too.

Click here to see the rest of the Top 50 Questions

New tree painting! Mirror World

With this new tree painting, Mirror World, I wanted a feeling of mystery.

The trees in the distance have curiously different colors from the nearer trees. What’s going on there? Let’s take a stroll down this path and see for ourselves!

With every painting, I have an objective for the mood and look of the painting, and a separate artistic objective.

The artistic objective is typically a challenge to myself using new colors or style or different size brushes or canvas.

Here, I challenged myself to paint more loosely, using bigger brushes and with less defined edges. Can you see the difference compared to my other tree paintings? Please drop me a line at holly.vanhart@gmail.com.

 

Would you like to see all available paintings? Click here to request a digital catalog.

[Top 50 Questions] How are you preparing for your museum exhibition?

Originally posted in 2013 and just reposted with updated links to pics and videos of the show

 

My solo exhibit at the Triton Museum of Art will run from late November 2014 – mid February 2015.  If you haven’t been there before, the Triton is a beautiful contemporary art museum in Santa Clara, CA.

This exhibit opportunity came about because my painting ‘Possibilities Abound’ was awarded first place in the Statewide Painting Competition hosted by the Triton.  The prize was a solo exhibit.

The title of the solo exhibit will be ‘Possibilities’, and the theme is the virtually limitless possibilities that are available to us in life.  In the Possibilities series, eggs are used to represent the unborn promise in our lives, and the nests represent the wonderful variety of homes we build for ourselves.

I’ll need about 15-20 paintings for the exhibit.   About 1/2 are done. Some of the paintings are sold but (luckily!) the owners have offered to loan them back.

Preston Metcalf, Chief Curator of the Triton Museum, will decide how the paintings will be hung in the Rotunda gallery.  He asked that I be there to give input, and I’m very much looking forward to the day we work together to hang the show.

The reception is December 12, 2014, 6-8pm.  This will be the biggest art event so far in my career.

 

For photos and videos of my solo show and reception at the Triton Museum of Art, click here.  (You can also download the catalog from the show . . . free!)

 

Taking a hiatus

Have you ever taken a hiatus from something you really love?u

Bicycling is something that gives me great joy. I love the thrill of the hills (up and down), the views, the smells, and even the tired muscles. For some inexplicable reason, I let my bike sit idle for the last couple of years.

Have you ever taken a pause like that?  Why do we do that?



Just last month, I started cycling again, huffing and puffing, and slowly getting my groove back. It feels great!!

Over the years, I’ve taken week-long biking vacations in some beautiful places including the Canadian Rocky Mountains, the San Juan Islands in Washington, and the Norwegian fjords. The latter two have inspired abstract landscape paintings such as this one . . .

 

Magnetic Dreams, 48 x 60″ mixed media painting by HVH,
shown hanging in my home.
 

Magnetic Dreams (detail of the sky)
 

Magnetic Dreams (detail of the mountains and water)

To read the story behind the painting, click here –

Story + Completed painting
See more abstract landscapes

To purchase a painting, email me at holly.vanhart@gmail.com.
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Taking a hiatus is normal and just fine. But having returned to biking makes me wonder . . . what else do I need to get back into?

How about you . . . what do you miss?

Something for us both to ponder.

And now, borrowing a word from an Australian friend of mine  . . .
Cheerypip,

P.S. Into forests or flowers instead?

 

The Secrets Within, 40 x 30″ mixed media painting by Holly Van Hart
See new forest and flower paintings

btw, if this email was forwarded to you, and you’d like to get on my VIP list to receive future emails (one every 3 weeks), click here.

 

Color-Full Lives

Abstract Nature Painting by Holly Van Hart, nest eggs, red, yellow

Possibilities in Full Color
24″ x 30″ oil painting on canvas by Holly Van Hart
Purchase Info

Possibilities in Full Color is about the lives within these 3 eggs, still to be lived.  They are meant to be ‘full color’ lives, filled with joy and delight and exciting challenges.

This painting is also about the homes (nests) of the baby birds and their parents. Do you see the reds, oranges, greens, blues, and yellows? This ‘full color’ nest represents the unique and wonderful personalities of all the individuals that live within it, as well as the wonderful variety of homes that birds build for themselves.

What do you see in “Possibilities in Full Color”? It’s always fascinating to learn how paintings are interpreted.   I’d love to hear your thoughts and comments (holly.vanhart@gmail.com).

This painting is available from Bluestone Fine Art Gallery; click for details.

[Top 50 Questions] How does living in Silicon Valley impact your art?

In “Top Fifty Questions”, I’ll answer the top things I’m asked as an artist. (These questions are usually raised at cocktail parties and other fun social events.)

Silicon Valley, in northern California, is a hotbed of technology innovation. It is a place where anything is possible, and failures are just stepping stones to the next success.

I love this part of the culture, which played out in my life every day for 20 years as a Silicon Valley-based high tech exec, and now in my art.  My whole ‘Possibilities’ series is rooted in the unrelenting optimism of Silicon Valley.

You can read more about my Silicon Valley experience here on LinkedIn.

Not everyone loves Silicon Valley as much as I do. Have you lived or worked here?  What’s your take?

 

Click here to see the rest of the Top 50 Questions

What’s the meaning of this painting?

I am inspired by life’s limitless possibilities, and my abstract nature paintings are meant to spark new excitement about reaching our biggest, boldest dreams.

This latest painting ‘Forest Reverie’ represents the beginning of a new year or a new season. Colorful opportunities sparkle all around us, and beckon us to reach them. Will we pick the closest, easiest one, or will we stretch further to find our passion?

Let’s stay in touch!  Learn more

This blog post is the latest addition to my ‘Top 50 Questions’ list.  See/read more here.

[Top 50 Questions] Can I see your work in a gallery?

In “Top Fifty Questions”, I’ll answer the top questions I’m asked as an artist. (These questions are usually asked at cocktail parties and other fun social events.)

Yes!  Thanks for asking 🙂

My paintings are in a bunch of galleries, listed here.

You can also see my work at my Open Studio and other upcoming events; click here for details.

 

Ideas Everywhere!

Many many layers (and weeks) later, here is the finished painting . . .

So you can see the details, here’s a ‘flyover’ of Ideas Everywhere –

And here is how Ideas Everywhere looks in my home –

Abstract forest landscape painting by Holly Van Hart - Ideas Everywhere - installed

‘Ideas Everywhere’
This painting is sold. To see available paintings, click here.

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