Boundless Promise 36 x 48″ mixed media painting by Holly Van Hart
I’m not worried about oil paints being toxic. Oil paints are toxic if you eat them. Otherwise, they are fine.
Paint solvents, thinners, and thickeners are often toxic. I don’t use any of these, except for turpentine to deep-clean my brushes (which I do outside).
Oil painting mediums (such as thickeners and thinners) tend to be an artist’s best friends. I had some favorite mediums that were toxic, but after some intense experimenting around, I found and fell in love with two that aren’t – walnut oil to thin the paints, and Gamblin Solvent-Free Gel as a thickener.
This book includes essays by DeWitt Cheng and Preston Metcalf –
“Van Hart’s naturalistic yet symbolic paintings present their enigmatic subjects with both beauty and conviction, memorably”
– DeWitt Cheng, Art writer for Art Ltd, Artillery, ARTnews, and Visual Art Source
“powerful in its message of human connectivity”
– Preston Metcalf, Chief Curator of the Triton Museum of Art
Threshold of Miracles 20 x 40 oil painting by Holly Van Hart
What do school soccer and ‘Threshold of Miracles’ have in common?
Inspiration is everywhere!
The inspiration for this painting was a big bush of white roses planted at a local school (Holly Oak Elementary in San Jose, CA). The roses were brilliantly lit in the afternoon sun. I noticed them during the half-time break from my son’s soccer game, and couldn’t resist snapping a bunch of photos.
Using my computer, I tried a few combinations of photos until one stood out as the best design. Then I set to work in my studio to make this painting.
This painting is called ‘Threshold of Miracles’. It symbolizes all the amazing things we can do with our lives (and the miracles we can create) when we keep our eyes open.
Wishing you lots of sunshine and miracles in your life!
Come take a tour through my solo exhibition at the Triton Museum of Art! Learn the stories behind a few key paintings, and see the exhibition installed in the Triton’s Rotunda Gallery.
“Van Hart’s hard-won painterly skills are undeniable and compelling. Her naturalistic yet symbolic paintings . . . present their enigmatic subjects with both beauty and conviction, memorably.” – DeWitt Cheng, Art writer for Art Ltd, Artillery, ARTnews, and Visual Art Source
Morning Light 40″ x 30″ oil painting on canvas by Holly Van Hart (sold)
A few times a year my family spends the weekend at or near Lake Tahoe, CA. It’s a gorgeous place, with expansive views of the Sierras just about everywhere you look. And what makes it even more special is enjoying it with friends!
One Saturday morning, before everyone else was awake, I took a walk along the lake and snapped lots of photos. Back in my studio, I painted ‘Morning Light’. Morning is my favorite time of the day, and my aim was to convey a feeling of quiet and serenity.
The World Offers Itself 36 x 48 mixed media painting by Holly Van Hart
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?
The Boundary of Spring 48 x 36″ oil painting on canvas by Holly Van Hart $4800
What does ‘vulnerability’ mean to you? Does hearing that word make you squirm and feel uncomfortable? It does that to me!
To put it all out there, my most vulnerable moments are when . . .
* I express love or appreciation to someone, and am not sure whether the feeling is returned
* My art is being exhibited and I’m in a room full of people seeing it for the first time
* I send an image of a new painting to the 500+ people on my email list
* Someone unsubscribes to my email list (ouch!)
* I post a new painting or article (like this one) on this blog
* My work is not accepted into a competition or exhibition
* My sons (now ages 11 and 13) are facing disappointment, and I can’t just ‘fix it’ for them any more
Luckily, from my years in high tech, I had many opportunities to experience both acceptance and rejection. I know how to roll with rejection. Sometimes I might need a few moments or hours or days to catch my breath and recover, but then I do, and life goes on and I can keep making progress. Thank goodness. Without that, life as an artist would be impossible!
Dreams That Dance 48 x 36″ mixed media painting by Holly Van Hart $4800
Here’s the story behind Dreams That Dance. Some of my paintings are designed in advance, and others (like Dreams That Dance) are the result of a more experimental process.
When starting Dreams That Dance, I aimed to push the boundaries of abstraction with a lively and mysterious landscape. I chose the colors (light greens and blues, offset by darker browns) and set off on an adventure, not knowing what the future would hold.
The horizon was demarcated with a straight gray-brown line; then, acrylic paints were used in an experimental watercolor-like fashion to approximate the sky, clouds, land and water. The paints were applied with a brush and allowed to drip in ways that I found pleasing, and then the canvas was lay flat to dry. (The non-pleasing drips got wiped away or otherwise eliminated.) I repeated this with 15 or more layers of paint until satisfied with the overall result.
In my work, I like to balance a feeling of peacefulness with a certain liveliness and happy energy. Does that show through here?
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 –
The start of the painting. It may look like fog, but my plan is for this to become a well-lit forest.
Next I painted in the sunlit field and (at the top) some branches and leaves.
Here I’m using my new watercolor techniques (but with acrylic paints).
Close-up of the sunlit mountain.
Finished! Into the World of Light 48 x 60″ mixed media painting by Holly Van Hart
In “Top Fifty Questions”, I’ll answer the top questions I’m asked as an artist. (These are usually asked at cocktail parties and other fun social events.)
Can I mix styles of art in my home? Yes!
Combining a mix of art styles in your home shows off your unique tastes, life experiences, and creativity. It personalizes your home, makes it even more interesting, and opens up whole new conversations.
Magnetic Dreams 48 x 60″ mixed media painting by Holly Van Hart
With Magnetic Dreams, I was aiming for a moody painting. The scene is imagined, drawn from a love of the ocean and memories of many captivating ferry rides.
The calm of the quiet mountains is juxtaposed with the energy of the watercolor techniques and drips. (This is a mixed media painting on canvas, using acrylic paints, but painted with watercolor techniques.)
Here are some detail pics –
Magnetic Dreams, detail of painting by Holly Van Hart (upper left)
Magnetic Dreams, detail of painting by Holly Van Hart (lower middle)
Magnetic Dreams, detail of painting by Holly Van Hart (lower right)
Magnetic Dreams 48 x 60″ mixed media painting by Holly Van Hart $7500
Magnetic Dreams 48 x 60″ mixed media painting by Holly Van Hart Currently hanging in my home, but it could be hanging in yours 🙂
The Boundary of Spring 48 x 36″ oil painting on canvas by Holly Van Hart
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.
A Full Life 30 x 40 oil painting by Holly Van Hart
The abstract nature paintings you see on this website are inspired by life’s limitless possibilities!
Each painting is meant to convey a sense of plenty, fullness, color, prosperity, and opportunity. Sometimes we have all of these things in our lives. Sometimes we’re only wishing for them.
But it’s always nice to think and dream about them!
‘A Full Life’ is available for purchase (30 x 40″ original oil painting on canvas, painted on the edges, wired on the back, ready to hang, $3800 + tax). For a limited time, shipping is free for VIP members. Contact email@example.com for details.
Have you ever strolled through a forest and felt strong sunlight beaming through the trees? That’s what I was aiming for with this new painting, Washed in Light. It is set in springtime, with lots of bright yellow-green leaves. Come take a walk with me down the winding path!
Washed in Light 36 x 48″ mixed media painting by Holly Van Hart $4800
Here are some in-progress pics for this painting –
This will be a new forest painting. Experimenting with using more yellow.
Add the sky and started some trees.
Lots more trees, adding variety of sizes and colors.
And even more trees.
Starting to add the leaves.
Lots more leaves. The background leaves need to be pushed back (to give it more depth).
Drumroll please. Here’s the finished painting –
Washed in Light 36 x 48″ mixed media painting by Holly Van Hart $4800
And here’s how it would look hanging in a living room –
Washed in Light Mixed media painting by Holly Van Hart (Installed)
I’d like to introduce you to ‘Nest at Night’, the latest member of my Possibilities series.
‘Nest at Night’ is a more abstracted painting than most of the others in this series. I was inspired by –
* the idea (the virtually limitless possibilities we have in our lives if we choose to embrace them),
* the mood (mysterious), and
* the color (a very deep red).
As I was painting, I got absorbed (and even lost) in the reds. It took many layers of oil paint (and believe it or not, many different colors) to achieve the desired hue and depth. The dark reds and the sliver of a moon contribute to the mysterious feel of this work.
Do you like mystery in artwork? I’d love to know; please comment below.