Most of my texture is created using heavy acrylics in an underpainting. That is, my first step is to apply acrylic paints to the stretched canvas (usually red paint, applied thickly), and let that dry before starting the first layer of oil paints. The textured swirls are made using a variety of tools; my favorites being a painting knife and a hair comb. (You can see a video demo of the texture process here.)
The texture sometimes aligns with the subject of the painting, and sometimes goes against the natural lines of what’s represented in the painting. That’s on purpose. It mirrors the complexity of our lives.
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.
How much time does it take to complete a painting?
For me, it takes 4-6 months from start to finish (elapsed time) to complete an oil painting. This is mostly because I paint in layers. Each painting has five to ten layers of paint, and each layer takes a week or so to dry.
Plus I need extra time at the end to reflect on the (almost) finished work and make any last improvements. Sometimes what seems like a minor improvement will make me soooo much happier with the end result.
The actual working time on any one painting is typically 60 – 120 hours. And sometimes more. It varies greatly by subject matter, size, and style. It also varies by how much I’m stretching myself into new territory; the more experimental, the longer it takes.
‘Soft Start’ was inspired by the nests of a bird called a swallow. Swallows live on all the earth’s continents except Antarctica. They use the feathers of other birds to line their nests and keep their eggs toasty warm.
Eggs that are incubated in such a cozy nest are surely full of possibilities, but with a softer start than most.
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.
‘Holly Van Hart: Possibilities Abound’ book for Solo Exhibition at Triton Museum of Art Free Instant Download No sign-up required
This 28-page full color book accompanies Holly Van Hart’s Possibilities Abound solo exhibition at the Triton Museum of Art.
Van Hart’s oil paintings feature larger-than-life birds’ eggs and nests to symbolize the promise of our own capabilities, to be nurtured and explored and stretched to their fullest potential.
This book features beautiful color plates of Van Hart’s richly colored paintings.
It includes essays by DeWitt Cheng, art writer for Art Ltd, Artillery, ARTnews and Visual Art Source, and Preston Metcalf, Chief Curator at the Triton Museum of Art. Van Hart has been featured in the Huffington Post, The San Jose Mercury News, and on Silicon Valley Talk Art Cable TV.
“It is work that is powerful in its simplicity and message of human connectivity.” – Preston Metcalf, Chief Curator of the Triton Museum of Art.
“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.
Nestled is about the warm feelings of being nestled close to our loved ones. The variety of the twigs and branches in the nest symbolize the variety of personalities and habits and desires we have within our own families. They are all intertwined.
When you click on the image to get a larger view, you can see some of the texture that underlies this painting. This is meant to convey the complexity and nuances of the interactions in our families, oftentimes unseen to the outside world.
Gallery Wrap side view of “Nestled”
Originally published in 2013, and updated with info on prints
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.
P.S. Speaking about self-promotion, the painting shown above is named ‘Afternoon Light’ and it’s for sale 🙂 The price is $1,500, including shipping within the US. 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 email@example.com.