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Consumer’s Guide to Original Art

Whether you own 100 pieces of art or are looking for your first one, this book gives you the info you need to shop confidently (and have loads of fun!). Includes 5 things you must do when collecting original art, and 3 things to avoid.

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Sweet Escape

We all need to escape sometimes!

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

Embracing the Light

Here’s my latest abstracted forest painting –

Abstract landscape painting | forest trees land sky | green blue yellow brown red | painting by Holly Van Hart | Best of Houzz | Architect of Peace

Embracing the Light
48 x 60″ mixed media painting on canvas by Holly Van Hart
$7,500

This pic shows Embracing the Light installed (center) –

Abstracted forest paintings by Holly Van Hart
Woodland Symphony, Embracing the Light, Autumn Dance, and The Stories They Tell

Please contact holly.vanhart@gmail.com or 650 646 5590 for availability and pricing. Your email or call is welcome any time.

Do Tortured Souls Create Better Art?

Some people think that depressed or angry people create better art. Is that true?

Or, can happy people create masterpieces too?

There are no simple answers to these questions of course, but just for fun let’s look at a sample of the world’s greatest artists (my personal faves) and explore the question.   Here goes . . .

Winslow Homer "The New Novel"
“The New Novel”, Winslow Homer, 1877

Winslow Homer (1836-1910) was considered the greatest American painter of his time.  He created extraordinary landscapes, marine paintings, and figures too. Homer was a recluse and a bit odd, but not depressed, enraged or insane. That’s one point for ‘satisfied souls’.

Georgia O'Keeffe's painting
“Goat Horn with Red”, Georgia O’Keeffe, 1945

Georgia O’Keeffe (1887-1986) revolutionized American modern art with bold abstracts, landscapes and flowers.  For decades she lived by herself in New Mexico, and sometimes suffered from serious depression. One point for ‘tortured souls’.

Mark Rothko painting
“No. 1 (Royal Red and Blue)”, Mark Rothko, 1954

Mark Rothko (1903-1970) was a Russian-Jewish abstract painter who emigrated to the US at the age of 10.  He achieved huge commercial success during his lifetime.  Rothko was most certainly depressed, drank heavily, took barbiturates, and sadly, at age 66, committed suicide.  Add a second point for ‘tortured’.

JMW Turner "Norham Castle"
“Norham Castle – Sunrise”, JMW Turner, c 1835

JMW Turner (1775-1851) was a renowned English landscape painter known as “the painter of light”. Turner seemed like a fairly normal guy.  He had plenty of friends, and wasn’t depressed, enraged, or insane.  Now it’s even, two points for ‘tortured’ and two points for ‘satisfied’.

Joan Mitchell painting
“La Grande Vallee XIII”, Joan Mitchell, 1983

Joan Mitchell (1925 -1992) was a prominent Abstract Expressionist who lived in Chicago, Manhattan, and Paris. Mitchell was an alcoholic, often depressed, and described many of her paintings as “violent and angry”.  ‘Tortured souls’ lead at 3 points to 2.

This last painting, very humbly put after the ‘greats’ above it, is mine.  As for me, am I enraged or depressed or feeling like a tortured soul?  No, not especially, but on any given day I may be any of those things. (Just ask my husband and children.)  Is my art better on those days?  No, but I think it is more experimental, sometimes to better effect but not always.

Summing up this totally non-scientific survey . . . The ‘tortured souls’ are ahead at 3 points (Rothko, O’Keeffe, Mitchell) to 2 (Turner, Homer).   Perhaps the conclusion is ‘you don’t have to be unhappy to create great art, but it helps’.

What do you think? Do tortured souls create more expressive art? Leave a comment on Facebook www.facebook.com/hollyvanhart  or  Email me with your thoughts – holly.vanhart@gmail.com

 

Related links: 

 

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.
Shipping is free for VIP members (that’s you!)

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.

 

New landscape painting – Grazing the Light

Landscapes are a subject I come back to again and again. Even in the midst of working on a series of forest or flower paintings, sometimes I feel compelled to paint an abstract landscape using oil paints.

With ‘Grazing the Light’, I was aiming to capture the feeling of an overcast day, but with some sunlight breaking through.  Across the expanse of water, we can see mountains near and far. But what is that splash of yellow/orange? Is it man-made or natural? It is meant to add mystery to the painting.

It’s hard to see in this digital image, but etched into the foreground of this painting (bottom left) is part of a poem by Walt Whitman, “Every hour is an unspeakably perfect miracle”.

If you’d like to see a higher resolution image, please lmk.

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

Purchase details

Try Before Your Buy program

What is the hardest part of creating a painting?

What is the hardest part of creating a painting?

The hardest part of creating a painting is coming up with an amazing idea, and then turning that idea into an inspired design.

Producing the painting (that is, putting the paint on the canvas)  isn’t a piece of cake either, but that seems to flow once the first part is nailed down.

 

Click here to see the rest of the Top 50 Questions

Have a question to add to the top 50?  Ask away  (in the comments section below or send an email to holly.vanhart@gmail.com).

Grand Prize, California Statewide Painting Competition

Originally published in 2014 (and re-published now just for fun!)

San Jose Mercury News

Holly Van Hart wins first place at Statewide Painting Competition

Saratoga resident Holly Van Hart poses with ‘Possibilities Abound’, the work that won her the Triton Museum of Art’s Statewide Painting Competition (Photograph by George Sakkestad, San Jose Mercury News)

Saratoga artist places first in Triton Museum competition

By Khalida Sarwari    POSTED:   01/06/2014

If anyone was looking for Holly Van Hart on Christmas Day, she could be found in the studio of her Saratoga home “painting up a storm.”

Fresh from placing first in the Triton Museum of Art’s 2013 statewide painting competition, Van Hart has been busy preparing for a series of exhibitions this year.

“I have a good idea of how many works I need. I just have to work hard at creating good works,” Van Hart said just weeks after a reception where she was announced as one of two first-place winners in the Triton competition for her 30-by-40-inch painting Possibilities Abound. Along with the work of fellow first-place winner Cuong Nguyen of San Jose, Van Hart’s painting, depicting a nest cradling three eggs, was tops among 92 works that were ultimately selected for exhibition from more than 1,000 entries.

Van Hart’s prize is a solo exhibition at Triton in November. For that, Van Hart is building on the theme of Possibilities Abound, one of several abstract nest paintings she has all over her home.

For Van Hart, it’s the symbolism that draws her to the subject matter. Nests, she said, represent our homes, and eggs stand for lives yet to be hatched and the possibilities they have ahead of them.

Eggs also signify self-invention, a concept that Van Hart applied in her personal life in June 2013 when she quit her job at Microsoft to pursue oil painting full time.

“I was a high-tech sales operations director for many years. I had a really good job and it was fun, but this is funner,” she said with a laugh.

It’s a decision she has not regretted, she said.

“The whole time [I was working], as a hobby I was doing art, drawing, watercolor, acrylics and then oil,” she said. “I always liked it as a hobby, and I got more and more passionate about it. When I thought the time was right, I switched to doing it full time.”

The extra time has given Van Hart the opportunity to immerse herself in her hobby, and although she no longer keeps a strict 9-to-5 routine, that’s not to say she doesn’t work hard at her craft.

“I work every day,” she said. “I paint full time Monday to Friday, all day. On weekends I sometimes paint or do art business stuff.”

Aside from abstracts, she also enjoys nature and landscape paintings. Her past works include figures of people in action and a series of works based on the sculptures of Rodin.

Van Hart’s paintings have been exhibited in Los Gatos. In 2009, the Los Gatos Art Association named her as its artist of the year.

This year will present several opportunities for the public to view her works. In March, Van Hart will display her paintings at Mike’s Cafe in Palo Alto, and in May she will be participating in Silicon Valley Open Studios, an annual event when artists open their home studios to the general public, allowing them to converse with the artists and purchase artworks directly.

Triton’s Statewide Painting Competition is held every two years. This was the first time in the museum’s history that two first-place winners were selected. The exhibition featuring the 92 selected works will run through Feb. 2. The Triton Museum is at 1505 Warburton Ave., in Santa Clara.

 

What do you like most about being an artist?

oil painting by Holly Van Hart

Palm Winds
Detail of oil painting by Holly Van Hart (sold)
See full painting here

In “Top Fifty Questions”, I’ll answer the top 50 questions I’m asked as an artist.

What do you like most about being an artist?

The absolute best thing about being an artist is that it opens up a whole world of connections and friendships. It also strengthens the friendships I already have. I love that.

In terms of my work, I love creating a painting that is a personal breakthrough, or that others really like. (The overlap is not always 100%.) It’s hugely inspiring when a painting wins an award, or is accepted into an exhibit, or is purchased by a collector. These things make me thrilled to be in the studio and painting every day.

Click here to see the rest of the Top 50 Questions

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.

[Top 50 Questions] Do you use photo references?

Yes, I use photo references for most paintings. Typically I’ll use 3-5 photo references as input for a single painting. The photos help me better understand the shape of the subject, its highlights, and shadows.

Often I’ll start a painting by creating a realistic rendering of the subject. Once I’m pleased with the design and the how the subject looks, then I put away the photo references and the real fun begins! I crank up the music, get loose, use my imagination, and start introducing exciting not-found-in-nature colors and shapes and rhythms. This is where the ‘abstract’ of my ‘abstract nature paintings’ comes in.

 

Click here to see the rest of the Top 50 Questions

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Guess what . . The San Jose Institute of Contemporary Art has an amazing show called Detritus. An image of my studio wall is included!Posted here from Instagram

What’s the favorite part of your job?

What’s the favorite part of your job? Whether you’re a banker, lawyer, stay-at-home parent, or an artist, we all have something we love most about our jobs.

The favorite part of my job is . . . you!

For realz. The absolute best part of being an artist is that it gives me an excuse to get to know you better.

So, today I’m featuring a collector of my art and friend, Tamami Honma –

Tamami Honma

Tamami Honma
Internationally acclaimed pianist
Friend and a collector of my art

Here are some of the many things that are totally cool about Tamami –

  • Tamami is an internationally acclaimed pianist who has performed in many of the world’s great musical institutions.
  • Tamami is head of the Saratoga Education Foundation, and (for the last 6 years) a cub scout leader.  Scouts is where we met.
  • She is a mother of 4 gorgeous children. All except the youngest play 2 instruments.
  • If you want to see one of her absolutely breathtaking performances, check out the performance schedule here – www.tamamihonma.com/ .

I’m honored that 4 of my paintings hang in Tamami’s home. The latest is Rose Jamboree –

Abstact rose painting | Holly Van Hart | abstract red roses with green and multi-color leaves, oil painting, title 'Rose Jamboree'

Rose Jamboree
Oil painting by Holly Van Hart
See latest nature paintings

Watch a video of this painting being made here.

 

(Link to all videos on Holly’s YouTube video channel)

It’s a privilege to know you Tamami!!!

‘Embracing the Light’ is paired with a custom cocktail

Embracing the Light
48 x 60″ mixed media painting on canvas by Holly Van Hart
Sold

For a holiday party, I paired paintings with custom cocktails. ‘Embracing the Light’ (above) was paired with a cocktail I named ‘Red Smash’.

Here’s the recipe –
2 ounces London dry gin
1 ounce cranberry juice
1 ounce Rose’s lime juice
Whole fresh cranberries, for garnish

It was a big hit!!

Why Red Smash is paired with Embracing the Light
In keeping with the Dutch theme for our party . . . gin was first made in Holland and is known as ‘Dutch courage’.

The gin in this drink uses juniper berries as its primary ingredient. ‘Embracing the Light’ is primarily dark green, like juniper.

Gin uses ‘botanicals’ to give it its complex flavor. In addition to juniper, Boodles British Gin includes hints of coriander seed, angelica root, angelica seed, cassia bark, nutmeg, rosemary and sage. The painting ‘Embracing the Light’ uses an equally wide range of colors to give it its complexity; in fact it uses all the colors of the rainbow (red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple) and many variations.

Enjoy! (The cocktail and the painting!)

New! A Deep Breath

As you scroll down, you’ll see the progression of a newly released painting called ‘A Deep Breath’.

But first, I’d like to share this quote because captures my inspiration for this painting . . .

“In nature, nothing is perfect and everything is perfect.” — Alice Walker

Starting a new forest drip painting. After failing at a bunch of earlier drip paintings Im determined to approach this differently | Holly Van Hart

One cool way to make a perfect, imperfect painting is to rely on lots of drips. That’s what I’ll do here.

Forest landscape painting in progress | Holly Van Hart

The drips can look like trunks, and branches, and, well, drips.
In the art world, when you can clearly see signs that something is a painting (and not a photo and not a photorealistic painting), we call this “painterly”.
This will be painterly.

Detail - A Deep Breath - Mixed media painting by Holly Van Hart - 48 x 48

Here’s a detail view.
The closer up you look, the more painterly it gets!

And (take a deep breath) here’s the finished painting . . .

Abstract landscape forest painting by Holly Van Hart | A Deep Breath48 x 48 mixed media painting by Holly Van Hart$6500 | Brown white blue

A Deep Breath
48 x 48″ mixed media painting by Holly Van Hart
$6500

Installed painting - Landscape forest - A Deep Breath - Mixed media painting by Holly Van Hart - 48 x 48 INSTALLED (Custom)

‘A Deep Breath’ is hanging in my entryway.
It could be hanging in yours!
Purchase info here
To purchase, email holly.vanhart@gmail.com

To see all newly released paintings, click here.

For more paintings & inspirational quotes, click here.

[Top 50 Questions] Will this painting look good in my home?

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

Will this painting look good in my home? Great question. Here’s my take . . . if you fall in love with a painting, you can almost always find the right spot to hang it in your home. You may have to move another painting or a mirror or a print. But if you love the new painting, it’s worth the effort.

If you’re interested in one of the paintings here on my website, but are not sure if it will work in your living room, dining room, etc, please email me at holly.vanhart@gmail.com. If you live locally, I can take the painting (or a few paintings) to your home and we can try them out. If one works, great. If not, no worries.

To see related advice and ideas from interior design professionals, click here.

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.

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)
Buy a print
Commission a forest painting

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.

If I were an egg

Hi there. Meet ‘Possibilities on High’.

In the upper right of this painting, you can see a big and colorful bird’s nest.  It’s sitting up high on the branches of huge magnolia tree, on a warm summer day.

The nest looks peacefully and securely settled in the tree.  At the same time, it is quite exposed.

If I were an egg, I’d love to live in this nest in a magnolia tree (despite the risks of exposure).  Would you?

(If you’re wondering “What’s up with all the nests?”, click here.)

Originally published in 2013, and just updated and republished

[Top 50 Questions] How long have you been painting?

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.)

Question #4 –  How long have you been painting?

I’ve been painting my whole life, with one hiatus while in college.

As a girl I made many types of art . . . I painted, made ceramics and did crocheting and calligraphy.  My Mom was an artist; she gave us lessons and let us use her top-quality art supplies.  (Thanks Mom!)

In college, studying engineering was all consuming and my art was put on hold.

After graduating, I worked in high tech and pursued painting passionately as a hobby – taking dozens classes, reading thousands of books and articles, forming an art critique group, and painting every spare minute.

Now, as a professional artist, I paint every day, all day (every weekday + some weekends).  And every day I learn something new.

My art education will never be done. That’s a huge part of the fun 🙂

 

btw, the above painting is Amid the Scent of Roses. Interested in seeing how it was made? Here’s a short video for you . . .

 

Click here to see the rest of the Top 50 Questions

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[Top 50 Questions] Do you ever miss being in high tech?

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

Do you ever miss being in high tech?

Sure!

I definitely miss seeing my work-friends and colleagues more regularly.  They were/are an amazingly talented and multi-faceted group of people.  Good thing Facebook and LinkedIn give us an easy way to keep in touch!

What I also loved about high tech was the opportunity to constantly stretch myself and learn new things. Luckily I have that in abundance as an artist too.

One thing’s for sure . . . Being a full-time artist feels like what I was meant to do.

To read more about my career move to professional artist, click here.

 

Click here to see the rest of the Top 50 Questions.

 

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