We had the good fortune of connecting with Holly Harris and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Holly, what led you to pursuing a creative path professionally?
Great question! I’ll try for the abridged version…but I’ll be honest…that’s gonna be tough! Being a professional artist and creative wasn’t the path I found myself on many years ago. Rather, it is my “do over” career, built on a foundation of life experiences. Let me explain… As a young person, I often found it difficult to express myself verbally. Being slightly dyslexic made it harder for me to express ideas and thoughts clearly until I discovered that I could sketch them faster and more clearly than trying to explain them verbally. My mother was most excited by this…she would tell me that I was the only person she knew that could take a 2 minute story and turn it into 20. As a creative, I’m compelled to verbally ‘paint’ a visual for my listener and it would be unkind of my not to touch upon every little detail. My mother knew that if I were to sketch out what I was trying to say, I’d be quietly doing so and she’d have the ‘story’ in half the time. In college, I found myself sketching concepts and ideas to clarify my own understanding of them. Although I was accepted out of high-school to the MassArt and Butera School of Art in Boston, I didn’t have the resources or confidence to do so. As life would have it, I took a different path, one that presented a more conventional, yet still interesting career in the hospitality industry. I had the great fortune to travel and experience…a lot including several years with the Walt Disney Company.. After a 20+ year career in hospitality with a desire to lean more toward my creative side, I opened my first ‘creative’ orientated business designing and planning corporate events for Fortune 500 companies. As the economy began to shift in a downward trajectory, it was time to pivot. I knew I wanted to do something less volatile and more creative combining my hospitality and creative background but felt the timing to become a full time artist may not be the best decision. So…I went back to school to earn a BS in Interior Design. Since 2008, I’ve operated my interior design business, specializing in hospitality interiors. One evening over a glass of wine and some nibbles in my studio with a couple of my furniture venders, I shared a sketch with them rather than a lengthy story. The sketch was very rough but simply told the story of something I saw while driving that I just ‘had to get out of my head”, so I did a quick sketch on my iPad. Much too my surprise…they loved it! These two women, also artists in their own right, are responsible for me putting my toes back in the artistic waters…so to speak. Pure passion for creating soon took over and I was all in and super jazzed. From there I found myself painting more often, larger canvases, bolder. and experimenting with new mediums and techniques. Within a few months, I was showing at a local gallery ‘art walk’ and in less than a year…I became a resident artist at ArtServe in Fort Lauderdale where I currently, after four years, have my studio. So…why did I pursue a creative career [albeit a long pursuit]? The answer is simple…the sheer pleasure of creating! Written on my studio walls loud and proud.…”no one is the boss of me…my rules for creating art…well…there are none…make your own rules and embrace the good ones! Just create!”
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
Wow…for me this could be a couple of pages…but I’ll spare you that! I like to think of my art as honest art. Honest in the sense that I typically don’t have a pre-conceived idea or sketch of what I ‘plan’ for my canvas. For me to be true to my personal style, I believe my work not only needs to be honest to me but also the viewer. I create my pieces to be intentionally obscure because I think it’s important to allow the imagination of the viewer to take the lead based on their own perceptions and emotions. As a self taught artist, I draw inspiration from what speaks to me and although I may have a basic idea of what may end up on the canvas, I allow the first strokes of my brush to take me on an unintentional journey, emotionally driven by a feeling, or something I may have heard, seen or even experienced. In many cases, I’m inspired by the music I may be blasting in my studio. Mine has been a long journey indeed, but always there for me to find at a time that was right for me…the time is now and I’m ok with that.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
I’m an artist! I’m spontaneous! I’m a people pleaser! So…that being said I answer with…depends upon who it is.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
My husband, Ken Harris, VP Operations, Adrianne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts-Miami Dade, for his continued encouragement and support. My daughter, Nikki O’Leary, an amazingly talented Chicago area photographer…always supportive, encouraging and always offering an honest critique. My dear friends and artists [the 2 women I mention in my story] Mishu & Jennifer – I would not have had the courage to pick up my paint brushes after such a long time if not for their encouragement [and a little arm twisting]. ArtServe Fort Lauderdale – for providing a supportive environment for creatives such as myself and endless resources Mr. Lions [God rest his soul], my high-school art teacher [Bourne High, Cape Cod, MA], for his encouragement and for keeping a straight face when my abstract descriptive words would not exactly come out like they should have.
All works represented in the attached images are original works by Artist Holly Harris.