The Greek philosopher Aristotle once explained that “The aim of art is to represent not the outward appearance of things, but their inward significance.” That really sums up the reason we chose to have a painting done memorializing our dog Hilo after he passed. Looking at the painting always brings back great memories and feelings of our time with him.
For the work, we chose an artist Holly Fries that has a talent for painting animals and brings them to life in a visually appealing and emotionally engaging way. She painted our dog in a way that really captured his spirit at his favorite place… the beach. When gazing at the painting I’ve often looked at the details from the eyes to the whiskers and wondered how do you capture such details in a painting? So to ease my wonderment, I was able to ask the artist herself. In this chat with Holly I was able to learn more about her story, passion and art.
1) Holly’s Art Imaginarium sounds like a magical place? What is it and how did you come up with the name?
Holly’s Art Imaginarium is the name of Holly’s business and the place where you can see her beautiful artwork on display. The whimsical name was the product of a family brainstorming session to come up with a name for her business. This creative process is also where some of the ideas for the next paintings are developed. You can check her artwork out on Facebook and Instagram.
2) You paint a range of subjects, but what motivates you to paint animals?
Holly didn’t start out painting animals. She was flipping through a book and found an interesting picture of a cow and decided to try to paint it. She found that she really enjoyed painting animals because they can be so interesting and funny as subjects. Animals are also a great way to spark an emotional connection with people through a painting. The cow that Holly painted is featured on her Facebook page and his name is “Nosey”. This was her first animal painting and the first one that she sold.
3) I find you have a great ability to capture the essence of an animal in your portraits. How are you able to do that?
Holly explains that a key part of really capturing the spirit of an animal is painting their eyes. As the saying goes the “eyes are the windows to the soul”. She takes great care to capture all the same details, but the eyes are really important in the process. The eyes show a reflection and create an emotional connection in a painting when a person sees the animal.
4) What is the most satisfying part about painting animals?
Holly really likes for the artwork to draw emotion and connection with the person viewing it. She gets pleasure knowing that someone feels happier or uplifted when they see her paintings. This is especially true when she paints a person’s pet and they can re-live a past experience or good memory.
5) Are you naturally able to just paint an animal or has it required a lot of work to be able to do it?
Initially when Holly thought about painting an animal she was a bit concerned about the complexity with capturing the fur and all the small details. After she successfully painted “Nosey” the cow… it simplified the process for her and she was able to move forward with other pieces. Over time she has fine-tuned the process of painting animals. She tries to capture each stand of fur in the paintings to really display the details. In her process she first sketches the subject, then transfers the drawing to the canvas and then paints everything. She often does this with photos that people have provided her where she really is able to capture the fine details of the animal. Her paintings can take a few days for a relatively simple piece to a month for a more complicated one. She generally works on several pieces at one time. This allows her to vary her work from the very intense and detail oriented pieces to the more fun and relaxing ones to keep her creative juices flowing.
6) How much of your work is paintings you decide you want to pursue versus ones that someone has requested you paint for them?
Holly works on commissioned pieces and ones of her own choosing at the same time and flips between the two to keep things fresh. But overall, she is usually working on several commissioned pieces at any one time. She is open to creating a commissioned piece at any time, so please check out her work on Facebook and Instagram. You can also reach her on those social media sites or you can email her at Hollysartimaginarium@gmail.com. You can also catch Holly at local events, she often paints at Palette 22, art fairs and is part of Del Ray Artisans. She also participates in Wags n’ Whiskers a community-oriented event for animal-loving shoppers of all ages at The Village at Shirlington.