Featured: Jenna Smith

Meet the Maker - Holly Roach

Visiting Holly Roach at her home studio is always a delight, it's warm and inviting because that's the kind of person Holly is. We sat and chatted over coffee while she quietly worked on some ideas for new work and added finishing touches to another. We even got a visit from Charlie 🐱. In this blog Holly describes her long career in the art world, the playful process she has developed to art making and confesses that no medium or material is off limits.

Holly Roach Artist Blog

How did you start your career as an artist?

My career in art started off as a freelance illustrator, roughly 28 years ago. I was lucky enough to have regularly weekly and monthly gigs doing editorial illustrations for a few NZ magazines and newspapers. Looking back I realise how fortunate I was to have weekly illustration work. I don’t think that is so common in the industry now. I also had some regular work with Random House NZ doing maps, spot illustrations and hand lettering for educational, travel and travel/food themed books.
Once my daughter Harper arrived, I found deadlines harder to meet, and time harder to juggle, so I began doing more self initiated projects, which often included a children illustration inspired paintings that would fill up her room. Although having a child limited my ability to do commissioned illustration work, it spring boarded a career in painting. Other doors started opening when other ones were shutting. Eventually I got enough nerve to put my paintings out there, in art exhibitions, markets and art fundraisers, and I have been carrying on ever since.

Holly Roach Artist Blog Holly Roach Artist Blog

What yours background? Did you go to art school?

Yes, I did formally study art. Back in my twenties, back in the 80’s, I took a 3 year illustration course, gaining a Diploma in Illustration, from Sheridan College in Canada. I also did a year study here in Auckland at AUT, doing a Certificate in Fabric Design and Print and loved it! Both studies inform my approach to most of my art.

Can you describe your style and how you came to it?

I certainly have a few styles going on. I think the choice of medium I use, definitely defines the style that I use. I do a lot of work that has a more graphic or illustrative feel, and this work is created with techniques that I gained in my formal study. This style has certainly been strengthened since learning how to screen print. Although I rarely do a series of screen prints, I will often use screen printing to create an original work. I am often using my squeegee to put large amounts of colour down. I love, in equal measures, the ability to create clean lines and shape, along with unexpected messy textures by using my screen printing tools. My painting style is purely a self taught thing, and is constantly evolving. Paint, brush and wood panel board are my go to mediums. I also do work that would be considered purely decorative, or similar to art found in surface pattern design, which is yet another different style, using lots of line work and washes. I guess the one thing that ties all these very different styles together is that they have a retro feel about them.

Holly Roach Artist Blog

What are the main themes/ideas in your art?

The main themes of my paintings tend to centre around native birds and botanicals. My more illustrative work is more random and definitely inspired by mid-century poster designs. I have a continuing series of hipster bearded guys, small stylized houses and food often makes an appearance.

What is your process for creating a new artwork?

Once I have found my inspiration, and decided on my image, I usually start offloosely sketching, so loose that sometimes I can’t quite see what my intention was. I usually sketch at the size that the piece will eventually be, but I also work in small sketchbooks, that contain reference drawings and notes for possible future work. After a loose sketch, I spend some time refining the drawing and composition, and will often cut shapes from my stack of painted paper to get the balance right. I use this collage process throughout a lot of my work. It helps to see what works, without committing. I than can take a photo with my phone, before removing my collage shapes, and transfer my sketch down onto my chosen substrate. The ability to quickly record various compositions or ideas using simple cut paper and my phone is a godsend to someone like me, who struggles with the decision making process. I still struggle, but in smaller time periods now. Once my drawing is down, I get to work with my choice of brush, squeegee or pen and away I go.

Holly Roach Artist Blog Holly Roach Artist Blog

What materials do you like to work with you when creating your art?

Might be easier to settle on what materials I don’t particularly like to use, as I am happy to try out all sorts of materials. Often it’s just the cost of art supplies that limit my experimenting.
I do love screen printing on fabric, so all materials involved in this carry on are some of my favourites. A random screenshot of my work table would show a squeegee, spatula, card, an ink roller, scissors, scalpel knife, cutting matt, acrylic paint, ink, paper and the humble, yet all important pencil.

I love experimenting with, and using texture and playing with different tools often creates some interesting outcomes, especially when used incorrectly. Happy accidents are the best.

What/who is your main source of inspiration?

Inspiration is endless these days, it’s almost overwhelming to see all the wonderful things that creative humans get up to. When I don’t have anything in particular that I am itching to create, there are a few go to places that I seek out for a hit of inspiration. I often have a morning coffee perusing my stack of Uppercase Magazines - a goldmine of creative goodness. I highly recommend that everyone get this publication to arrive in their letterbox. Pinterest is a great source for reference, to further a spark that is slowly burning. The double edge sword I call Instagram is equally inspiring and soul crushing, depending on whether my inner critic has joined me for coffee. My stash of art books, are loyal companions, some rather dog eared and covered in inky fingerprints. Of course art galleries should be first on the list for everyone, not only artists. Art galleries contain visual conversations that are going on in our societies, so they are important and inspiring for all of us. I have to admit that I don’t go out to them as much as I should.

Go see art. Viewing art completes the process of the work.

Holly Roach Artist Blog

Where do you create your art?

I work at home. I work around the house, literally, depending on the project . My dining room table is shamefully marked with evidence of my creative endeavours. My painting easel fits fine in my sunny kitchen. I have a work/laundry room that holds my 2 metre print table and a large sink that allows me to get messy, but is unfortunately lacking good natural light, so my persistent itch to paint large is still to be scratched.

What do you want people to think/feel when they see your art?

I hope people get a sense of delight when they view my work. It’s always lovely when people tell me that my works takes them back to a time, a place or age in their life. That is sort of full circle for me, as it’s often those aspects of my past that I am bringing to my art. I want people to be curious about how I created a piece. That’s the second thing that grabs me when viewing art. I want to know how the artist did it. Of course I always hope when people view my work, they feel they can’t live without it, and purchase it for their daily fix of delight.

Holly Roach Artist Blog
Holly Roach Artist Blog

What are you working on right now?

I have recently started a series of botanical still lifes inspired by the amazing show at the Auckland Art Gallery of NZ/French artist Louise Henderson. What a fabulous varied body of work. I managed to indulge in it 4 times before it left the building. My new girl crush. If I can manage to channel a smidgen of Ms Henderson’s talent, I’ll be happy.

What are your plans for the future or something you would like to work on next?

I would love to find more space and more nerve to go large! Large like the remarkable '12 Months' series by Louise Henderson. I would also like to explore abstract painting. Take some create workshops just to play. I am pencilling in a trip back to Canada, which may take a lot of wishful thinking. Learn how to focus. Continuing my effort to be a better citizen on and for this big blue planet. Live more simply.

Three words to describe your artwork.

Humorous. Experimental. Available. :)

Holly Roach Artist Blog

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