Today we’d like to introduce you to Holly Wach.
Every artist has a unique story. Can you briefly walk us through yours?
You know that kid who was constantly drawing in school? That was me. My fascination started and ended with the outdoors and its inhabitants: bugs, animals, and people. It all inspired endless curiosity from the earliest age.
Later I would take anatomy in high school to study the structure and engineering of animal and human life. I still spent lots of time outdoors, always watching. By then I knew I needed a serious art school that focused on the figure and deeply learning the craft of artmaking.
Advice from undergrad teachers lead me to pursue an MFA at the New York Academy of Fine Art. Even though I always knew what I wanted to be, I was still unsatisfied that I could only give my art part-time attention.
Putting myself through art school in the city meant scrappy living and working up to five jobs. For years I was driven by a confidence in my abilities but was also scared to go all-in on making a living at fine art. Like many, I was raised on the idea that making art meant “don’t quit your day job.” How my life later turned into doing exactly what I love, full-time, actually happened in two stages over the next ten years.
In 2008 I moved from NYC to California, started a family, and proceeded to take a six-year break from creating art. Instead, I developed teacher training programs that helped transform art education for the City of Oakland, CA. I loved making a difference in young people’s lives through art, while showing teachers how to integrate art into their lessons.
Then in 2015, life started a new chapter when we moved to Rhode Island to be closer to family. I drew a line in the sand and made the decision to go all-in on my art. Soon after that, a mulberry tree outside my new studio window fruited. Watching all the birds come to feed on the tree provided an intimate look into their fascinating personalities. I allowed myself to follow my curiosity of the birds, and they have since taken over my work.
For me, being an artist started very young. But becoming an artist–a successful artist supporting a family–has taken my whole life.
Please tell us about your art.
I think that nature provides us with a constant reminder to slow down in a modern world teeming with distractions. Luckily my imagination always looked outside for inspiration.
In my youngest years, I made friends with bugs, frogs, crabs, snails, slugs. Their personalities, design, and beauty still provide endless curiosity. The more I draw and paint the creatures of nature, the more of themselves they reveal to me, and the more I am able to see. I share these wonders with the viewer through my art.
These days, I work mostly in watercolor, and in pastel for the larger work. I find that watercolor captures the birds’ lightness of gesture and movement. The kind of feedback I get now is “you really capture the spirit of the bird.” Collectors say it gives them a little jolt of “happy” when my paintings catch their eye in the morning.
I’m humbled by the overwhelming response to my birds, and I attribute that to following your curiosity and always investing in yourself–your craft, your person, your family–all of it.
We often hear from artists that being an artist can be lonely. Any advice for those looking to connect with other artists?
Going to shows and later becoming a vendor at them has been a great way to meet colleagues and collectors while getting valuable feedback. It opens the door to additional venues and better ways to show & sell my work. People who respond to your work can be incredibly supportive and willing to share their ideas and connections.
Instagram has also been a wonderful way to build a community of fellow artists and meet collectors. It is hard getting out there at first, but every time I have, it has brought new opportunities, learnings, and I always meet interesting people.
How or where can people see your work? How can people support your work?
My online shop at HollyWach.com shows both original works and prints. And I’d say that following me on Instagram is the best glimpse into my working processes.
People can touch and feel the work at some of my favorite shops in the Boston Area: There’s one called ‘A Curated World’ in Somerville and another is KindGoods in Maynard. I’m in RI & CT as well, with more shops in South Eastern Mass coming soon. It’s all listed on my website at HollyWach.com/retail.
I just love meeting people at shows, too! I am at the Sunday SOWA Market through most of the season as well as some of the other big art fairs in the area. Just check HollyWach.com/events. Hope to see some new faces out there.
As an artist, how do you define success and what quality or characteristic do you feel is essential to success as an artist?
These days I define success in the fine arts as making the best work you can consistently produce and getting yourself ‘out there’ however you can.
The old guard of galleries and museums as gatekeepers to an artist’s success and prosperity has changed. When I see artists putting their work in front of people, taking chances both in art and business, and working to improve their craft, I can almost smell their potential. I believe the world comes out to help those people. People WANT to help someone who’s that motivated to achieve their dream. That energy may take a while to snowball, but the constant meeting of people, getting feedback, adapting, risking, failing, and growing is what builds it, so that’s how I define success–staying invested and always growing in your craft and in your life.
As artists, creativity is our superpower. But it’s wasted if we stay in the studio and listen to old voices saying things like “It’s too hard,” “You can’t make a living at this,” etc. That’s a very narrow and limiting way to think. A career in art is different than working for someone else–it requires that you invent it. You can do it on the web, on the street, on a cruise ship, on a beach…but you have to design it around YOU.
As makers, we are naturally creative. The light came on for me when I suddenly saw ‘making a living through art’ as another medium, as a material to create with. So my secret, if there is one, is that I applied my artistic creativity to my art ‘business.’ The possibilities began to appear: art shows, a studio space, an assistant, and my career was up and running.
Prior to that, I think just Getting to Work is the key. Treat studio time like any other job you would show up to every day. It’s not about inspiration. The inspiration comes through the act of showing up, following curiosity and making work. If you have a genuine interest, let that also fuel the extra work an artist needs to do in order to make a living and design a life they would really enjoy.
We naturally improve the more we try, so I say make art! constantly and keep becoming a stronger artist. Then as demand grows for your work, from one to two, from two to 200, treat it like a business. Put policies and good systems in place so you can focus on bringing people joy in the form of your art. The more art we make and the more we share our work, the stronger artists and people we become.
- Address: 545 Pawtucket Ave
Pawtucket, RI 02860
- Website: www.hollywach.com
- Phone: 19175761820
- Email: email@example.com
- Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/hollywach/
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/hollywachartist/?ref=bookmarks
Images were taken by Stephanie Alvarez Ewens