Artist Feature: Holly Tharp

I’m going to try to get back into the habit of interviewing artists for my blog.  Each Friday, I plan to feature an artist who inspires me.  This week, I’d like to introduce you to Ms. Holly Tharp.

Holly Tharp has been one of the most influential artists in my career.  She hosted a class at Full Sail University on watercolor painting and that lit a fire within me.  It got me painting after 10 years of focusing on a marketing career.  I wouldn’t be painting today if it wasn’t for her.  She is a Department Chair for the art program at Full Sail University and she is truly amazing.
You can check out her work at  Don’t forget to “like” her page on Facebook too:
1. How long have you known you were an artist and what steps did you take to get to where you are today?

I have been interested in art since I was in elementary school. I took every art class offered in middle and high school, then went on to study art in college. I focused on steel sculpture and photography for my BS at Florida State University. I didn’t begin painting until 1994 and can say that I am self-taught, I didn’t take any painting classes during college.

2. You paint a lot of figures and abstract paintings.  What inspires your work?

 I am super drawn to gesture, color, and texture and how they can tell a story. I like challenging myself to find new ways to communicate through those three elements… Simple figurative work can show as many emotions as color- when I mix the two with texture, it exemplifies what I want to convey. My non-objective work is more of a meditation practice for me- I do them in one sitting and never know exactly how they will turn out; it is really the process that is the most important.

3. What kind of creative patterns, routines, rituals do you have? 
I am not sure that have patterns or routines, but I definitely paint in groups of three. It doesn’t matter what I am working on; landscapes, figures, abstracts/non-objective, I complete sets of three. I have no idea why I do it,  I just have always done it this way.

4. Who has been your biggest inspiration?
I surround myself with incredibly talented people, their work, experience, drive, and friendships have pushed me to continue my practice and inspire me to try new ideas and work out old ones.

5. What five things can you not paint without?

Wine, a book on tape, isolation, light, and sleep.

6. What’s the best advice you have for artists who are just starting out?
It depends on the type of artwork that interests them. If they love realism, then they need reference (without question)- they need to start by taking their own photographs to learn to see and observe their subject matter. I would also say, stop asking how others do their work and spend time experimenting with all kinds of mediums. Everyone has to put in their own time and shouldn’t try to skip on the hours it takes to become good at what you do. A teacher can only “teach” you so much, it is up to you to practice, experiment, and fail in order to learn.