Holly Hagan was born in Portland, Oregon in 1967 and from a very young age, she was drawing and seeing the world in shapes.
Hagan applied her love of shape and drawing throughout her education, and in 1989 graduated magna cum laude from the University of Oregon with a degree in fine art.
Holly began her career working in realism, focusing both on the figure and on wildlife landscapes. During this time, she developed a comprehensive understanding of structure and foundation, and spent endless hours finding the planes of the form. Her medium was wax - based colored pencil, and she would build up layers of wax, often completing only one to two square inches a day. While this early period still informs her work, she reached a point where re-creating the surface of an image or scene began to feel sterile.
After a 1995 visit to Santa Fe, she began painting with acrylics and her work took on a primitive contemporary approach, reinforced by her study of ancient art history. During this formative period – she describes these years as an “awakening” - she began creating works which took the viewer beyond the surface of the image to the radiance within the image.
Over the last decade, Holly has merged her early focus on structure and planes with her intuitive painting process to create works of a unique and definitive style. Her art interconnects the mystery and light of the natural landscape, capturing that place where the veil between here and there feels a little thinner. She utilizes extensive fracturing, not to show separation, but to reveal interconnection.
Currently her vision explores the human connection to the natural world, both seen and unseen, as she seeks to capture the genius loci, or spirit of place.
Holly’s paintings have been represented regionally in numerous exhibitions.
Holly has called Durango, Colorado home since 1997. When not painting, she can be found exploring the mountains and canyon country surrounding her home.
Holly describes her process:
"My process begins by having an experience in the natural environment, which causes a flurry of inspiration. It’s usually not the big epic vista, but something which captures my attention in a different, more energy-focused way.
I often complete a loose sketch or two, which is not for foundational purposes, but to remind me of the spirit of the place. I also take a number of photos while I’m on location. Then when I am back in my studio, I hand draw my vision onto the canvas using a watercolor pencil. Depending on the painting, the drawing can be loose or pretty tight.
When that is done, I lay in an underpainting of sienna or sienna/yellow ochre. This is a transparent layer, much like a watercolor. The next step is to lay in a base of color, also transparent. Once that is complete, any photographic reference material or sketching is put away and I begin going for it.
I just feel my way through the painting. I build up approximately 4-5 thin layers of paint, to get the finished color for each shape. No two shapes are exactly the same color, which I hope gives the painting a luminosity you couldn’t get otherwise.
I’m not formulaic in my approach. Each painting is fresh for me, and there exists an element of play. Sometimes I will work with a fixed color palette, and other times I will work mixing each color for each layer on a shape as I go. It just depends.
Often when a painting is done, I’m not sure how it happened; I just open myself up and allow it to flow. Also, I will stick with it until it is working for me. I find the sweet spot with some help from somewhere."
2020 Fractured Landscape: Through Color, Light, Shape, Denver Art Museum, Featured Artist, Demonstrating Artist Program
2019 Bellingham National Juried Art Exhibition @ Whatcom Museum, (Juror, Bruce Guenther), Whatcom Museum, Bellingham, Washington
2019 Fragmented, Linus Galleries, Juried Online Exhibition, California
2018 Gateway to Imagination National Juried Exhibition, (Juror, Alex Gregory), Farmington Museum, Farmington, New Mexico
2018 Taos Art Insurgency: The New Protagonists, Juried Exhibition, Three Gallery Show: Greg Moon Art, David Anthony Fine Art, Wilder Nightingale Fine Art, Taos, New Mexico
2017 Miramonte, Private Residence, Colorado
2015-2016 Through the Veil, Solo Exhibition, Delaney Library, Center of Southwest Studies, Fort Lewis College, Durango, Colorado
2016 The Star Bright Factory, Solo Exhibition, Maria's Bookshop, Durango, Colorado 2015 Durango Art Center Juried Show, Group Exhibition, Durango Art Center, Durango, Colorado
2014 Durango Art Center Juried Show, Group Exhibition, Durango Art Center, Durango, Colorado
2011-2013 Diane West Gallery, Group Exhibition, Durango, Colorado
2020 Hively, Zach: “Shaking her Monet-maker”, The Durango Telegraph, Vol. XIX, January 2020, p.16
2019 There’s Always Something, Walt Dear, Cover art,September 2019; Salann Magazine. March 2019. Print.
2016 Cary, Jaime: “’The Star Bright Factory’: Charming, lyrical and rhythmic”, The Durango Herald, January 2016
2016 The Star Bright Factory, Illustration, Pie in the Sky Publishing 2016
2018 Director’s Choice Award, Farmington Museum, Farmington, NM
2016 CIPA EVVY Awards, First Place, Children’s Book Illustration, Star Bright Factory
Download Full Biography