5 questions with Holly Coulis

I've been following this lovely lady's fantastic work for some time now and was elated that she agreed to share her thoughts and images with us this week.  


Name: Holly Coulis


Where do you live, where is your studio? 

Studio and home are in Brooklyn. Both in the Williamsburg/East Williamsburg area. We recently bought a used car, but before that we would walk everyday between the home and studio, which I miss. I've lived in the same apartment since 1999. It's starting to look like a real NY apartment. People always bring in more stuff than they get rid of I guess.

Who makes up your day to day world? 

My husband, Ridley, mostly. We share a studio. Periodically I see friends, usually at openings, sometimes for dinner. But my favorite is to meet out for breakfast.

friends? partners? pets? kids?

We have no kids. I wish I had pets. I love animals. It would be great to have a dog and a cat. But NO PETS ALLOWED in my building. I have to resort to watching Youtube videos.

Butter Knives and Lemons,   11 x 14",   oil on canvas,   2014

Butter Knives and Lemons, 11 x 14", oil on canvas, 2014

What’s an average studio day like?

Usually I get to the studio between 8:30 and 9:30 am and stay until 6 or 7pm. In the summer I leave a little earlier because there is no air conditioning  and the heat makes it difficult to concentrate. I have a low tolerance for summer.

What do you listen to? 

When I worked alone, I listened to documentaries. Now it's the radio and Spotify. It's a mix of Howard Stern, To the Point, Marc Maron. Music can vary from something classical to something country. The World Cup has just ended, sadly, and that was great studio listening.

What do you look at etc?

We have a small collection of art books. Some of my go tos are Milton Avery, Gary Hume, Jane Freilicher, William Nicholson, William Scott (the Williams). Sometimes I troll Tumblr. People put up some great images that I probably wouldn't find on my own. The thing about the internet is that you can end up with an inspiring image that you didn't go looking for.

Lettuce, Peas and Knife,  16 x 18.25", oil on canvas, 2014

Lettuce, Peas and Knife, 16 x 18.25", oil on canvas, 2014

What are you working on now? (What are you most excited about/ confounded by/ obsessed with?)

Right now I'm investigating these still-life paintings (how can I make a new one that is interesting to me...) and trying to find a way to bring the figure back into this new-ish way of painting. It's a bit tricky, but it's starting to make sense, I think. The newer paintings are so much about color, shapes and edges. But I'm not sure I want to paint the figure in that same way. I've been trying to make sense of it for myself.

Lynn and Lemons ,  18 x 16" ,  oil on linen ,  2014

Lynn and Lemons18 x 16"oil on linen2014

What do you do when things aren’t going “right” or you’re having a fallow period in making/ thinking?

This is happening now, at least on one front. Usually, I start a drawing project of some sort. Either in pencil, ink, or oil pastels...any other medium besides paint, but those are my favorites. Sometimes these projects can last a while (a few months). Sometimes they feel like a colossal waste of time, but end up being fruitful in some important way. Plus I really enjoy drawing. Other times a trip to a museum or gallery will help, but not always. The Met is usually good for a boost - the Asian Art galleries are fantastic. There's a show up now called "Out of Character: Decoding Chinese Calligraphy" through August 17 that I really want to see.

Lemon, Bowls, 11x14", ink on rice paper, 2013

Lemon, Bowls, 11x14", ink on rice paper, 2013

How do you sustain your creative life?

When I first arrived in NYC, I had a Photoshop retouching job. That lasted about 10 years or so, maybe a little less. After about 5 years it turned into a freelance job, which gave me more time to paint. But that skill set was valuable for picking up other freelance work over the years. At the moment, I am teaching adjunct at Pace University in Manhattan. I teach drawing, digital design, and illustration.


What advice would you give a young artist just starting out? 

I'm sure young artists are tired of advice, but here's the only advice I have: Find a way to focus on your studio. Make your time there as clear and as meaningful as possible. 

Bowl and Cups, 9 x 12", oil on canvas, 2014

Bowl and Cups, 9 x 12", oil on canvas, 2014

You can see Holly's work in a group show at Sargent's Daughters, called "Sargent's Daughters", up until July 26th. In August, she will have a painting in a show called "Tossed", curated by Jennifer Coates and Rachel Schmidhofer, at Jeff Bailey Hudson.