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.

5 questions with Beth Gilfilen


Beth and I met last summer at the Robert Blackburn Printmaking Workshop in a lithography class with Devraj Dakoji (a true master and one of the kindest souls you'll ever meet). She was a printmaking fellow and I had just moved into my studio at the EFA. I was enamored with her gorgeously raw, yet smokey prints. Her paintings are even more incredible.

Name: Elizabeth Gilfilen


Where do you live, where is your studio? Who makes up your day to day world?

I live in Brooklyn, and my studio is just a neighborhood away. I have a few friends in my studio building that I feel a comrarderie with, and that I can reach out to and break up the isolation of working alone. My world revolves around my family, my husband and my son, and their world revolves around my frenetic self-imposed deadlines and painting schedule! We adopted a dog last summer, and she has been a terrific stress-antidote; forcing us to get to the park twice a day. And she's sweet.


What’s an average studio day like? 

Typically I get to the studio between 8 and 9am, after checking email and a few strong cups of coffee. During the school year, I work until about 2:30, then get my son from school. When I'm deep into the work, I schedule after-school, so I can work late into the evening. I also teach drawing, so I'll schedule other types of work on those days; such as priming canvases or doing an application, or just looking. At night, I like to catch up on reading, and I have a desk at home where I do ink drawings. I have a love/hate relationship with the radio, I flip it on to feel more connected to the world, and then pretty quickly turn it off. It tends to distract me. Music goes on and off sporadically during the day; gets me going, but mostly I prefer the hum of workers, trucks, cars outside. My work is very strongly tied to a marking, or tracking of time, so it's important for me to stay aware of the temporal structure I'm building within the painting, rather than what is imposed from another artist's composition.



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

Right now I'm trying to more clearly translate the forms that emerge in my ink drawings into the paintings. The paintings evolve in a very rhythmic way, and are directly related to the scale and movement of my body. I am trying to harness this kinesthetic approach a bit more, and allow the more concrete structures of the drawing forms to inform the paintings. While making the drawings, I have an "overlord" type of relationship to the paper, and there is more foresight involved as the improvisation unfolds. This orientation can't really be duplicated with the large-scale canvas; nor do I strive for a one-to one reproduction. It is more of an internalized knowledge of the form that I can hold in the back of my head, while the mechanics of the painting act take over. I'm searching for a kind of tension between the structure that is built through the scaffolding of painting marks and the momentary grasping of a more concrete, tangible entity that slips in and out of recognition.

I'm very excited to spend a few weeks just drawing this summer, then I plan to get back to the big canvases in August. I have about 12 big ones started that I'm working on in a more interrelated group.


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

I go for a run! I try to get out of my head and into my body as much as possible. I also try to reconnect with what inspires me outside of art; reading, exploring the city. Sometimes I get lost in the labyrinth of internet searches in science, psychology and whatever else pops up.

Other times it's just a matter of moving everything around in the studio and seeing the work fresh. I typically have a "lost" painting that is the worst one going, so there is really nothing at stake should I mess it up. I'll start here, a warm-up of sorts, and then get in the groove with the other works. I work on a large group of works at once, so transitioning from one to the next allows for an interdependency between works, and allows me to parse out and isolate contradictory moves or sequences among these works.

How do you sustain your creative life? (how do you pay the bills or what kinds of jobs have you had in the past?)

I have transitioned from full-time mom when my son was an infant to part-time teacher pretty seamlessly. Prior to his birth, I had a huge range of jobs. I spent many, many years waitressing, bartending and have worked in lots of administrative positions. I did the grunt work for lobbyists, gallerists, non-profits, hotels, medical-supply companies, you name it. When I moved to New York, with a new baby coming soon, I knew I had to structure my time a bit differently if I was going to meet all the demands of making work and raising a child. I found ways to work part-time; teaching art for kids, so I could could bring my son along. When I was accepted to the Marie Walsh Sharpe Space program in Brooklyn, my son was entering kindergarten, and I was able to spend more time in the studio. The exposure there led to some sales of work that allowed me to secure a studio, and now I'm teaching drawing at one of the SUNY colleges out in Long Island. 

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

Don't be so critical of your failures! There is so much loss in making work, and that's such an important part of the process. Don't edit yourself prematurely. DO say yes to whatever comes to mind, there is something valuable in every misstep.

Where can we see your work next?

I'll have a painting in the exhibit "Conversations" curated by Sharon Louden at Morgan Lehman Gallery opening July 9, 6-8pm. There is a gallery talk July 28 from 6-8pm. I'm also working toward a solo exhibit at Fred Giampietro Gallery in New Haven, CT in early 2015.

5 questions with Shona Macdonald


I first met Shona while at the Roswell Artist-in-Residence program. There was a view of the scraggly barren desert, the company of scorpions and mule deer and lots of quiet. Shona and I were fast friends sharing a love of painting, teaching and vegetarian fare. You can see her work at Gridspace in Brooklyn, NY through June.


Name: Shona Macdonald


Where do you live, where is your studio? Who makes up your day to day world?

South Hadley, MA.  My studio is in the main Art Building at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.  I work alongside the students I teach.  The people in my dad-to-day world are my family, husband, Eric Salus, and children, Isla, Bram and Fenno.  I have a litany of artist friends and colleagues scattered all across the country and into parts of Europe.

What’s an average studio day like? 

It's always different due to time restraints.  In the summers and at the end of the year break from the academic calendar, I go in all the time, 8 hours a day. During the school year, I work in smaller stretches of time - two, three hours.  Since I make laborious work that is layered, these smaller spells of time work very well.  I listen to many things:  i-tunes, democracy now, pandora, podcasts, cd's and sometimes, silence.


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

My work, during the past three years, has relied on paying attention to and noticing the landscape as I drive around the area in which I live.  I stop and photograph but I also memorize scenes that will later be transcribed into paintings and drawings.  Once back in the studio, I develop the work utilizing a layering process that merges these disparate sources of imagery.  The newest body, Around: New England, depicts odd, usually isolated objects popping up amidst the lurid greenness of this area.  Many of these objects are anthropomorphized:  I view them as surrogates for figures or bodies, nestled within the landscape.  The second body of work, rendered in silverpoint on a very small scale, Ground Coverings, depicts similar prosaic moments within the landscape, though the absence of color shifts the meaning in the work from evocative, lush greenery, to ghost-like gray forms.

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

I rework them until they do work. I don't believe in things 'not working.'  For me, if the piece isn't working, then it's me that is not working, not it. I stick with it until it does what I envisioned in the first place.  

I don't allow for fallow periods -- I work all the time because I don't feel right if I am not working and with the time restraints of having a family and a full-time job, I can't afford for this kind of time.

How do you sustain your creative life? (How do you pay the bills or what kinds of jobs have you had in the past?)

I am very fortunate to have a full-time academic job teaching brilliant and enthusiastic students.  I have run our graduate programme for the past five years and very much enjoy this. Although I have been teaching full-time for sixteen years, I have done every kind of job under the sun, including bar-tending, waitressing, house-painting and one summer, I actually painted garden gnomes for a living !

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

Get a studio straight away, or establish a place to work (a spare bedroom or room in your apartment, for example). Without this grounding, what Virginia Woolf called, 'a room of one's own,' it is very easy to look for excuses not to work.  Paying  monthly rent and utilities on a studio is strong motivation to get in there.  Also, you have to learn to like your work and be content with that because if you apply for five grants and three exhibitions, for example, and coincidentally, none of them come through, your belief in your own work will cushion this blow and provide the foundation to go into the studio the next day, despite what other people may or may not think. Don't compare yourself to other artists: no two artists out there have had anything remotely like the same career path.  Read widely, outside the field of art, art criticism and art history. Art is a small, esoteric field so connect yourself to others in other fields.  

hitting the stands this week...

I'm super excited to be part of two publications this month:

Hedonist Magazine is a gorgeous new periodical coming out of London. You can find it online or at the following locations:

Tate Modern Bankside, London SE1 9TG, United Kingdom

Wardour News Wardour News Shop, 118-120 Wardour St., Soho, London



And, my work will also be sitting alongside several great writers in issue 7.2 of NANO Fiction.  You can purchase or subscribe here.

Please take a look, and if you feel so inclined, purchase a copy or two. These brilliant creatives always need our support.

The Power of Myth: Joseph Campbell and Bill Moyers

Another video featuring another one of my faves:

The Power of Myth is a book and six-part television documentary originally broadcast on PBS in 1988 as Joseph Campbell and the Power of Myth. The documentary comprises six one-hour conversations between mythologist Joseph Campbell (1904–1987) and journalist Bill Moyers.


i love the masks in space intro sequence. so awesome.