CM: Tell us a bit about Hollie.
HB: Well, I was born in Texas, and very early on two passions emerged; art and animals, especially horses. Not much later I discovered mountains on a family trip to Colorado (there’s no mountains in TX) and I determined I needed to move to somewhere with topography. It took me 25 years, but I got to Tennessee as fast as I could.
CM: Why Chattanooga?
HB: I actually had to look up Chattanooga on a map when my husband said he wanted to apply for an engineering job here. I suspected it was somewhere in Tennessee. My husband called me shortly after his plane touched down to let me know we were moving here if he got the job offer. We were blown away when we arrived to discover Chattanooga is filled with great restaurants, live music, and a bustling arts scene. Relative to its size, this city has an incredibly rich culture, beautiful natural surroundings.
CM: You describe yourself as an equestrian artist. What is it about horses that motivates you?
HB: Horses were a childhood obsession for me, except most little girls grow out of that phase, and I never have. I rode and spent time with horses every chance I got. When I wasn’t at the barn I would pour through equestrian magazines to find images of them to practice drawing in my sketchbook and every blank and not-so-blank sheet of paper i could get my hands on. I’ve been drawing and painting horses ever since, except for a brief respite when most of my art teachers and professors tried to convince me it was not a worthwhile pursuit. I’ve learned better since.
CM: When did you make the decision to become a full-time artist?
HB: I’ve been working up to it my whole life. My degree is in Studio Art and I always intended to use it. I didn’t make the leap to full time until 2014 after trying to juggle my day job while completing my mural on McCallie Avenue, and realizing I just couldn’t do both well.
CM: What has been the greatest challenge?
HB: Profitability, as one might expect. It’s the same problem any small business owner or entrepreneur usually encounters-there’s a long ramp of investing time and money to get your business established, to build a brand, to build a client base, before the income really starts becoming sustainable.
CM: You’ve had a busy 2015 – a lot of high-profile projects. Tell us about a few of your favorites.
HB: This year I had the opportunity to relocate last year’s Open Spaces installation Book Flock to the main lobby of the Chattanooga Public Library! I have also been mentoring under local painter Mia Bergeron, and I was selected to be the featured artist for the next year’s Iroquois Steeplechase. That painting is brewing in my studio right now.
All this being said, this year the ML King District Mural Project was all consuming. From June 15th to November 22nd I was working on that mural six days a week.I learned so many valuable skills through apprenticing to Meg Saligman, including how to collaborate with the public on ideas for a mural, and how to create a monumental scale design. Five months seems like a long time, but that’s over 250 square feet of wall a day. Even with two shifts of muralists working sunup to sundown seven days a week, it was a tight schedule.
I’m so thrilled that we were able to so drastically transform a windowless rectangle of a building into one of the largest single project murals in the country.
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