Holly Sierra, Gaia, Goddesses, Mermaids and Tarot
Goddesses, Gaia, Gaelic influences, nature, the earth’s indigenous people, the magical and the mystical — for artist Holly Sierra all are subject matter for her paintings. In Holly’s words: “I am enchanted by the Elementals and the Wildlings. I love the misty forests and mossy hedgerows of the British Isles….Weathered barns, old farms and the earthy colored wool of bleating sheep and worn wooden spinning wheels. I adore honeybees, hives and am especially fond of old fashioned skeps made of bound grass. I love the Green Man’s ivy covered countenance and narrow Medieval streets paved with worn cobblestone. I love all manner of books, new and old, leather or scrolls, Celtic knots and fairy tales. I love the ‘Goddess’ in all her forms. I am inspired by the magic that is loosely woven into the fibers of the everyday.And if I am painting for any cause at all — It is for the well-being of all the beasts and creatures of this Earth who depend on us for their survival.”
The road that led Holly Sierra to Gaia, Goddesses and Mermaids was a roundabout one, but “the first time I painted a Goddess, I knew that this was it, and I could never do anything else.” It took Holly years of discovery before finding her authentic artistic voice. Coming out of art school, Holly worked as a commercial illustrator. The black and white drawings of a scholastic textbook paid well, Holly says, “but I was always doing what someone else directed me to.” She worked as a children’s book illustrator as well, but this was before the days of self publishing, so the subject matter was again dictated by a children’ book editor, sitting in a New York office. She did illustration work for the Little House on the Prairie series, and did several books of paper dolls. While living in Asia, Holly tried portrait painting. “I thought I would be doing interesting people, but instead I was painting what the paying client wanted.” When her first Goddess painting took shape on the canvas, the new direction for her art was revealed. She begins her paintings with faces that are very
simplified and stylized, almost cartoonish in their simplicity: “I draw my faces neutral enough that they can take on any culture.” Then the process of discovery begins and new twists and turns find their way into the painting. Leaves and twigs, a honey bee, bee hive, a stone wall, feathers, birds, interesting artifacts or unusual objects, a rabbit, a wolf, a phoenix — all are possible additions to her work. In the background are the patterns and intricate detailing she loves. The result is delightful, captivating and unexpected. Similar to Josephine Wall and James Christiansen in style, Holly’s work is imaginative, highly detailed, with fanciful twists and unexpected connections.
Holly Sierra’s work transports the viewer to a magical place: throughout the painting delightful new discoveries await the observant viewer. Decorative and fanciful in nature, Holly’s paintings can take months to complete, so
she rarely sells her originals. When she begins a sketch, Holly says she has no preconceived idea of what the final painting will look like. The stylized, almost cartoonish face may become a mermaid, or Gaia, or a Goddess. Over time, Holly says her style has become more cautious; she lets the painting develop over weeks and months, giving each part of the canvas its due. “I like to get up in the morning with fresh eyes,” Holly says, arranging the canvas against the opposite wall in her bedroom, so it is the first thing she sees when she opens her eyes.
Gaelic influences, reverence for art and beauty, and a love of nature saturated Holly’s family and her upbringing. Her Irish paternal grandmother spoke Gaelic, read tea leaves and tarot cards, and was a deep believer in intuition and the occult. Holly recalls the childhood story of her grandmother walking off the from Ireland barefoot. A love and respect for herbs, plants, nature and the earth’s creatures was bestowed on young Holly Sierra from her grandmother. A keen observer of natural leaves, roots, twigs, animals and birds, as well as historical artifacts and archaeological discoveries piqued her curiosity early. This fascination for patterns and details can be seen throughout Holly’s paintings, and is why each canvas takes months to complete. Holly’s childhood was spent seeped in artistic influences — both parents were artists, and her maternal grandmother, Margaret Anderson, hosted an artistic and intellectual salon, which counted among its members Mirot, Picasso, Gertrude Stein, James Joyce and Jean Cocteau. “My grandmother,” Holly says, “declared that she would rather have a rose on the table than a loaf of bread. She was completely dedicated to the ideal that life should be beautiful.” Looking at Holly’s paintings, this philosophy has clearly been formative in how Holly looks at the world. Her paintings are a world of delight, imagination, whimsy and keen observation.
Holly Sierra’s paintings can be seen on her website www.hollysierra.com, and on etsy.com at https://www.etsy.com/shop/HollySierraArt.
About the Author:
When not writing for Ravenhawks, Kamberlyn works with clients seeking a more spiritually centered life. In her work, she helps people realize the relationship, career and finances that belongs to their soul. She can be found on KEEN at Kamberlyn Divine Love or through her website, LadyKamberlyn.com.