Hollie O’Neill draws on her Kiwi heritage and local inspiration to create powerful art.
With her work hanging in art collections, prestigious homes and commercial spaces around the world, Kiwi painter Hollie O’Neill is certainly making waves in the art scene. She discusses how she channels her unique life experiences into distinctive artworks, filled with colour and life they stand as a testament to her ethos of ‘happy chic’.
Photo: Hollie and puppy - Louie, with her first painting of the collection: 'Pink Cow'
When did you start painting, did you study or are you self-taught?
My painting journey began as a toddler rubbing my fingers through my mother’s oil paintings. I grew up admiring my maternal grandmothers’ landscape paintings as she worked on them in her studio and was interested in my paternal grandmothers’ large-scale cross-stitch works. My mother, sister and I spent most weekends creating, if not with art materials, it was with food. At the age of 12yrs my painting in my first group exhibition sold to a private collector. Receiving 98 and 96 percentage in school painting and printmaking, and winning the ‘Arts trophy’ in my final year at school, set me up with confidence to study Bachelor of Fine Art and then later transferred to Bachelor of Art and Design.
I worked as Head of Art Department, as a specialised art teacher, teaching 800 students a year. In my spare time, I created works for group exhibitions for fun, and realised people were attracted towards and wanted to buy my work.
In 2002 I founded a private art school, it was not long after that I found myself booked up, painting commissions for prestigious homes and commercial spaces. At this point I continued to teach in the evenings and became a full time Artist.
Photo: Hollie and puppy - Louie, with her painting on canvas: 'Blue Goat'
How has your environment shaped your painting?
I’ve been lucky to live in some of New Zealand’s most beautiful towns - Kerikeri, Waihi Beach, Wanaka and Auckland; All possessing abundant native bush, birds, animals, beaches and lakes that deeply inspire me.
Capturing the power and mystery of nature is a theme that has remained constant throughout my 18 years painting career. Painting is a way for me to share how I see beauty. It has been there for me, to connect me with my environment and my unfolding sense of who I am.
How did you go about building a career as a painter?
I put myself out there. I entered a few art awards and put my work into group exhibitions. I set up an online presence and people began to discover me through my website, inviting me to showcase my art. Because of group shows, art awards, press and my web presence, galleries began contacting me, wanting to represent my work, and followers of my art grew. There have been milestones along the path of my career that have provided momentum to continue to experiment and create, such as my work collected by James Wallace Arts Trust and being commissioned by other art collectors also.
How would you describe the subject matter of your latest collection of work?
These playful, large-scale paintings are celebrations that offer a glimpse into my energetic experiences with New Zealand’s favourite animals. Fun, vibrant colours show these majestic animals in their spiritual power.
I have chosen animals that ‘kiwis’ along with myself, have grown up with and have nostalgic feelings towards. The ‘portrait’ of the animal painted in strong colour elevates each animal to an iconic status. Permeating through my work is my love of colour - my fascination with colour is as significant as the content itself.
These unique paintings will add eccentric flair to any wall and I hope inspire many.
“My creativity is inspired by living in New Zealand, and its beauty is reflected in my painting.”
Photo: Hollie with her painting on canvas: 'Blue Highland'
Truth, boldness, and joy are qualities expressed in my recent abstract paintings.
Vivid, vital colour and the dynamic nature of imagery arose from energised communion with the sunrise and mirrors the psychic landscape. These landscapes are referenced through a suggestive sunrise and are based on a storehouse of sensual memories. Ones immediate response is focused and promoted by the abstract evocation of natures energies. The infinite space of the colour embodies the order that we search for in the world. It is capable of taking you to a special place, offering a calm connection to something more abiding than oneself, a deeper unity.
“A great silent space holds all of nature in its embrace. It also holds you.” Eckhart Tolle
I’m excited to release the first of my latest original fine art collection - ‘Stillness Speaks’. Finest oil paintings on a tondo of belgium linen, revisiting my old time signature subject matter of monochromatic mystical landscapes.
Inspired by nature and returning to stillness. It’s when Im in this peaceful state that I feel connected to something greater. And it was during this moment my first painting of the collection ‘Breathing Serenity’ was born.
'Breathing Serenity' (as shown above) seeded in my repetoire one cool wintery evening as I was strolling along the lakeside to ‘That Wanaka Tree’. The sun slipped behind the mountains casting a golden glow which bathed the entire lake, mountains and trees while an intriguing mist lingered from the days constant rain. I couldn’t wait to pick up the paint brushes but with commission work to complete it meant my stretched linen teased me as I demonstrated patience.
As I painted this work, a dream came to mind that I had about 10 years ago (downfall of a strong visual memory). This dream spoke to my soul and remained on the edge of my consciousness with unanswered questions - why did I still remember this dream, why did it keep replaying in my mind since our move to Wanaka. Sometimes we are not ready to accept an insight but through my painting I now understand the message of the dream.
In the dream I was standing on a piece of land elevated enough to see over Lake Wanaka and the snow capped mountains beyond. My children, husband and his parents were beside us as they were visiting from our home town of Waihi Beach. We were standing on the land admiring and showing off the majestic nature of our new town to our parents. It was a misty morning and the scape was a palette of greys, in my mind so so beautiful. I was in love.
What I remember most in this dream was a deep sense of inner connection. That feeling of pure joy, in touch with my essential self and finding ‘home’ within.
In this new collection of ‘Stillness Speaks’ I hope you will also find awareness of nature reminding you there is something greater; a sacred mystery, beauty that cannot be expressed through thought.
And that you will be inspired to take a moment in time to quieten your mind and reconnect with your essential self, a place of pure joy.
“Nature can bring you to stillness. That is its gift to you. When you perceive and join with nature in the field of stillness, that field becomes permeated with your awareness. That is your gift to nature.” Eckhart Tolle.
Shop for Limited Edition Print - 'Breathing Serenity'
Hollie is a New Zealand Artist, who paints full-time in her home studio. Hollie loves working with heightened colour and depicts the power and beauty she sees in her natural environment.
Hollie creates commission work for companies and private collectors. For any enquiries or to be on the waiting list, please contact Hollie.