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'