Christopher Gunn: Hello, Josh. Thanks for taking time to chat with me. I would like to start with your style. This really separates you from a lot of other illustrators. What is your style or styles and what inspired you to move in this direction?
Josh Holland: In terms of style(s) I pull inspiration from a lot of areas but probably the most prevalent would be graffiti. When I say graffiti I am using it as an umbrella term for “street art” in general. Be it stencil graffiti, tagging, wheatpasting or just straight pieces it all inspires me in some way or another. When I say that graffiti is a big inspiration I also mean the whole of graffiti including the environment that it takes place in. Usually when you see graffiti there is a layering effect taking place between the paint, the surface its applied to and the other layers of paint, graffiti, and whatever else has made its way on the structure. With that being said you can see where I pull ideas from in that I love layering and building up the “surface” of the artwork, even in a piece that is purely digital. I love mimicking surface textures and trying to replicate that with the computer. The same goes for any hand-drawn illustrations that I work on as well. I do not, by any means, consider myself a street/graffiti artist but I am inspired by that group of artists tremendously. Where I think my art differs is that I like to incorporate some of the traditional ideas learned in my time in the USA art program. I like to take ideas from classic and contemporary art and mix them with an even more contemporary style like graffiti.
CG: In addition to your style, I see that some of your pieces, particularly the traditional art mediums, tend to be rather large. To me, this speaks of a confidence in your work, as it demands a sizable investment in each piece. Is this sense of monumental grandeur also an influence of the graffiti style (like a wall)? Are there other reasons you choose to work large?
JH: My recent works have definitely taken on a much larger scale and yes, I do think that this can be linked back to graffiti as well. The scale has always appealed to me but in the past I have not had the confidence to execute anything that large.
Particularly with the newest pieces, I also had to think in terms of where the show was to be hosted, Mobile Arts Council. Typically they show much more established artists and I felt it an honor to be asked to show there. Consequently I also felt it necessary to bring something new and exciting to the table. The other artists, Nikki Bhakta and Sol Davis, were in the same boat as myself to some degree and I wanted our show to be a hit both for ourselves and the gallery.
I believe that a combination of these two things, as well as a desire to just experiment, are what compelled me to go with the old adage of “go big or go home.”
CG: When you look at a piece, whether it be yours or someone else’s, what do you look for? Also, when looking at your work, how do you know it’s finished?
JH: That’s a tough one.
I can find things that I love in almost every style of artwork out there. Like anyone else I think that things like color, movement, texture and of course, subject matter all work to pull me into a piece. More than anything I like work that excites the eyes and gives you that feeling you had as a kid scoping out the toy store aisles or that feeling the first time you kiss someone. That feeling can be slightly different for everyone but the premise is the same. Somethings just grab you and tap into something. The same goes for music with a lot of people, including myself.
JH: Beyond that there are the technical details that you look for that are a little more tangible. Craftsmanship, technique, drawing ability, composition and all of the traditional ideas we are taught about art.
JH: For me, the most successful pieces are ones that can tap into both sides of the mind. There are precise details that show a developed technical prowess but you can still see the busied lines throughout the piece where the artist was excited about what he or she was doing and the hand could barely keep up with the mind. That is something that really excites me in my art and others, when you allow a glimpse into the process and how you work. For the longest time how people worked and created pieces was a sort of mystery to me and some of my favorite artists were the ones that did this.
JH: As far as how I decide when something is complete I largely depend on intuition more than anything. That gut feeling should never be ignored. I still consider the composition and things of that nature but if I feel happy with a piece I usually consider it complete. When I say that I do so having the knowledge that I can always find things that I could tweak, redraw, shift around and fine tune. I think the lack of finality is part of the beauty in a lot of work. At least this is how I approach my works.
CG: Well, this has certainly been a great interview and I hope you enjoyed it. Is there anything I missed? Perhaps there is something that was left out that is essential to defining you as an artist? Please, share any other thoughts you feel are important.
JH: I enjoyed the interview as well. I think it helps you as an artist to get those ideas out in the open once in a while to gain some perspective on yourself.
Beyond what we talked about I think it is vital in any art form, and any career for that matter, to keep things in perspective and never let yourself get comfortable or complacent. That is the death of creativity and keeps you from reaching your true potential with anything. Continue to grow, learn and interact with other individuals as much as possible, both of like minds and those with contrary views as well.