A Bluethumb Success Story: Founders’ Award Winner Brad Holland
“Founding a creative startup is all about big dreams, and facing big risks,” Bluethumb Co-Founder Ed Hartley said during our recent Bluethumb Art Prize award ceremony. “Many artists face and embrace these on a daily basis. We’re especially proud of artists who are taking the leap from a secure job to becoming a full-time artist. Bluethumb was founded for these moments. So we wanted to establish the Founders’ Award for artists with large scale works and big ambitions. Not the usual art prize category, but fitting for Bluethumb.” The inaugural winner of the award was South Australian artist, Brad Holland.
In essence, Brad Holland is the epitome of what the Founders’ Award is all about. His work is the result of a diligent attitude towards art that has developed in the face of life’s hardships. His formative years started early with a fascination in observational drawing from around the age of 6 and moved to oil painting by the age of 10. These works set the foundations early on for what would become his iconic experimentations with abstraction. We caught up with Brad following his recent victory, where we learned of his incredible story as an artist and how the win is the start to even bigger and brighter pastures.
How did your creative practice come about?
Well I guess over the last 10 years there has been a process of adaptation in the way I approach image making. Up until then I was mostly painting realistic depictions of industrial landscapes of Port Adelaide as well as detailed oil portraits in a Baroque style. It was around this time that I started to have difficulty controlling subtle brush strokes due to a hereditary degenerative condition known as essential tremor. My hands would shake uncontrollably, making any activity involving fine motor skills very difficult. So I started to experiment with other techniques to get control back. I delved deep into collage and eventually utilised masking tape which made it possible to get clean crisp lines and shapes. In the process abstraction started to play an important role.
The biggest change came in 2020 when I was made redundant during the onset of Covid and was out of work for 6 months. I unleashed a series of 20 small abstracts entitled 2020 visions and started uploading to Bluethumb. This was a big and sudden stylistic change stemming from the fact that I could devote most of my time to the exploration of abstract art, setting me on the path to where I am now.
We are absolutely stoked your work was chosen as the winner of the Founders Award in this year’s Bluethumb Art Prize. What has this win meant for you? How did you feel when you heard the news?
I was completely ecstatic when I found out and had goosebumps for about an hour afterwards. When I listened to Ed explain why the Founders award for large statement art was established, I saw it as a clear message that I needed to make a decision and make it quickly to pursue art as a full time career. I am just so grateful, that it’s difficult to put into words. And here I am, a professional full time artist!
What is your preferred choice of media?
Definitely acrylic paint as it dries quickly enough to keep moving at a fast pace and is easy to mix and clean up.
Where do you source inspiration from for your creative outlets?
Lately David Hockney and Mark Rothko inspire me in terms of their use of colour to heighten or subdue emotional intensity. I often look for interesting or odd colour combinations in nature and in my head at night when I close my eyes to go to sleep. It’s very relaxing. Compositionally, I look to 70’s and 80’s computer graphics and science fiction films of the same era.
What attracts you to painting the abstract pieces you’re so well-recognised for?
Abstract painting allows me to focus on the formal principles of colour, tone and balance, free from the constraints of objective reality. I find it totally engrossing during the process.
Could you tell us about your process of creating an artwork?
I start with either a few pencil sketches or a mock up in Adobe Illustrator. Sometimes when the idea is strong in my head I just go straight into the painting, which is my favourite method.
I lay down a background of a flat colour or simple gradient. Then I get to work on the masking, usually with 6mm masking I mark out the composition. I just can’t give up my secret to getting the soft subtle curves though.
The difficult and time consuming part is mixing the subtle colours as I move to the middle. Sometimes it goes to the plan in my head and sometimes in a completely different direction. But I love the element of chance in this process.
What highlights have there been in your artistic career?
Studying art and design education at uni allowed me to learn from experimentation and fun. That’s also where I met my life long partner Penny who has lovingly supported all my artistic endeavours. My first solo exhibition of Port Adelaide paintings in 2006 [and] obviously the 2021 Bluethumb art prize!
Do you have any small goals for the future of your artistic journey?
First and foremost, I need to increase my output to keep up with demand now that I finish up full time work this Friday. Secondly, I want to get some very strong pieces together for the Bluethumb prize winners exhibition early next year in Sydney. So excited!
You can catch Brad Holland’s stunningly psychedelic work in our Adelaide gallery or online. Stay tuned for more information on the upcoming Winners exhibition next year! Click here to discover the art Brad has a personal playful reverence for in this week’s Artist Picks.