We had the good fortune of connecting with Holly Woolson and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Holly, do you have a favorite quote or affirmation?
“Nobody sees a flower – really – it is so small it takes time – we haven’t time – and to see takes time, like to have a friend takes time.” ― Georgia O’Keeffe When you work for yourself, there is always a pile of tasks that need doing and ideas bubbling up inside you that need to be brought into the world. The creative process in both realms is never ending. On top of that, our social world has been moving with lightning speed. Computers call for my attention throughout the day with dings and bells and impose countdowns and time limits within which I must respond. It is very easy to feel harried and overwhelmed, to lose sight of what really matters. This quote reminds me to slow down and pay attention. Even with the change in pace since the Pandemic began nearly a year ago, it is easy to get lost in checklists, to get carried along by what needs to get done, keep your head down, and forget to look up and see the world around you. This quote from the mother of American modernism, validates the time that I take away from my desk or my easel. It reinforces the necessity of taking a few hours to walk out into nature or call a friend. Her words make clear that my attention is the most valuable asset that I possess.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
I am very excited my latest project; I published my first book! The title is “Wandering Ojai, Poetry and Photographs“. It’s part portrait of the town that I love and part conversation, illustrating the wisdom that I’ve gained from spending time walking through the streets and hills of this special place that I call home. Completing this book during the pandemic felt like coming full circle in my journey as an artist. Since the day that I graduated from college with a degree in Art and Design back in the 1980s, I’ve struggled with creative blocks. I did not write or make art for many years. Financial difficulties, perfectionism, and an acute self-consciousness all combined to stifle my creativity. Three things enabled me to overcome these creative blocks and become a working artist: reading The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron, finding a community of women artists who have supported me on my artistic journey, and cultivating enough faith and perseverance to endure the inevitable set-backs and uncertainty that come from living life as an artist. This book developed organically out of my quest to live and create with integrity. It’s a true reflection of my values and relationships. The graphic designer who created the lay-out for the book was my first painting teacher who helped me break out of my shell and show my work again. My daughter introduced me to the form of poetry that I used in the book and drew the maps that appear in the final section. I dedicated the book to my dog who accompanied me during my wanderings. People often have the wrong impression that art is the result of purely individual efforts. While it is true that every artist must retreat into themselves to practice their craft, artists need community as well. Learning this truth is an essential part of my story.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
First off, I would take my friend out on my favorite hiking trails in the Ojai area. The beauty here, especially in the back country, is breathtaking. There are cascading waterfalls, crystal clear pools, shady oak woodlands, wild flowers, and astonishing views along the mountain peaks and canyons. A trip to my favorite beach for surfing or strolling would also be in order. Rincon beach, known as the Queen of the Coast, is a 30-minute drive through scenic hills from Ojai. Just around Rincon point is another wide sandy beach where the sunsets are magical. After a day out on the trail or on the sand, we would head to The Farmer and The Cook back in Ojai for a meal made from locally-grown organic produce, or to Papa Lennon’s for a pizza, Java and Joe’s or Coffee Connection for a mocha, or to Topa Topa Brewery for a beer. Sitting outside, we would continue to take in the beauty of the valley and run into some friends (Ojai is such a small town, you run into someone you know every time you go downtown). We would end our visit by perusing the local shops and galleries along the arcade, including Fig Curated Living, OVA Arts Gallery, and finally, Poppies Art and Gifts, the hub for my community of artists. My best friend would leave with a copy of my book, Wandering Ojai, and a piece of my art or a collection of my greetings cards to serve as sensual souvenirs of our time together. Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
I would like to dedicate this shoutout to my friends and fellow artists in Ojai, especially those at Poppies Art and Gifts, a cooperative artists’ gallery in Ojai. In this community of artists, we support each other in countless ways, from practical advice on marketing to enthusiastic encouragement for projects, both completed and in progress. I would not have succeeded in my business or as an artist over the last few years without this diverse group of colleagues.