“My art is often fully improvised which can make people uncomfortable,” An Interview with Madison Holland

Hi Madison, welcome to the Lonely Arts Club! What’s your favorite title for yourself?

I’m an artist. I’m a teacher and an artist. Some people say maker, but I don’t resonate with that. If someone asks me what kind of artist I can say a printmaker, painter, or sometimes a muralist. I’ve done four murals so far!

Image provided by artist

Do you like doing murals? 

If that could sustain me full time, I would only do that. I love it. It is so satisfying, and for me it’s often fully improvised which can make a lot of people uncomfortable. 

I feel like your art is good for improvisation! You have a lot of lines and movement.

Yes, my work has a lot of room for error. A lot of people see my work and see a lot of tiny dots or lines and worry about me messing up, but in reality I did mess up multiple of times. You just don’t know because this is what it looks like now. 

Image provided by artist

I have only been doing digital art for about two years now, but I have been an artist since I was 10. Digital art translates so easily to social media, but it’s funny when people see my art in person. 

They’re like, “Wow, these are really bright too!” It’s hard to photograph tangible work. 

Artists have to be marketers and self-promoters. How do you feel about that process? Do you enjoy it? 

It’s all been done very organically. My father asked the school to read Madison “MadHolla” Holland at my high school graduation, and then Instagram happened, and I have “madholla” as an email address. 

For my 25th birthday, my dad got me a Madholla license plate, and now I have madholla.com. The branding part hasn’t been hard. The self promotion is funny too. I love talking to other people, so inevitably the conversation gets to “What do you do?” and that’s when I can tell them about my work and where to find me. 

Image provided by artist

When I decided to make a new Instagram exclusively for art, the separation is important. I don’t care if people know what I look like, but I don’t think that everyone that follows my art instagram wants to know what I had for lunch today. 

I also have extremely supportive friends who are artists or arts-minded who help me in a variety of ways. I got my degree in print-making. I am not good at managing my website!

Where and when do you feel like you started seriously making art?

At Camp Nor’wester. This is where I’ve met most of the people in my life that have helped me or make me better. This is also where I first started making art. Art at art school wasn’t great for me, but when I was at camp I could make whatever I dreamed of. When I started camp, it was in gulf war army tent in the forest and to me it seemed to stretch on forever. It was was a place where you could make anything and the limit did not exist. Knitting, painting, printmaking, candles, wood shop, ceramics, anything.

By the time I got to work to work there as an adult, the craft shop had turned into this gorgeous large cedar building with a porch in the forest. I was the director for it for two summers and I got to run the arts program there. 

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What has it been like being an artist in Seattle? What is your connection to the Seattle arts community?

I have my people here. A woman I went to high school with is working with the Museum of Museums. I had a connection at Nor’wester that was a metal worker in Seattle that helped introduce me in order to make my first mural here. In some ways people feel the the art scene is isolating here because of the Seattle freeze, but also, it’s about putting yourself fully out there and you don’t have to know anyone, but it’s about interacting with others. 

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Talking with you, I think your personality probably helps the Seattle freeze. Do you think your personality helps in breaking through the frost? 

Yes, I do think my personality helps in a way. In terms of making connections or meeting new people, 100%. It’s easier for me to feel comfortable around people then it might be for others and I credit that to success I’ve had in chance encounters. I’m able to put myself out into the world – while I try to let my work speak for itself I do often find it’s helpful that I can speak for it sometimes.

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Do you have goals as an artist?

Right now, I’m mostly trying to work a job that allows me to be an artist. I work 1-6 every day along with another job at 15 hours a week, but my goal is to make art full time. Any opportunity if it seems legitimate, I definitely try to fit it in and take it. But there are a few shows I’ve turned down because the organization might cheapen my work. It’s also about being vigilant because it’s very easy to say yes to things. Saying no is so nice. My friend once put it, “Would you rather have the discomfort of saying no, or the resentment of saying yes?”

It’s also a way to show value for yourself and the work that you do.

That’s true. I had a disappointing situation back in May in regards to a mural opportunity. They knew what my rate was, and had agreed to it. I did a mock up for it and worked really hard on it for six hours. I wrote them the invoice, but they said in an email that they weren’t able to hire me for my services because they paid too much for a renovation. I said, “OK, but please pay me for my mock up fee of 150.00” They did not pay me. 

Image provided by artist
Image provided by artist

It’s so frustrating when people don’t value art like they value other commodities. They don’t see it as a valued skill set, that’s really sad and frustrating. What are some of your favorite experiences being an artist so far?

Last August a woman found my work through the hashtag #SeattleArtist and she wanted me to do a mural for a development project in Redmond. In two months that developed into me painting a 260 square foot mural in this really cool space downstairs of an apartment building with floor to ceiling windows facing the street level. I did almost 300 square feet of mural in 17 hours. I was on a scissor lift for 18 foot ceilings. It was very hard but I’m super proud of myself. 

Image provided by artist
Madison Holland is an artist living and working in Seattle, Washington. She graduated with a BFA in printmaking from The San Francisco Art Institute where she honed her usage of intricate repetitive patterns. Most of her work deals with organizing chaos and creating her own renditions of imagined landscapes. She is interested in our relationship with the natural world around us and how that translates to our lives lived in cities.  Madison often spends time wandering Washington’s rocky beaches and under the canopy of giant evergreen trees. She’s available for murals and smaller commissions.

You can find Madison Holland through her website or Instagram.

Interviewed by Sarah E. Miller, Editor-in-Chief of Lonely Arts Club

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