WBM sat down for a little Q&A with Robert Holst, a Wrightsville Beach habitu who uses the area as the inspiration for his colorful, upbeat artwork.
Robert Holst has been an artist his entire life and uses his craft as a form of expression. He has experience with paint as well as graphic design. He now owns a store with his wife, Mary, in which the entire Holst family all artists contribute flat art, pottery, jewelry and furniture.
WBM: How did you find your passion to paint?
Robert Holst: Well, at an early age I realized I was a natural artist. At four years old I was blending crayon colors. Painting was a constant companion for me; it was a vehicle to express myself.
WBM: What was your first job on Wrightsville Beach?
RH: When I was 16 years old, I collected seashells from the beach and painted decorations, such as sailboats. The owner of the Raw Bar, Christine Fels, was nice enough to sell them in her gift shop which funded a lot of surf trips for me (laughs). I then worked on the sign for Wrightsville Beach Realty, which was across from what is now Wings. I did work with some restaurants logos and Wrightsville Beach Parks and Recreation. As an artist, I have to be versatile.
WBM: What sparked your interest in graphic design?
RH: I went to art school at Rocky Mountain College of Art and Design in Denver and studied fine arts. I did some freelance work after, which led me to become the graphics coordinator for the New York Times Group (in Atlanta). I had to work with tight deadlines, which forced me to simplify and think quickly. Sometimes what you leave out is more important than what you put into (a composition). It came naturally and honed my skills. The early sign painting helped with my graphic design, such as simply drawing a straight line on the computer.
WBM: Do you approach your graphic design art differently than when you paint?
RH: Graphic design is more structured, like a home; you have to build from the foundation. Paint on the other hand is more spontaneous with happy accidents, which is a good thing. There is no undo button and you can experiment with mixing colors more.
WBM: Where do you find your inspiration?
RH: The subject matter tells me what it wants to be. Ill be cruisin and see an image and think to myself that it will make a great piece of art. I have to have an emotional attachment to the piece.
WBM: Where do you find the photos that are used for the acrylics as well as other artwork?
RH: Ive taken photographs at the beach and collected them. Some come from Bill Creasy, the town historian. He is incredible to work with; its nice to work with someone who has a lot of knowledge about the area and loves Wrightsville Beach as much as I do. From a photograph I can manipulate my artwork, like move things around and zoom in on a particular area.
WBM: Why did you create the Retro Wrightsville Beach series using graphic paint rather than acrylic?
RH: It started out as a way to study color for a painting and then I thought the image was strong enough to stand on its own. The computer gives me the flexibility to explore with color and I can try things you wouldnt normally try as you would in painting. These areas bring back fond memories for people that remember getting food, the specific staircase, or people have told me it is where they met their wife.
WBM: What are the major themes in your artwork?
RH: I would say nature, architecture and surfing, which I think is 90 percent nature. It is a different perspective you get when you are surfing and look back at the shore.
WBM: What style of painting did you use for the Heide Trask Drawbridge?
RH: That painting is acrylic. Each paint type has its own little nuance; each medium has something interesting to offer. It is a strong image with clean lines and sharper accurate edges, in comparison to a watercolor. You have to use the right medium for each subject matter.
WBM: Is there something in particular about Roberts Market that made you want to paint it?
RH: It is a part of everyones life; people have happy memories surfing with friends. Its where I met my wife. I would pop in on a summer afternoon they had the best fried chicken (laughs). One day the lighting was correct and there was a Coca-Cola truck reflecting on the windows of Roberts Grocery, and luckily I had my camera to capture the moment.
WBM: What was your inspiration or creative thinking for the Single Fin series?
RH: I was sitting on the beach with my surfboard and saw the shadow from the sun and thought it was an awesome image. Its basically about color, fun and the sun. Its very simple. I use the surfboards as a vehicle for color. The simple shadow makes it seem like the sun is there and I can see how the colors all relate to each other.