Originally from Katy, Tex., Hollie Berry came to Chattanooga because of the scenery but is making a little scenery of her own for the walkers, bicyclists and runners whose morning routines take them by the Walnut Street Bridge or Coolidge Park.
“I walk with my husband on the Walnut Street Bridge almost every morning because his work is within walking distance, which is really nice. I looked down into the park and saw tire tracks in the dew from one of the maintenance people and I just thought – ‘wouldn’t it be cool if they made patterns and you could look down at it from the bridge?’” she mused.
When Hollie was growing up, she wanted to be a marine biologist or a vet because of her love for animals. “I wanted to be a dolphin trainer at one point but I'm glad I didn’t stick with that because now I oppose dolphin captivity,” Hollie admits. She had also thought about being a doctor but with years of medical school and internship she states, “I didn’t want to wait to have a life until I was 30, so I decided to stick with my strong suit which is art and through that I am drawing dolphins and whales…. horses and people.”
Hollie received a studio arts degree at UT – that, being the University of Texas. “I went to the other UT, which is also orange…” Hollie says.
Her parents, Doug and Beverly Berry, were not artistic and, being older than her brother Richard, Hollie came into her own with her artistic talent. Hollie’s family was three or four generational Texans but her parents recently moved to Vermont. It seemed that along with her husband Rudy the family had become tired of the bugs, heat and flat land of Texas. Rudy and Hollie moved to Chattanooga early this year.
“I fell in love with this part of the U.S. – the Blue Ridge Mountains actually. In high school I took a road trip with my family and I loved all the green, the flowing water and the mountains. I just knew that I wanted to live here one day. I had a couple of places on my list to live, such as Colorado, Washington state or Vermont – it’s all beautiful and also the Tennessee/North Carolina Region,” Hollie insists.
Rudy had looked into a company called Burns and McDonald, seeking employment opportunities. “A few months before his graduation he was going through a job fair application process and ended up getting an offer with the Burns and Mac office in Chattanooga – exactly where we wanted to be!” Hollie exclaimed.
“We moved here because of the closeness of the Blue Ridge Mountains and there is lots of hiking here – we are outdoors types. We moved here just for its geographic proximity to natural features. I didn’t expect to be in a place so supportive of the arts – that was a bonus,” Hollie says.
Having the Hunter Museum, art galleries, shows and events wowed Hollie when they learned what all Chattanooga had to offer. “I have found an amazingly supportive community of artists here and I have joined a book arts group called Chattanooga Book-Art Collaborative. All of the other artists here in the city are very welcoming; it is not a competitive cut-throat culture like I am used to or would expect. Everyone is friendly and you never feel intimidated to get to know anyone,” Hollie contends.
Being new in Chattanooga Hollie has already made a name for herself and she is surprised at her popularity which arose quickly from a simple idea.
After seeing the tracks in the dew that the truck had made, Hollie went down to park to try it out for herself using her feet.
“It limited me in a lot of ways just using my feet. I found that a paint roller allows me to work larger and faster. With my feet, I could only go so fast and I looked ridiculous! People would come by and ask me if I were doing ‘Tai Chi’ or something,” Hollie laughs. “It’s bad enough if you are looking at me from the bridge but at least you can figure out what I am doing when I am halfway through my drawing but from ground level no way can you tell what I am doing. It looked completely crazy.”
Drawing in the dew is something people have come to expect from Hollie during their morning passing of the park. “There are new people every day who don’t know what I am up to but now I am starting to have regulars who notice my drawings. There are tons of people who walk on the bridge every morning and almost all of those people are starting to recognize me,” she says.
Watching Hollie create her latest DEWdle - a project she is doing with RiverRocks - a man walks right across the wet grass and her DEWdle instead of using the sidewalk. How does she feel about that? “Actually some of my favorite pictures are where people have walked across the drawings. My cover photo on my Facebook page is of one of my first drawings - an iguana. I had already finished it and I was about to head home and a mom with her kids started playing in the park with this big pink rubber ball. I took a picture of them running across the iguana. It highlights how the park is a public area and it’s an art form in itself that can be easily overlooked,” Hollie says.
“There are people who will walk through the park before I do my drawing or while I do my drawing. One time I was working on the Nautilus DEWdle and a bicycle officer rode his bike up to the side walk and I said, ‘Don’t ride in the grass!’ and he rode all the way up to where I was and rode right through the drawing with a nice little tire track. He said, ‘Hey I just wanted to see what you were up to’ and I said, ‘You just rode your bike through the middle of my drawing!’ But it ended up being okay; I just turned his bike track into an extra tentacle. I can usually work around it,” Hollie laughs.
Placing her steps meticulously as she creates the pattern on the grass, Hollie follows a pre-sketch that she drew in her hand-made sketch book. Forming art onto the large grassy platform from a small drawing takes an exceptional talent.
This brings about questions of the elements and how they affect her creations day to day.
“The weather is very fickle and there a lot of occasions where I have made plans to create that get messed up,” Hollie admits.
She has learned how to detect the best times for her DEWdles. “You have to have the sun warm the ground during the day before the night that you want to the dew to form, because the heat leaving the ground is what causes the dew to form – so if the sun doesn’t reach the ground the day before; then the dew won’t form,” Hollie says.
“I got tired after a couple of months of going out there and trying to figure out when there would be dew so I started researching online; it seemed random and I didn’t understand the rhyme or reason of it. It has to be a warm clear day followed by a cool clear day preferably with a breeze, and it can’t rain. I got an email from meteorologist Thom Benson and he was teaching me about dew points, saying that you need the relative humidity in the air over a certain amount and then you need the temp to drop below the dew point overnight in order to cause the dew to precipitate,” Hollie says.
Thom is now the director of the Tennessee Aquarium where Hollie frequents to sketch her mammal friends that she is fond of.
She also paints on canvas and has several oil paintings on her website. She has sold all of her equine paintings. Hollie has also been making blank handmade books in journal form and will be selling those at a local business.
“They are all hand bound and hand sewn – very durable. I might offer them online later but for now I plan to start off small and offer them at ‘Everyday Eclectic’ which is over by Soda Works. I would love to be a fulltime artist, but as far as galleries go, I think they are becoming obsolete,” Hollie says. “You can create a market anywhere – whether it is online or in local shops. I know quite a few artists who do a majority of their sales in local shops, delis and book stores. Your artwork is more likely to be seen by regular people not just your normal art-crowd people,” Hollie asserts.
“Those businesses usually take a smaller percentage of the proceeds, but it is typical for a gallery to take close to 50%. If you want to make $500, you have to charge about $1,000. I feel strongly that everyone should be able to have original art in their home. I think it is a misconception that art has to be expensive and is only for the upper crust. For the rich folk who spend thousands of dollars on an original painting, it doesn’t have to be like that. You can go over to UTC and probably get something from a student for maybe $500 and they would be happy to sell it to you,” she says.
Hollie has a passion for supporting local. “There is artwork for sale in local businesses all around here that you can pick up for a couple of hundred bucks. It doesn’t have to be expensive and it doesn’t even have to be a painting; it can be a sculpture or handmade book,” she states.
“There are a lot of ways to ensure that fine art and fine crafts enrich your home and enrich your life,” Hollie insists, “you just have to look for it.”
To visit Hollie Berry’s website: http://www.art-instincts.com/
Or become a fan on her Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/#!/ArtInstinct/info