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Spotlight on Steve Holler

For El Dorado Hills resident Steve Holler, life has come full circle—from drawing and painting as a child to a decades-long career in graphic design and, in recent years, back to drawing and painting as a fine artist.

As a teenager, Holler’s hero was painter and illustrator Norman Rockwell, best known for his covers on The Saturday Evening Post. “My dad saw that I was inclined to the arts and was very supportive—but also wanted me to make a living—so he guided me toward commercial design. Brand identity really intrigued me, and that’s what I built my career around.”

Holler enjoyed a successful career in the Bay Area, serving on the graphic design faculty at several colleges, including the Academy of Art University in San Francisco and the now-closed Art Institute of California in Sacramento. But since retiring from the industry, he says it’s been very satisfying to spend his days drawing and painting again.

Steve Holler


“As a teacher, I always encouraged students to remember what got them into art in the first place. If you began by drawing and painting, then stick with it.” So he’s following his own advice.
Holler, who works primarily in acrylic on canvas and is a member of the Folsom Arts Association, often exhibits at Gallery 10 in Sutter Creek. This past summer, his paintings were included in the The Artist’s Mind exhibit at Harris Center’s Bank of America Gallery. His work has also been recognized both nationally and internationally, and his painting Mokelumne Span was included in the 2019 edition of the book AcrylicWorks: The Best of Acrylic Painting.

What appeals to you about acrylics?
I’ve explored many mediums throughout the years. As I began focusing on commercial design, I limited my involvement with traditional oil painting and embraced the tools of graphic design—T-squares, triangles, pencils, ink and, ultimately, computers. Later, as I returned to fine art, I became concerned with the health ramifications of using oil paints—linseed oil, turpentine, and other solvents—worries that aren’t present in acrylic paints. In addition to providing a healthier studio environment, acrylic paints dry quickly and offer durability and great versatility in application.

The Tunnel


Describe your artistic style.
My work falls on a line between “realism” and “impressionism,” but I’ve always been more concerned about following my point of view in paintings than assigning a title to their style; that is, creating art viewers can recognize and relate to. I really want to communicate with people, so they can identify with and bring something of their own to my paintings.

How do you choose your subjects?
I look for objects, locations, and environments that have a universal appeal. My subjects of interest are natural forms and environments that speak to a casual, rural attitude. I want viewers to experience the familiar from a new perspective or understanding. A number of my recent paintings include water. Painting water, almost as an animated form, is very challenging artistically, so that’s what I’m experimenting with now.

Coast Hwy One


Do you typically paint on-site or from photographs?
I’m primarily a studio painter. I go on explorations that lead to a collection of photographs used for reference and compositional studies, but I never attempt to duplicate them.

Do you have a favorite piece you’ve created?
Usually, my favorite painting is the one I’m currently working on. I do have a number of pieces I’m fond of and have not sold for various reasons.

You also work in pencil. What appeals to you about this medium?
Being able to draw is critical to success in any representational image development. An artist must be able to understand and document the various subjects they are interpreting. I produce many sketches prior to developing and executing a final painting. I appreciate the spontaneity and line quality experienced in producing a well-refined drawing. I find the drawing process to be as satisfying as rendering a completed painting.

The Winter Wood Stack


I understand you also create digital drawings? Please share more.
I’ve just begun to explore the possibilities in applying traditional drawing principles to a digitally rendered image. The iPad Pro and Apple Pencil have resolved so many of the problems that used to be there, such as a delay. I initially shied away from digital drawing, but now that it’s so seamless, I find it really intriguing.

What is the best compliment you can get about your art?
When people look at my work and say something as simple as, “That reminds me of an experience.” For example, a man said one of my paintings really brought back some fond childhood memories.


Photos by Taylor Allred ©stylemediagroup. Artwork photos courtesy of Steve Holler.