I am excited to share with you today’s interview with artist Holly Simental. Holly is an amazing artist who makes you feel connected with each animal she paints, it is as if you can read their minds. Be sure to visit Holly on her social media sites and check out her Etsy shop.
Featured Artist Holly Simental
Dave – Hello Holly and thank you for joining me today. I first discovered you on Twitter and have recently visited your Etsy Shop MamaKikis.
Dave – How long have you been creating art and what inspires you to continue creating?
Holly – When I was 6, an older girl on the bus said to me; “We should have a drawing contest, let’s draw a horse and then see whose is better.” I drew a horse that was not nearly as good as hers. Right away she said, “Mine is better, I win.”
When I got home, I sat down and spent a lot of time drawing the best horse I could. When I was done, I was pretty proud of it. I took it back on the bus with me to show the girl the next morning. The girl said, “You didn’t draw that! You had your mom do it!” I took that as a compliment and have been drawing ever since.
I am inspired now to continue drawing because I have found that my art makes others happy. I am captivated by the idea that I can create something that brings laughter and joy to a total stranger.
Dave – Many people do not realize the long hours an artist spends on mastering their craft. Your stunning artwork shows how hard you have worked on mastering your craft. How would you describe your art?
Holly – I like to make my artwork anthropomorphic while keeping it somewhat realistic. My favorite thing to do is to make an animal appear to have human expressions. I am still working on mastering this. Animals are my favorite subject because they make me happy. I was fortunate to grow up in Lake Tahoe, California. I loved the wildlife there and volunteered for Lake Tahoe Wildlife Care, a wildlife hospital, which furthered my interest in animals as well as my knowledge of the different species. While I was there, I paid attention to the expressions that they naturally made and saw that they had a human-like quality. I am now trying to attribute those unique characteristics that I saw, that is specific to the animals, to those that I am drawing. For example, I am in the process of painting a raven, I am painting him with a collection of items that he has collected just as ravens in the wild would do, but giving it some anthropomorphic characteristics.
Dave – The first thing that attracted me to your art was the unique charter each animal has. It is as if you can read their mind just by looking at them. What message do you hope your audience receives from your art?
Holly – The true underlying message of my artwork can be found in the scripture verses which are by my signature in every art piece. Each picture has a bible verse that covers the topic of the art. I hope that my audiences will enjoy the humor in my art as well as taking an extra step and searching the attached scripture and finding a deeper meaning for themselves in the scripture. My second hope is that each art piece, as well as each scripture, will speak individually to each person.
Dave – What makes your artwork unique?
Holly – I think what makes my artwork unique is the way in which I paint animals to look realistic, but to still have human-like characteristics. I also think that relating a verse with the art makes my artwork unique.
Dave – I agree with you Holly. You are creating art that connects people to animals while sharing a powerful message. Your paintings capture two of my favorite things, animals and coffee. How did this evolve?
Holly – As I have previously mentioned, I was raised loving animals. Coffee became an important part of my life when I went to nursing school. I had to drink coffee in order to fit all of the information into my mind that was required. I also began working the night shift at my hospital, I still work the night shift, and coffee was a necessity. I now especially enjoy a great Latte made by a local coffee shop! When I created my first coffee and animal artwork, “Owl Caffeine Scale,” it was very popular. I saw that many people loved animals and coffee so I have continued to produce that theme. I have so many animal and coffee ideas so there are more art pieces like that to come.
Dave – The animals you create like the red fox, German shepherd, and owls have so much character and personality. The red fox looks like me every morning when I take my first sip of coffee. How did you master this technique?
Holly – I search for a photo of the animal that displays the expression that I wish to achieve. I combine the expression and animal positioning with the topic that I want for my art piece. I want my animals positioning to look natural. My dogs have been very helpful with all canine art. I helped my female shepherd, named Eleven, pose her arms in a way in which she was holding a cup so that I could get the positioning to look natural for “Morning Fox”. I am still learning how to master this technique.
Dave – What art supplies are you using and what you would recommend for new artists to start with.
Holly – I work with Pigma Micron pens and Daniel Smith liquid watercolors because I can travel anywhere with this medium and work on my paintings at the beach and while camping. I do love oil, acrylic, and pastel as well. Although, I find those mediums to be easier to use at home.
I think that it is good to experiment with all art mediums before you trap yourself in only one. My high school art teacher, Mrs. Heidelburger-Smith, made me use all mediums. I feel this has really given me an advantage because I can switch to any medium and still feel comfortable with it. I realize this is not true for most people, but I think a new artist should try as many mediums as possible before they stay with just one. I also can say that a new artist should purchase a reputable supply brand if possible, not a chain store’s own brand. Your final art results will be much better if you use quality supplies.
Dave – When did you start selling your art and how did you get started?
Holly – This is an interesting story, Dave. My daughter found that a plant removed tar from our feet when we were on the beach in California. I said, “You should make soap with this plant and sell it.” A friend at work told me about Esty, and so I opened a store for my daughter’s soap. I also opened the store to help my mom sell her hand-sewn accessories. Near Christmas time, I decided to try my hand at making a Christmas card to sell in the store. To my surprise, it sold fairly well. I realized that people like my art. I decided to start making art prints to sell and it has grown from there.
Dave – When did you start selling your art on Etsy and what made you decide to use Etsy as your selling platform?
Holly – I started selling art on Etsy in 2014. Etsy was convenient because I had just opened a store on the platform. I actually knew nothing about selling art online. For me, it has been a few years of trial and error in finding what people like and how to promote it. I started selling my art on Society 6 in 2016. I just started selling on Red Bubble and Fine Art America recently.
Dave – I notice you have a lot of people who are involved with your Etsy store would you tell us a little more about that?
Holly – My Esty store, Mama Kiki’s, was originally opened for my mom and kids. Later on, it became a family creative outlet. My niece even has an art piece in my store. Occasionally my husband will carve a miniature surfboard for the store.
Dave – I think that is fantastic that there are so many people in your family supporting each other. They say “It takes a village”. How do you promote your Etsy store?
Holly – I use social media mostly. Esty teams are also very helpful. I have read that, statistically, most sales on Esty are generated from Pinterest more so than any other social media platform. Last year I became bored with social media, and quit using social media to promote my work. It took about 5 months, but my sales took a steep dive. It took me about 4 months of using social media to get my sales back up again.
I just opened an Instagram account, and I don’t have very many followers yet, but I think it is a great way to show my art process and work in a way that encourages people to follow my own artwork specifically.
Dave – What tips could you give to new artists who are interested in selling their artwork?
Holly – I would say; don’t give up. Keep trying different subjects that you love, and do it in ways that are fulfilling for you as an artist. It may take time and effort to get sales started, but if you really want it to happen, I believe that it will.
Don’t forget the importance of using social media to promote your work. It is also important to help promote other artists. If you help them promote their work, they will help promote yours. You can also look at how other creative people are displaying and promoting their work. This will give you ideas of what may work for your art too.
Most of all, when you sell a piece, remember that you sold it because someone enjoyed your creation.
Dave – That is powerful advice. Would you mind sharing two of your favorite creations and share the story behind them?
Holly – I would love to Dave! Thank you! I’ll discuss “Blue Grass Gang” and “Critter Canoe”. I am not sure if I have a favorite, but I have a lot to say about each of these.
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This is “Bluegrass Gang”. I love the unique sound of the combined instruments played in bluegrass music. Bluegrass music has such a fun quality to it and I can feel the emotion and joy of the band when I am listening to it. I wanted to bring this feeling to a visual image. I chose the kinds of animals that I felt would most likely play bluegrass music. Each animal is enjoying playing the music in their own way with a unique instrument. My favorite animal in this painting is the opossum. This is because of how he is hanging from his tail and playing the mandolin with both a foot and a hand. I made sure to listen to only bluegrass music while I was painting this in order to put me in the right mood.
The bible verse I used with this artwork is Psalm 104:33: “I will sing to the Lord as long as I live; I will sing praise to my God while I have my being.”
When I was visiting in Montana, I saw an amazing taxidermy art display with raccoons paddling a canoe. I found this so inspiring, I decided to create a painting expanding on the idea.
If you look closely, you will notice that all passengers behind the skunk have a disgusted look because of his smell. The opossum is hanging his head over the side and covering his nose, he is the closest to the wrong end of the skunk. The squirrel is just simply enjoying the ride and running his hands through the moving water. The bluebird is the lookout. I am pretty sure that the raccoons are getting paid with trash for their rowing efforts.
The first verse I had used in this painting was Matthew 18:20; “For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them.” This team may just be gathered in God’s name.
Recently, I changed the verse that is shown on the “Critter Canoe” piece that can be purchased in my Mama Kiki’s store. It states, “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; And through the rivers, they shall not overflow you.” This comes from Isaiah 43:2. I changed the verse Matthew 18:20 to this verse for my aunt Kathleen when she was battling cancer. She could look at the critters in the canoe and remember that God would give her the emotional support she needed during her trial. During her difficulties, God would be with her, and God would give her strength.
Dave – What social media sites can people follow you on?
Dave – Where can people purchase your art?
mamakikis.etsy.com for hand signed prints and cards.
Society6.com/hollysimental for all kinds of products with my art, as well as prints.
Redbubble.com/people/hollysimental for all kinds of products with my art, as well as prints.
fineartamerica.com/profiles/holly-simental.html for all kinds of products with my art, again, as well as prints (this is a new site for me and not all my work is currently available).
Dave – I would like to thank you one more time for sharing your artistic journey with us and I look forward to seeing all of your new creations.
Holly– Thank you so much, Dave, for giving me the opportunity to share my story. I am very flattered that you considered me.
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