“Each piece starts with a story. I feel as though there needs to be a climax to create emotion through contrast,” says Holly Addi.
Arriving at Addi’s Salt Lake City home is almost like driving into an aerial view of one of her paintings—its architecture and landscape design flow and contrast against the frame of her neighborhood. The home is an abstraction of the minimal and emotional energy of basic living (heat, light, water). Despite her home’s striking beauty, Addi frequently mentions how the immaculate space could be improved, an indicator of her habit to curate everything around her to perfection—it’s the life of an artist.
Holly Addi recalls growing up with a creative spirit and an innovative mind. Yet it wasn’t until four years ago, roughly 20 years after starting her own successful floral gifting business, that Addi established herself as an artist, when she took on full-time painting while also opening a dwell-style gallery shop, Arte Haus Collectif, with a business partner.
She became an immediate, local success and currently has art hanging in galleries such as Gregg Irby Gallery and Anne Neilson Fine Art. Recently, Addi had the pleasure of providing some works to Karlie Kloss’ SoHo office space that was featured in Architectural Digest. After I was invited in, Addi (while cooking pasta) proclaimed that she only had 45 minutes for this interview before her daughter’s performance in the school’s rendition of The Lion King.
We sat down to chat with Addi about life before and after her smashing success as an artist, and what its like to balance her life as a business owner and single mother.
What was life like before you established yourself as an artist?
I was a creative director of my own company for 15 years. I started a profession right out of college doing what other people wanted me to do, but I couldn’t do it. I was just so good at making things pretty and being creative. So, when I was 22, I started a business. I literally had $75 left on a credit card. I was like, well, I’m going to do it.
I started in my house making architecturally structured floral arrangements. From there, the spider web effect happened and they got picked up for weekly designs at Nordstrom and the governor’s office. Once orders started coming in daily, I decided to see how a store would go. Fifteen years later, the business ended when my marriage did.
Were you disappointed to start a new chapter after 15 years of work for your business?
I look back now and I would have never taken my art career where it is. I never had parents that helped me out or prepared me for starting my own business. With my own kids, I am always telling them how to succeed in life. So, I was always dodging bullets left and right later in my life—I knew how to start stuff and make money, but I was giving things away left and right and getting taken advantage of.
The entire time, I had been painting on the side. Every time I painted, they sold, so I went back to my art and opened my own gallery. I have always owned my own business since I was out of college, so it was a no brainer. It was weird, almost like it was meant to be and the stars aligning.
As a child, what were you interested in?
I was always creative. Always. It wasn’t all with art or drawing. It was colors, it was putting clothes together, it was remodeling the doll house—it was making something out of nothing. I was an innovator. For example, my family was very poor, yet I won best dressed in my high school.
I never thought I could make money by becoming an artist or something that I was good at. I needed to do something traditional like become a lawyer or a doctor, but I never lost the creativity during my college side jobs. I just thought that after college you’re supposed to do something “real.”
How long have you been painting professionally?
Four years full time, but I have been selling art for 15 years. When I went full time, that’s when things really changed. If you’re not doing something full time, you’re not going to give yourself the discipline to become good at it. I feel like when you have to do something everyday and tell yourself, “Okay, I’m going to be the best that I can be,” it puts you in a different game.
What projects are you currently working on?
I just got into a really prestigious gallery in Nashville, TN. They never let new artists in, like ever. Just sent off my works there. Part of being an artist is painting your ass off and hoping your shit sells.
What does a normal day of painting look like?
Now that I’ve reached a different point in my career, it’s kind of a little bit more stressful. Before, I was creating with the hope that I would think it was good or for a new collection. Now it’s a different stress—a different worry. I have five invoices in my studio right now that have pre-paid for a commission, but I also have my family life to balance.
It’s the time. I need more time because it’s either going to the studio or time with the kids. I’ve reached a point where I’m very busy, and as an artist it’s just me. In my other businesses, if it got too busy, I could hire on another person, but with painting, I can’t. I am the artist, and even if things get busy, it can only be me creating these works.
What are you the most proud of in your artistic career?
I think it’s the fact that I am able to be on the same level as a guy would in a corporate position and raise and provide for my family from what I have created.
What is your process like?
Everything begins with a sketch and a color palette. Then, when I get into my element and rhythm, it is the only true moment I have to myself where I am me and it’s just me and my art. That’s when the magic happens.
Where do you see your art career in 5-10 years?
I want to get to the point that I am not inundated and painting too fast and sacrificing quality for quantity. I want to take the time needed to paint something perfect and have those works displayed in galleries that I am extremely proud of. I see that my use of negative space with different tones of white will not change, but some change is essential. Stay tuned.
What advice would you give future artists?
Things are meant to be. You need to follow and be open to where you are led, and be grateful for it. If you find success, be grateful for that.