We caught up with the brilliant and insightful Courtney Leigh Holder a few weeks ago and have shared our conversation below.
Courtney Leigh, thanks for joining us, excited to have you contributing your stories and insights. What’s been the most meaningful project you’ve worked on?
This past Friday I hand-delivered a recent commission still life painting to my favorite restaurant, Lenoir, a farm-to-market Austin-based restaurant that celebrates seasonal Texas ingredients. This feast painting, inspired by the owners’ culinary creativity and their locally-sourced food, has reset my focus and is heavily influencing a new direction for my work. So many of my personal passions, past creative influences and the way my eye sees beauty really doved-tailed in this oil painting, and am quite taken with the new direction my work is headed. I know this is the start to a new period for my work and it’s a bit thrilling.
The painting itself is a 40″x30″ still life featuring symbolic items sourced from the owners and a mouth-watering modern Texas feast including duck, red snapper, oyster, a white-tail deer skull, persimmons, peppers, cabbage, peppers, and of course, red wine. As soon as one of the owners, Todd Duplechan, initially approached me about doing this banquet painting I started imagining a Texas version of Babette’s Feast! I love foreign films, and especially this 1987 Danish drama film directed by Gabriel Axel centering around food and community. It’s so clear that owners Todd and Jessica Maher both cook so thoughtfully as a gift to their community. And their restaurant reminds me so much of this movie. Since first dining at Lenoir and experiencing the artistically crafted food whose appearance matches its tastes, I’ve also loved the environment and been struck by how a good meal often leads to greater connection to the people you share food with and great conversations, like in the movie Babette’s Feast.
I wanted to paint a feast like that — that acts like a telescope or window for viewers to connect to the beauty of this modern farm-to-table feast, for the owners to connect to the beauty they continue to build, and Lenoir patrons to connect to nostalgic memories of past dining experiences at Lenoir. Through seeing this painting – and all these connections – I hope people connect with something beautiful.
I also love symbolism! And it was really fun including symbolic items from the owners in the painting too, like Todd’s chef knife and Jessica’s grandmother’s cookie cutters, that connect them to their passions. There is so much beauty surrounding the way they present each dish, the unique combination of locally-sourced ingredients and their vision to offer the best of what Central Texas has to offer with spice, heat and robust flavor.
So many things in this painting resonated with my artistic passions: symbolism, animals, rich food colors, and chasing the light on glass. There is a deep beauty in painting things that once were alive, like deer skulls, bird feathers, and fish scales. It’s very earthy and wholistic to see beauty in something you find beautiful both alive and dead. And also, the beauty of food itself and the rich enjoyment of consuming it. The way sharing a meal connects us to each other and to the earth. I also love the challenge of trying to capture a bit of the animals’ past glory and beauty. Another dominant theme in my work is a passion for chasing light. And this painting gave me the opportunity to really chase it! I find painting glass is one of the purest forms of being able to paint light. It’s such a challenge and the effects are stunning — to see the way light hits glass, the wine glasses, the wine bottles, all those flashes of light and shadow hugging each other – it’s such a joy to paint.
I am mostly a self-taught artist, and so feel incredibly grateful when given the opportunity to do a commission painting and team up with such lovely creatives like Todd and Jess — who’s own ability to make beautiful things, like Lenoir, stands out. I started oil painting when I was nine years old, and really haven’t stopped, and find sometimes the most fun is when working alongside others who love and create beauty. I am so humbled by this recent still-life project and getting to combine so many of my artistic passions into one piece, and hopefully help others connect to something beautiful. I hope this painting is the first of many modern still life paintings I get the opportunity to paint.
Courtney Leigh Holder is a Texas painter
Courtney Leigh, before we move on to more of these sorts of questions, can you take some time to bring our readers up to speed on you and what you do?
I am a contemporary impressionistic painter exploring nature, mystery and human connection in Austin, DFW, New Braunfels and West Texas. I paint places, people and still lifes, I feel connected to and hope these paintings act as telescopes or windows for others to feel that same connection to something beautiful. Nostalgia and mystery are common themes in my work, and “Sehnsucht,” a German word that resonates with me and means an intense yearning we feel especially for the unfinished parts of our life. Often when I paint constellations or blue flowers, these are all symbols for this word “Sehnsucht.” When I paint, I focus on chasing the light across the people, places and things in my work.
I really enjoy teaming up and working directly with clients to create paintings that brighten their walls and lives with something beautiful. I welcome commission work for public spaces, your business and your home. I paint landscapes, portraits and still lifes. If you are interested, please contact her at email@example.com
I sell original paintings and archival hand-signed prints in banquet stores in Texas, and on my website and Etsy shop. website: www.courtneyholder.com https://www.etsy.com/shop/CourtneyHolderArt
I participate in gallery shows, and pop up events. In April, I participated in Artsgoggle in Fort Worth, Texas and have an upcoming show that opens in May. 37th Texas & Neighbors Regional Art Exhibition May 14 – June 11 Gallery at Irving Art Center, 3333 N. MacArthur, Irving, Texas
Mostly a self-taught artist, I started oil painting at the age of nine. I formally studied figure drawing under Jim McMullan at the School of Visual Arts (SVA), New York City, NY in 1998. I also participated in short workshops with artists Tim Allen Lawson (2010), plein air painter George Strickland (2007) and Austin-based artist Jennifer Balkan (2015). An avid fan of poetry, most notably T S Eliot’s Four Quartets, poetry continues to influence many of her paintings. Holder’s love of observation, wanderlust and narrative, drove her to attain a Masters in Journalism from the University of Texas in 2004. While she currently lives in Dallas, Texas with her husband, and children, she is often found exploring tangled woods and deserts in Texas, and other beautiful places.
To see my most recent work, please follow me on Instagram: @courtneyholderart
“A born and natural painter, gifted and assured, Ms Leigh Holder celebrates life and the people she loves in these expressive and vibrant paintings, in still life studies, figurative, and landscapes as well, the artist embraces it all, with a determined energy, and enthusiasm..a terrific and admirable approach to life…and art.” – Doug Blagg
What do you find most rewarding about being creative?
I paint places, people and still lifes I feel connected to and hope my paintings act as telescopes or windows for others to feel that same connection to something beautiful.
I especially love my work to be seen in public places where people live their lives, like restaurants, hotels, and other places people seek beauty. I also like to work directly with collectors and other creatives and build relationships — I find this extremely rewarding as a creative.
Have any books or other resources had a big impact on you?
I always recommend Art, Inc.: The Essential Guide for Building Your Career as an Artist by Lisa Congdon because of the way she describes how artists need to build multiple revenue streams because of the seasonally nature of being self-employed and the sales cycle of artwork.
Also, I recommend looking at historical artists to hone your craft and learn from all the brilliant dead people that have gone before us to create beauty. There is so much to learn from their lives and seeing how they overcame artist challenges. For example Leonardo Da Vinci notebooks and Canadian artist Emily Carr wrote a number of biographies. I also find inspiration in poetry like Annie Dilliard and T S Eliot, music, like Andrian Berenguer and Explosions in the Sky and clever movie directors like the Duffer Brothers and Coen Brothers, so many greats out there to learn from!
- Website: www.courtneyholder.com
- Instagram: @courtneyholderart
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/courtneyholderart/
- Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/courtney-holder-ab82606