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Spencer draws inspiration from surroundings

“I would love to draw everything in Excelsior Springs.”

If Holly Spencer’s work looks familiar, it’s because you’ve probably seen it — and if you haven’t seen her art, then you’ve seen her subject.

Spencer paints Excelsior Springs and manages to capture more than just its likeness. Instead, she also manages to recreate the joy and charm of the town, through her use of color and perspective. Spencer grew up in Carrollton, and teaches art in Lawson, but she has called Excelsior Springs home since 2004.

As a child, Spencer kept sketchbooks. She received a Bachelor of Arts from William Jewell College, and has continued her education through classes from the Kansas City Art Institute. But she never prioritized her sketching until 2015. As teacher, with lots of after-school activities, as well as a marathon running, Spencer’s time fills up quickly. But she knew she simply needed to make it a focus, if she hoped to succeed.

“I realized if I was ever going to make my own art, I would just have to find the time,” Spencer explained.

To that end, Spencer began to log the hours she spent sketching in her planner, just so she could keep track. Doing so helped her make her own art a focus in her already very busy life.

As evident in her art, Spencer draws her inspiration from her surroundings.

“I draw my inspiration from the things around me,” Spencer explained. “I mostly sketch from observation and on location.”

She is a member of the Urban Sketcher Kansas City. They meet as a group and go on “sketchcrawls” to local attractions.

She saves much of her artistic admiration for illustrators.

“Most of the artists I admire are illustrators,” said Spencer. “I love the illustration work of Tommy Kane. He has the most fabulous sketches from his travels all around the world. His work is so detailed and humorous. It is always uplifting to view.”

Spencer also enjoys the work of pop artists such as Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein, and Wayne Thiebaud.

Spencer is always on the lookout for her next art project.

“I am always looking for subjects to sketch. Sometimes I pick things because I know I have the time top finish them quickly. Other times, it’s because the trees or the holiday decorations make it a perfect subject.”

She also refers to herself as a “collector of interesting things,” so her home studio also provides her with plenty of inspiration on the days she can’t make it out to paint.

As far as mediums go, Spencer works in watercolor after sketching in ink.

“I prefer sketching in ink first, before I add washes of watercolor,” Spencer explained.

She prefers to work in watercolor sketchbooks. She has learned to bind her own books, but her favorite sketchbooks are handmade by an artist by the name of Soleh Hadiyana in India.

But her inspiration is all downhome.

“I would love to draw everything in Excelsior Springs,” Spencer said. “I love this town. I love the history.”

Because of that, she tries to add a bit of the history of her subject when she posts something. She believes there is a link between art and history, especially since on several occasions, buildings that she has sketched have later been destroyed.

“I’m really happy that I have my sketches to remember them,” she said.

“I sketched an old Parker Carousel when the carnival came to town a couple of years ago,” she explained. “I later called the owner to find out the history of the carousel and he told me that the Excelsior Springs Carnival was its last.”

After the carnival in town closed, the 100-year-old carousel was packed up on a trailer and was later in a wreck. The carousel was unsalvageable and sold off for parts.

“I am glad I am able to preserve a bit of history through my sketches,” Spencer said.

This year, one of Spencer’s sketches was chosen to be the T-shirt for the 2018 Tortoise and Hare race for the Good Samaritan Center. Spencer has a special connection.

“It’s a race that’s very special to me,” Spencer explained. “I have participated in it for several years, and my grandma, Norma Gorsett, was very active on the board at the Good Samaritan Center for years.”

“She has always had a great heart for charity, and I have been inspired by her selfless nature,” Spencer added.

To see more of Spencer’s art, check out her Instagram account, millfeatherstudio.

By Samantha Kilgore • samantha@leaderpress.com

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