Culture Making the light sing

Making the light sing


Holly Ready


91 Two Lights Road

Cape Elizabeth

Massachusetts native Holly Ready has long admired the Maine coast. Since early childhood, the 59-year-old artist has spent every summer on the water in Cape Elizabeth, where she now lives and runs a gallery on Two Lights Road.

“I have been an artist for most of my life,” said Ready, who has lived in Maine since her early twenties. “I come from a long line of family painters. My grandmother was very influential in getting us (kids) set up with paints. We’d get it as gifts. My uncle made a living from painting. I’ve always been doing art.”

Though Ready began painting as a child, she was a junior in high school when she painted her first seascape.

“I thought, ‘That’s really good,’” said Ready, a 1994 Maine College of Art graduate. “I found an image of a seascape and one weekend decided I would get my paints out in my bedroom, and went at it. I was surprised at how well it came out. From then on, I thought, ‘I could be a painter.’”

Constant sources of inspiration for Ready, who became a full-time artist at age 38, are changing light and reflections, the abstract shapes of nature, “and the way the water cuts through the land,” she said.

“A landscape is my vehicle to make the light sing,” said Ready, who primarily uses oil on canvas to create colorful, striking landscapes. “I love the water, I love the seasons, and the different times of day.”

Her paintings, which are influenced by coastal vistas, have been featured in several local galleries, including Greenhut Gallery in Portland and Arden Gallery in Boston.

Ready worked as director of the Clown Gallery in Portland for two years before opening her own space, Holly Ready Gallery, which she ran for 12 years in the heart of Portland’s art district.

In April, Ready relocated her studio-gallery to a large barn at 91 Two Lights Road in Cape Elizabeth, where she paints every day and holds workshops.

Painting, Ready said, is what she was born to do.

“I’d be painting whether I could make a living from it or not,” she said. “I am so fortunate I am doing what I love.”

Ready spoke with My Generation recently about what influences her work, the impact that the baby boomer generation has on art today, and where she sees herself in 10 years.

Q What inspired you to become an artist?

A I was exposed to art, painting, at a very early age. My grandmother was a painter, as well as my uncle, who made a living from being a painter. With my grandmother’s influence and encouragement, I started painting at an early age. I didn’t take art courses in high school, but painted on my own. I enjoyed it and was pretty good at it. It wasn’t until my two sons started school (28 years ago) that I decided that I wanted to become the best painter possible and went back to college at age 31, Maine College of Art. The more I learned there, the more I realized I wanted to learn more and paint more, and I started to thrive as an artist. After graduating seven years later (in the beginning I took night classes), I maintained studios in Portland and at home in Cape Elizabeth.

Q What do you enjoy about your work?

A I love my work. Each day is a new inspiration, a new challenge. There is nothing more exhilarating than finding that one brushstroke of color that makes the painting come alive. It’s euphoric. Not to say that that happens every day, because it doesn’t. There are many days of frustration, knowing I can make it work, but not knowing how. Each painting is a new experience, whether I’ve painted the place before or not. Once that first brushstroke goes on the canvas, the paint starts to dictate the painting rather than the preconceived idea I had before starting. It’s all very reactionary and “in the moment” and I love that about painting. I love it that hours can go by without realizing it because I am so involved in what I am doing, experiencing the evolving painting.

Q What media do you work in, and what are you influenced by?

A I work mostly in oils on canvas and gouache on watercolor paper; although I paint oils on board and gesso-prepared paper as well. When working with gouache, I use a watercolor brush. Gouache is basically an opaque watercolor. When I approach my oils, I often start with a palette knife, mainly because it allows me to put down the exact color and consistency that I have mixed on my palette. As the painting evolves, the paintbrush may be introduced as well.

My surroundings and experiences influence my work. I am very influenced by changing light, reflecting light, warm and cool light. Living along the New England coast, every season offers a unique light. I’m influenced by the changing skies and restless tides. My aim in painting is to give the viewer a feeling of place and time without giving all the information, every little detail.

Q Do you think your work appeals to a particular age group?

A I don’t think my work appeals to a certain age group. It seems to run the gamut from the young high school student up to the octogenarian. I hope it’s universal. People seem to respond to my color and sense of light, mostly warm glow. I’m as delighted to talk about my work with a young high school student (who has no means to purchase a painting) as I am with the seasoned art collector. I love sharing what I know and encouraging artists to follow their heart. I often give painting workshops, and although exhausted at the end of the week, am totally exhilarated if someone learns something that makes them want to go home and paint more. I truly believe there is no “right” or “wrong” when it comes to art and painting, just different avenues of expressing oneself.

Q What impact do you think the baby boomer generation had/continues to have on the art world in general? How has art changed since you were a child?

A I’m kind of at the end of the baby boomer generation, but I feel that an art career is much more accepted today than it was when I was growing up. When I was in high school, looking at college, a career as a painter was never an option. Today it is. I was taught to take the practical route, get an education that you can earn a decent living from. A painter’s life wasn’t considered a decent living. I think parents (the baby boomers) today are so much more attuned to what their children “want” to do, rather than “should.” Although this is a positive, it can also set a young person up for disappointment, as well as set parents back thousands of dollars for an art education that leads nowhere if they aren’t somewhat practical, as well. I think the art student today has to be practical as well as creative. I also think art schools are realizing this too in offering more business classes to their art students.

I feel the digital age has been an asset for artists. An artist can live a rather solitary life, but with the Internet and online communication, one can be in touch with other artists and learn what is being shown anywhere in the world at that moment. They can also share their work with the world without ever leaving their studio. There is much more exposure today for artists than ever before. Personally, having a digital camera is one of the best tools I have for capturing a memory. It’s so instant. I can take a moving sunset one night, print it up when I get home and have it for use in my studio the next day to relive the experience and interpret it on canvas.

Q Where do you see yourself in the next 10 years?

A I hope that I continue to have the passion for painting that I have today for the rest of my life. I hope that I continue to challenge myself and explore avenues that are not always “comfortable” for me. I once heard an art professor say that it’s good to feel uncomfortable about what you’re doing because that is when you are growing as an artist. I hope never to feel too comfortable that I don’t continue to grow. I hope to make a positive difference in people’s lives, whether through a donation, an art class or a purchase of a painting. There is nothing more rewarding than seeing someone happy as a result of one of my pieces.

Holly Ready“Island Sunset,” painted by Cape Elizabeth artist Holly Ready in 2014 using oil on canvas. “The sinking sun behind Portland skyline, beyond Cushing Island,” inspired her, she said. Photo courtesy of Holly Ready


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