Artists’ Studio | Paula B. Holtzclaw

Text by Bonnie Gangelhoff, Photos by Peter Taylor

An inside look at her studio

Describe your studio. My studio is truly my sanctuary. It is often overflowing with new work, canvases, frames, and books. It was completed about two years ago, and it is attached to my home. I jokingly told my husband that I wanted to be close to the refrigerator. As true as that may be, I do the majority of my studio paintings at night, and I didn’t want to be trudging through the yard in the dark or during bad weather. I am surrounded by windows on three sides, and I can see my gardens and watch the birds, rabbits, and deer. We even have a few stray cows ambling by. I have good north light as well as extra “daylight-simulating” lighting installed for evening painting.

Where is Waxhaw? Our town is about 20 miles south of Charlotte, NC, and it is known for its equestrian farms and antiques. We joke about there being more horses than people here. There is still quite a bit of beautiful undeveloped land, but it’s quickly being encroached upon.

Do you play music while you work? Yes. Music is one of the great joys to me. I play pretty much the whole gamut, from Broadway musicals, classical, and Frank Sinatra to Mark Knopfler and Eric Clapton. My favorites change each day, but old jazz and blues are mainstays.

Timber accompanies Paula while she paints

What do you keep in your studio? My studio partner is my “Velcro” golden retriever, Timber, who is either by my side or sleeping on his bed. Otherwise, my iPod, photos of family and friends, awards, pottery, and items for still-life set-ups.

What do you enjoy most about the space? My window views, the convenience of being able to paint at any time, and the ability to go outside and walk around the gardens when I take a break.

Do you have other artists’ works? Yes. It’s my way of rewarding myself or as a gift to my husband. I also think of it as “paying it forward”—recognizing and supporting other artists. I have works by Darcie Peet, David Ballew, Jeff Legg, Jeff Yeomans, Peter Fiori, Rick McClure, Susan Carlson, and a few others. On my future list is a Tim Horn and a Scott Christensen, who have very different styles, but both just enrapture me.

What impresses you about other artists’ works? It’s something that I “feel” first. It speaks to me on a personal level. Also, the artist’s use of color and a painterly style impresses me.

What artists from history impress you? John Singer Sargent and Johannes Vermeer. And I recently saw an exhibition of paintings by Ernest Blumenschein. It wasn’t so much his landscapes that got to me, but his portraits and figurative works. The longer I looked into the faces, the more stories they seemed to be telling. These artists were able to capture the soul in paint. What a gift!

What kinds of things are you drawn to as subject matter? Skies. I could cloud-watch for hours, and what is more beautiful and inspiring than a sunset? In our surroundings, God gives us a painting every day, if we just stop to notice. Since I love the coastal areas so much, I am quite at home painting them and the patterns of light and shadow, whether they are across a meadow or a flower.

What is the most rewarding thing about being an artist? When I hear the story of why someone purchased a certain painting of mine and what it means to them.

What motto do you live by? Just do it. Nothing will ever happen if you just sit and wait.

Describe yourself in one word. Optimistic.

If your studio was on fire, what one thing would you save? Paintings by my grandmothers.

What is the one place people will never find you? Public speaking at a podium.

What is your biggest fear? Public speaking at a podium!

When you are not painting, what do you enjoy doing? Working in my gardens, traveling anywhere and everywhere in the United States, visiting with my children and my family, floating in the ocean, and reading.

When people come to visit, where do you like to take them? Since I now live outside of Charlotte, when people arrive they usually want to just stay here. So we might sit by a fire outside, or take a walk in the woods, or look at the stars at night, which are incredible.


Highlands Art Gallery, Bernardsville, NJ; Fountainside Gallery, Wilmington, NC; Cheryl Newby Gallery, Pawleys Island, SC; Providence Gallery, Charlotte, NC;

upcoming shows

Solo show, Cheryl Newby Gallery, September 3-October 1.

National Oil and Acrylic Painters’ Society Best of America! 2011 Exhibit, Bolivar, MO, September 11-October 28.

American Women Artists Exhibition, Atlanta, GA, October 14-November 3.

Collectors’ Reserve: American Art Exhibition & Sale, Gilcrease Museum, Tulsa, OK, October 23-November 4.

Featured in September 2011.