By Colette Panchot
Christmas could not have a more enthusiastic champion than artist Bob Price Holloway. Locals know the 94-year-old artist as a mainstay at art fairs featuring whimsical works such as his “Plaza Lights” painting from the 1970s that still graces the best-selling holiday tin from Topsy’s Popcorn.
Holloway’s south Kansas City home houses his studio and an art gallery one can visit by appointment. To be in this space is to be alternately amused and awed. His creations range from rocks painted with animal faces to a handcrafted Renaissance frame with a period painting of the birth of Jesus. His world-renowned body of work reflects his zeal for creating art during his long and productive lifetime.
“I try to make every experience an inspiration for a new way of doing something. Creating a piece of art is my goal, and I hope it becomes a painting,” he chuckles.
Holloway explains that his themes diverge from those commonly found at art fairs. While other artists may shy away from making overt statements in their work, he continues to find success with religious and political themes. Recurring images include Christmas and Bible stories, patriotism and politicians, historic buildings and cathedrals, barnyard chickens, and trees laden with subtle surprises. He employs pen and ink colored with oil paints and glazes, as well as other forms of mixed media.
This master artist’s intricate drawings, illustrations and paintings often require a closer look to be fully appreciated.
“I tell the whole story and words have to be part of it,” he says. “I was trained in advertising, so it came naturally for me to include words and graphics in my art.”
While he describes his work as nostalgic, he keeps it relevant. “Miss Liberty” was created shortly after the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center, and he continually updates “Reunion of the Presidents,” which now includes all 46 U.S presidents interacting in the East Room of the White House. He recently made a book for his grandson entitled “Climbing Europe” in which he illustrated climbing monuments like the Eiffel Tower.
He creates art every day from about noon to 6 p.m., and his workspace spans two levels of his home, including a worn umber leather chair he affectionately calls “The Pit.” Essentially self-taught, he regularly attends life drawing classes to hone his skills and meet other artists.
This father of three also keeps a daily “descriptive art journal” that captures his unwavering sense of wonder. His journals are bursting with captions and drawings from his surroundings, TV and Facebook. He has been fashioning these living heirlooms for more than 40 years. Until two years ago, he and a member of his family went to Europe annually on art field trips.
A current-day Renaissance man, he not only draws inspiration from the world’s most revered artists but is skilled at replicating their varied painting styles.
“I love to do studies of the old masters. I start with observation and give it a twist,” he says.
Holloway’s studies of Bruegel, Vermeer and Caravaggio bear a striking resemblance to the originals but include added images that make the work his own. He has also painted a playful portrait of a medieval knight that bears his own face. His original gem, “Lunch at the Nelson,” depicts his family in Rozelle Court where he has fictitiously placed many of the Nelson-Atkin’s Museum of Art’s finest pieces.
He has written and illustrated three books showcasing his artwork, and he co-founded both the Westport and Brookside art fairs to give more artists the chance to be part of juried shows. For decades he attended about 40 art shows annually, including the Plaza Art Fair.
Born in Centralia, Missouri, and raised in Columbia until he moved with his family to Kansas City in 1942, Holloway attended Westport High School. An art teacher there unleashed his natural talent, and his stepfather’s tour of 1940s downtown Kansas City inspired his love of historic buildings. He started in the art department at Western Auto Supply Company, became an award-winning art director and illustrator at area advertising agencies, formed his own agency, and later opened Bob Holloway Studio and Gallery. He says his proudest accomplishment is having a successful career in art, which can be daunting.
“I have to have fun,” Holloway says with a laugh. “I’ve always enjoyed the humor in things and took advantage of that humor in my art.”
To reach the artist, go to bob-holloway.squarespace.com.