Painter-printmaker Eric Holch making his mark with scenes of summer

From July 2009 article in the ‘Inquirer & Mirror’ –  by Lindsay Pykosz, I & M Contributing Writer

Photo by Nicole Harnishfeger

When Eric Holch was younger, his mother, a sculptor and fashion designer, would require every Nantucket house-guest to paint a picture by the time their stay was over. The result was a wall of paintings from a variety of different people with a variety of different styles. Surrounded by art and artists, Holch says, influenced him to pursue a career as a painter and printmaker – a career that has brought him much success and happiness over the past 30 years.

“When I was 15, my father gave me the first in a series of silkscreened posters by Bobby Bushong,” said Holch. “When I got out of college, I started silkscreening and the first prints I did were very popular.”

While Holch had a job in advertising at the start, in 1985 he decided to quit his job to become a full-time artist. Doing most of his work in the winter, Holch said he has been working on a series that pays homage to Bushong’s original posters. Work on this series started in 2000, and Holch said that there are seven total posters so far, with more possibly on the way. “I started working on this series nine years ago as a sort of tribute to Bushong and those posters I got when I was fifteen,” Holch said. “While Bushong’s prints had ‘Nantucket’ written on the bottom, mine have it written on the top. Every year, I do one or two new ones.”

Another series that Holch has worked on in the past includes a series of umbrellas and beach chairs. This series was the beginning of a new road of experimentation for him. “These prints became more stylized rather than the reality of the real beach scene hodge-podge,” said Holch. “There are a lot of what I call ‘sorbet’ colors and it was the first time I’d ventured into these soft summer colors, and that led me into a whole other direction.” One of his works, “Race Week,” he described as a “leap of faith” for his audience with it’s grey sky and green water, but was very well received. Another, entitled “Sunset Sail,” was the most complex piece he’s ever worked on.  “It was definitely the hardest one I’ve ever done,” said Holch, an avid sailor. “I worked with a color palate that I’m not used to working in. I used a lot more blends than I’m used to and this one required a lot more experimentation.”  

While Holch has thrived with painting and silkscreening, he says that one never knows what direction the art world will lead you. Over the years, his artwork has been used to create cards, towels, magazine covers, coffee mugs, handbags, T-shirts, neckties, puzzles and even boxer shorts. “In the late 1980s, there was a huge puzzle craze in Japan,” said Holch. “The Japanese were publishing jigsaw puzzles using my artwork, and they would come to New York, where I was exhibiting, with pockets full of cash to buy a whole bunch of artwork for licensing. It was really quite funny.  But ever since then I’ve continued to publish jigsaw puzzles in the US and England.”

While Holch has jumped from gallery space to gallery space on Old South Wharf over the years, he has not regretted one minute of it. Starting in the late 1970s at the Granary Gallery, where he stayed for 15 years, he moved to the Sun Gallery, then took one of the last “shucking shacks” on Old South Wharf where he stayed for 10 years. He’s been in his current space for five years. Holch’s work is also shown at Nantucket Looms and The Lion’s Paw, among other island locations.

Holch’s love for art has taken him on an extensive journey, one that has been very rewarding, he said. His dream of becoming a successful artist has come true, and he said he can’t imagine doing anything else. “Print-making is a medium that is so unique,” said Holch. “It makes the work that we do so much more recognizable. When I was younger, I told myself that I wanted to do something in art, to leave something behind, to leave something tangible behind. And I’ve done just that.”