Syntax Issue 10
Denver Syntax

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Josh Holland’s work is no Sesame Street.

The private sketchbooks of our lives oftentimes serve as the anvil from which everything else in our life’s workshop is forged. While these sketchbooks can provide the provenance that can lead to professional success, tracing that path backwards, to its source, is another matter altogether.

Even few artists with talents in the same arena as Josh Holland are fortunate enough to make a living as a professional artist – working, drawing and illustrating with their own hands in commercial industries. Certainly grateful for his trade, the trick for Holland has been the question of how to merge his professional ambition with the force of his personal drive.

…I take that back: maybe Josh Holland’s work is a little Sesame Street: A little bit education and a little bit art. Like one of his favorite mediums – Holland has spent his years learning how to transfer the life he has created in his sketchbooks to his life as a commercial illustrator.

Some of Holland’s characters are identifiable. Others are universal. They are portraits of your fiancée, your heart, your little girl – the robots you memorized in your childhood, the remote controls of your life. His lines are clean, recalling the Japanese penchant for clean, linear strokes. His images are playful, like all of the comic book heroes that he idolized and drew when he was a child.

Pulling from popular iconography, Holland has employed universal shapes, colors, textures and compositions as a springboard for his own oeuvre. Certainly, much of pop art has culled from popular images as a foundation for work. Warhol escalated that notion. And certainly, whether it’s accepted or not, the lines of copyright have been blurred over the ages. However, it is the lone vehicle of authenticity where personal production leaves that celebratory intersection of drawing on the world for art. It is precisely this vehicle, this Ferrari of the creative process world, which Josh Holland bought and owns.

Under the roof where Josh Holland sleeps at night there is not just one working, commercial and fine art artist – there are two: His fiancée, Shannon Bonatakis (featured in Issue 13 of syntax) is also a successful local illustrator. If there was any question where Holland was going to find some of his future inspiration for his work and for using his authentic voice and pen as a sword – it is to be found right next to him. For it is on account of the couples hectic work schedule and limited leisure time that serves as inspiration for continually producing, continually working. For when Bonatakis is working, so too is Holland – both on their gallery work as well as their professional work. With the visible shift in his current body, this invaluable and rare relationship has only served as fuel for Holland’s incessant drawing and sketching.

And while Holland is currently shaping his newest body of work, he continues to struggle to find a balance between his professional life – which is an unending production of very-Holland creations – and his personal sketches and bodies of work, which are appearing to shape-up a lot easier than even Holland gives himself credit for.

More than anything, and as is the case for anybody engaged in a personal endeavor where part of their talent and idea foundation is manipulated and drawn from by the strains of their professional lives, the struggle to stand on the crest of these waves without tipping-over is challenging. Sometimes it beats you up. But for somebody like Josh Holland, you can simply call upon all the superheroes that have drawn – to beat that confusion out of the air.

Stay-tuned to Holland’s up and coming work. We have a feeling that we will be seeing more gallery work in the near-future.