Harold Hollingsworth creates rich surfaces and textures with layers of graphic forms and lyrical line work that evolves in an almost geological methodology. Working primarily in acrylic, his medium- to very large-scale paintings capture a sense of urban decay that is both celebratory and even playful. In our interview, we talk about his process, the Seattle history that inspires him, and the music that gets him painting.
You’re totally old-school Seattle, and I know your history with punk rock, skateboarding, and scooter culture have all been represented in your art. What changes have you observed, and how have those changes shown up in your art?
The rawness of the city has been removed as far as venues that one used to see bands and art events at. It surprises me on occasion, and I suppose I react in my work by maintaining a rawness, making things that take materials from the telephone poles and walls, like old and new flyers and collaging it in my work as surface. I want things to be raw and real, graphically speaking. Direct.
Could you tell me a bit about your actual process? How do these elaborate and multilayered pieces come together?
I work in failure, push-pull I once heard it called, and accept that I don’t get results quickly. It’s a patience game on my end, being able to allow for it to develop in time. I look at it as a form of frosting on a visual cake, and history, the value of that surface, the seduction of it, the real richness that comes from building up things.
It certainly does show the history, layer by layer, as each painting journeys towards what it will become. Do you ever struggle with when to call it done, or ever miss some elements you’ve covered up?
Consistently, yes. It’s one of the reasons a sander is as important in my practice as a brush or pencil. I scrape and sand stuff back, and, much like old billboard imagery on old brick walls in a city, I get these wonderful ghosts of ideas returning and resparking anew. A phoenix of sorts. I go through sadness at things I bury and then rejoice at seeing them aged or sanded and made raw and more relevant to my aesthetic.
You just did a big wallpaper/mural project for CitizenM Hotel in Pioneer Square right?
Yeah, that was through the King County Arts Commission, and since the hotel was going to be erected in a former parking lot adjacent to an old music venue and creative space, I played on the history of that very neighborhood and my musical and visual awaking in that very parking lot as a teen. I used old flyer graphics from the music made in that neighborhood and signage that always caught my eye and combined it all together to come up with a really personal work that represents the Pioneer Square neighborhood in a very specific way and pays homage to the neighborhood’s influence on art and music that still is in play.
That’s so cool. So what music gets you going these days?
I have been mixing it up, but in the last month, lots of old ska, and especially the Specials after hearing of Terry Hall’s passing. Mixing in lots of classic shoegazing music as well as garage sounds, so anything from Ride and the Jesus and Mary Chain to Black Lips and the Night Beats. Even going back to the sounds of when I was in Tullycraft, so bands I remember from tours and festivals, like Henry’s Dress and Sukpatch as well.
Good stuff. What are your favorite moments in a normal day?
I paint best when others are getting ready for sleep. My mind clears and I don’t fret about missing something, knowing that I can focus on making things and get into my flow with little anxiety. I also enjoy mornings for bike rides. I got into cycling a few years ago to help lose some weight and get fitter after turning 50. The light, the quiet of it allows me a meditative space I find useful for painting later in the day.
Next major creative goal for 2023?
I would love to get some travel in, do a few select residencies in places like France or Iceland. I stopped after COVID hit and haven’t been out of town since 2019. I think it would be rejuvenating to meet some other creatives in a special location and see what creatively comes from that experience. I’d love to do another big project in some ways, like I did with CitizenM. I really enjoy collaborative conversations that spring visuals I don’t get on my own.
Anything you wanna plug?
I’m in a group show currently at Traver Gallery here in Seattle, up through the month of February.
Find more of Harold Hollingsworth’s work at haroldhollingsworth.com and follow him on Instagram at @harold_hollingsworth.