Charlotte-based artist Holly Graham, known for her abstract paintings, is sharing a new body of work at the Brandshop event in Charlotte, NC, December 9-15. Her vintage car illustrations, initially inspired by her son, quickly caught people's attention turning a side project for her son's room into custom commissions and a series of work.

We talked with Holly to learn more about her as an artist, what inspires her work, and how the vintage car illustrations came about.

Noteworthy: Tell us a little about your background. How did you get started in painting?

Holly: I have always been an artist and I was lucky enough to have parents who recognized it and encouraged me. When I was little, I could always be found with a sketch pad and crayons or colored pencils. I attended Wake Forest University, graduating with Honors in Studio Art. I then went on to work at the National Gallery of Art and the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington, DC. Even though I wasn't making art at the time, I consider it an important part of my art education. I went to every lecture and exhibition tour that I could, and I often spent my lunch breaks wandering the galleries. It wasn't until I started a family that I decided to make art full-time. I feel more complete when I have the chance to express myself through paint.

Holly Graham

Noteworthy: What inspires your work? Influences?

Holly: My work is mostly based on emotion and color relationships. I find inspiration everywhere, from fall leaves found on a morning run, to color combinations in fashion and shelter magazines. Pieces of fabric, ads in magazines, Instagram shots - it's all in the pictures on my phone and tells the story of my next few paintings in the works.

Holly Graham

Noteworthy: As an artist, how do you stay fresh creatively speaking?

Holly: I think it's important to always keep exploring. Travel has been a big influence on my work, but I can easily find new creative energy by exploring a new restaurant or gallery here in town. It's also important to take time away from the studio in order to return with new perspective.

Holly Graham

Noteworthy: Tell us about the work that will be available at the Brandshop and what inspired these illustrations.

Holly: The vintage vehicle series has been so fun to create!  It came about because I was looking for something different for my son's room. Henry loves old cars, especially SUVs, and he always points them out around town. I decided to paint a few for him, and people loved them. A lot of wives have contacted me about painting cars for their husbands, and I love that. It's an unexpected gift that holds a lot of sentimental value. The Brandshop is the first time I've shown this series publicly, and I've been really pleased with the response to the series. I see a lot of possibilities for these illustrations in the near future!

Holly Graham

Holly Graham

For more information about the Brandshop, visit Holly's work will be available during their Charlotte event December 9-15.

Holly Graham

Holly Graham was born and raised in Charlotte, NC, and graduated from Wake Forest University with Honors in Studio Art.  After graduation, Holly worked for the National Gallery of Art and the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington, DC.  Although she wasn't making art during these years of museum work, she considered them an extension of her art education.  Lectures, exhibitions, and lunch-hour tours solidified her interest and passion for painting. It wasn’t until Holly started a family that she decided to make art full-time. Her paintings are an abstract reflection of her everyday experiences.  Through spontaneous mark making and energetic compositions, Holly captures visual representations of moments in time.  Texture and color play an important role in expressing emotion through paint. She is most influenced by Abstract Expressionists, especially the Action Painters of the mid-20th century. Her recent illustration work has created a interesting dichotomy in her portfolio that keeps her work fresh as she goes from representational watercolor illustrations to abstract oil paintings. For more, visit and follow Holly on Instagram @hollygrahamfineart.

Upcoming Exhibitions

  • January 2017: Spotlight on Art, Trinity School, Atlanta, GA
  • February 2017: Art with Heart, Charlotte, NC
  • April 2017: Room to Bloom Auction, Mint Museum Auxiliary, Charlotte, NC

Recent Exhibitions

  • December 2016: The Brandshop, Charlotte, NC
  • April 2016: Room to Bloom Auction, Mint Museum Auxiliary, Charlotte, NC
  • December 2015: Small Works Show, Shain Gallery, Charlotte, NC
  • August 2015: Abstract Invitational, Shain Gallery, Charlotte, NC
  • April 2015: Room to Bloom Auction, Mint Museum Auxiliary, Charlotte, NC
  • February 2015: Art with Heart, Charlotte, NC

Featured images by Courtney Schramm of Charlotte Lately.