If you go out to eat in the Bay Area, chances are pretty good you’ve laid eyes on a Gary Holman mural. A Native Houstonian and current resident of San Leon, Holman has been painting and sculpting for forty-five years. His largest body of work consists of commissioned portraits including a live portrait of Goldie Hawn. Not surprising, as Holman learned from world-renowned portrait artist, Harry Worthman.
But, Holman’s most recognizable works adorn the walls and facades of famous Texas honky tonks and many local restaurants (such as Topwater Grill, Noah’s Ark, Dickinson BBQ, Don Julio’s, The Cock-Eyed Seagull and T-Bone Tom’s). Holman said he became an artist when he realized he “wasn’t good at some things and very good at something else.”
He started drawing well known cartoon characters and characitures of his classmates. The drawings were well beyond the typical sketching talents of a seven-year-old. Holman remembered once being sent to the principal’s office because his teacher thought he had lied about a picture of Santa Claus he drew for class. After grade school, Holman studied art history in college. Then, he continued art work while in the Army where he was able to travel Europe. There he sought out museums and masterpieces. Even in Holman’s murals, he carries on the brush techniques of the masters he studied in Europe. He uses very little air brush and spray.
“I’m an old school muralist,” said Holman. Some of his favorite murals depict underwater scenes. Whether a sea critter, mermaid or sunken pirate ship, Holman captures the subject along with just-the-right light and tangible water ripples in such an authentic manner you might start holding your breath. His sculptures are quite breath-taking too. He carved the giant crab atop the 18th Street Pier sign in San Leon and a grimacing twelve-foot grizzly bear for Baylor University. Holman stated he’s been a realist most of his artistic life. He believes to be a good artist, “others must see what you see.” Holman’s realistic approach and curb appeal have allowed him to travel and paint around the country. Plus, he prides himself in “doing right by his clients” and therefore maintains relationships with them for years. Holman said that he is painting almost every other day. “I maybe have two pairs of clothes without paint. It just jumps on me,” he joked. Holman’s studio is located in San Leon.
He also bases himself out of Gulf Coast Palapas where he is commissioned for murals, tiki bars and other such tropical décor. Holman said, “with or without money in the bank, I’ll continue painting. I’ve always done this for the love of it.”
To view more of Gary Holman’s portraits, murals and current projects visit www.garyholman.net.
- Kelly Dawson