Drawing On Inspiration

With watercolor, pen and ink, prolific painter Barbara Holleman captures memorable scenes
This barn, captured by Holleman in 1971, is thought to be over 200 years old. The cedar shingles seen here replaced the barn’s original thatched roof.

How does a nonagenarian with a sunny outlook celebrate her 90th birthday? In grand style, by throwing herself a party, hiring a top caterer and basking in the sight of friends and family raising their glasses high and enthusiastically singing the familiar refrain. Meet ageless artist Barbara (“Everybody calls me Bobby”) Holleman, who has been drawing and painting for as long as she can remember. While she doesn’t spend as much time in her home studio as she did after she and her husband, Bill, arrived in Vero Beach 35 years ago, she is always on the lookout for something new to sketch and can easily be enticed to do an occasional commission.

The walls of Bobby’s barrier island living room are filled with paintings, some of her own, others by artists whose work she admires. The majority are watercolors, her medium of choice.

Molly, her faithful four-legged “best friend,” is curled up in a chair, pretending not to listen as Bobby talks about her art and about how fortunate she is to have discovered her passion for painting early in life.

“For as long as I can remember, I’ve always loved to draw, and my father, who moved our family to Montreal when I was young, encouraged me. He wanted to make sure his three daughters had a profession when they grew up, so he sent my older sister to a secretarial school, my younger sister to a nursing school, and I went to an art school,” she says, clear blue eyes bright as she recalls the training that led her to become a commercial artist for leading Montreal department stores.

Categories: Art & Artists, Features