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A wild place in Ohio inspires local artist
Mary Louise Holt, Indian Hill
ART EDUCATION: Bachelor of Fine Art, College of Mount St. Joseph. I have also studied under: Nelson Shanks and Danial Greene (portrait and figurative), Joseph Paquet, Albert Handell and Jeannie McKenzie (landscape), John Banovitch and Greg Beecham (wildlife).

hOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN AN ARTIST?
I've been infatuated and compelled to create art since I was old enough to hold a crayon. My parents were often physically ill, and I think creating art was also a way to cope with that.

DO YOU REMEMBER YOUR FIRST WILDLIFE WORK?
I worked for many years as a natural science illustrator and an exhibit designer for museums and organizations involved in environmental education. In 1984, I was commissioned to create the artwork for the Cincinnati Children's Zoo renovation. It required a 16-by-20-foot interior mural of a tree filled with birds and other wild creatures, and dozens of drawings and paintings of animals for identification signs and interactive exhibits.

For my research, I sketched them all from life. One day, as I sketched three baby raccoons, they started climbing all over me. One sat on my head while I sketched the other two. Painting these animals was the most fun and rewarding thing I had ever done. I was hooked!

WHY WILDLIFE ART?
In the 1970's, when I started working as an exhibit designer, I often worked closely with naturalists, scientists and curators. Through them, I became aware of the extent of the environmental destruction taking place in our community and around the world. I decided that I wanted to use my talents as an artist to impart my knowledge and appreciation of the natural world to others.

WHY THE WILDS?
Its preservation and research efforts on rare and endangered species are a critical endeavor as species from all over the world become extinct at alarming rates. The 9,100 acres provide an important habitat for native flora and fauna, as urban sprawl continues to consume more land.

DESCRIBE YOUR STYLE:
I'm primarily a realist painter but I strive to create art that is so much more. It's easier to just be a draftsman mechanically reproducing an image. I strive to infuse my work with light and life, so that the image touches the viewer on an emotional level.
Many of my paintings tell a story. Especially my figurative work depicting the Native Americans that once lived here and the wilderness they depended on for survival. Some may say that it is too illustrative , but I am passionate about imparting to the viewer the natural history of our land and what we have lost. Isn't art supposed to be passionate expression?

MOST DIFFICULT PART OF WILDLIFE ART?
In the past few years, wildlife artists have taken their art to a higher level of technique and innovation. There are many outstanding wildlife artists today, and competing against so many skilled and creative individuals is challenging.
The good news is that with the new awareness of environmental issues like global warming, the general public is starting to take notice like never before. This is an exciting time to be a wildlife artist.

MOST FUN?
As a realist painter, it's important to become intimately familiar with the subject I am painting. It's important to experience firsthand the environment that the animal inhabits. This creates opportunities for great adventure.
At The Wilds, I was able to observe many fascinating and unusual animals in an environment with spectacular scenery. It doesn't get any better.

IF YOU COULD BE ONE ANIMAL WHAT WOULD IT BE? A bird. I especially feel that way when I visit The Wilds. From the many high vistas, one can observe the vast landscape as far as the eye can see in any direction. Birds soar high above in the endless open sky. I can't help but to wish I could be up there with them.

WHOSE WORK INSPIRES YOU?
From the past, N.C. Wyeth. From the present, Robert Bateman. When I'm trying to come up with my own compositions, I find myself looking at their work more than any other artists.

IF YOU COULD BUY ONE PEICE OF ART BY ANOTHER MASTERWORK ARTIST, WHAT WOULD IT BE?
It would be difficult to choose one artist's work over another and it's not because I'm trying to be diplomatic. We all have the same interest and passion for nature and art, and yet each of us has our own unique interpretation.

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Mary Louise Holt's painting 'A Reverence for the "Lord God" Above' was accepted as an entry in the 'Art for Conservation 2008" exhibit at the Hiram Blauvelt Museum, September 26-28.

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