by Maggie See
Olivia Howell, also known in the art world as Greens of June, takes ideas for her paintings from the plants and animals all around her. Currently residing in Chattanooga, TN after having lived in Colorado, she says several of her pieces have been inspired by the local zoo, a bird at the feeder or ducks at the pond, but it really just comes down to “common woodland animals” and “mountains and trees.”
Her first pet was a turtle named Turbo. That progressed down the seemingly natural line of childhood pet companionship of hamster to fish to bird to cat. Now Olivia has a golden doodle who goes beyond normal dog duties and is her official “studio buddy,” as well.
Olivia’s parents helped kick-start her art career by encouraging her into classes as a kid. That led to spending a lot of time in high school classes in fine art, so much that she usually ate lunch in the art room. She was then encouraged further by three professors at Harding University, “which is a tiny private college in the middle of nowhere Arkansas.” But credit for the titles of her biggest fan, best critic and manager, goes to her husband. He can also be found occasionally assisting Olivia at art markets.
As a child, Olivia spent a lot of time watching PBS nature documentaries, eventually falling in love with the original Planet Earth series. “Anything where I get to see the beauty of nature while also learning something about it is great.” Her style has also been influenced by the evolution from Classic Disney films to Pixar’s more digital take on animation, especially the lighting in the movie Tangled. Along with Kubo and the Two Strings and The Boxtrolls, Adventure Time also gets her imagination going. And a recent introduction to Miyazaki’s masterpiece Howl’s Moving Castle caught her eye with the mind-blowing background art.
When asked what she would do with the opportunity to install a mural somewhere, Olivia referenced an existing one that she recently discovered on an old chimney remnant at Stringer’s Ridge by J.W. Butts (muteOn). “I love the idea of someone going through the woods and finding my hares circling the moon in an old crumbling wall, or walking down Main and catching a glimpse of my dancing jackalopes in an alley.”
Although her art seems to naturally flow together, it’s not always easy to create. A recent snake painting caused Olivia a few anxious bits of necessary research, but it was a beautiful piece of work in the end, along with the triumph of semi-overcoming her fear. She says birds, specifically the feathers, can cause some problems as far as conveying the patters through paint. But elephants are typically always fun, as they’re “weird and unique.”
Other than watercolors, Olivia does like to revisit her old love of oils. She goes traditional with still lifes, portraits and landscapes. Digital painting is something she’s dabbled in, mostly self-taught, and would like to explore more.