Painter David Holland never truly appreciated the beauty of a thunderstorm until he was driving in the middle of one back in the mid-’90s.
Holland, an Oklahoma City-based artist, was heading south on I-35 from a Ponca City arts festival. As the Technicolor hues of the sky grew darker and more ominous at highway speeds, he noticed the rapid development of a thunderstorm blocking the sun’s rays with inflating clouds.
This impending downpour was not intimidating to Holland but rather fascinating―— fascinating enough to chase and depict these types of storms first by camera and then by paintbrush for the next two decades.
“[Storms] kind of have a bad rap because they can be so destructive, so I’m kind of wanting to promote the positive aspect of them,” Holland said. “They are kind of a life-giver of Earth.”
Holland categorizes Earth as a “Goldilocks planet” because of its advantageous position in relation to the sun.
“We’re not too close and we’re not too far, so we have liquid water, so that’s what really made it possible for life to be established on Earth,” Holland said. “And clouds are the physical, visual representation of that fact that we have viable water on the planet.”
Holland uses oil paintings to promote the intricacies of a storm’s development, particularly visible in the everchanging cloud formations.
“What I’m after is a real three dimensional look, so that you can see the entire storm from the top to the bottom and then see the dynamics of how it’s working and how it’s forming and developing,” he said.
In order to capture that process, Holland takes up to a hundred photographs of a developing storm out in the field for a variety of looks the storm achieves throughout its cycle.
As he explained it, Holland’s perfect storm is a combination of light from the setting sun and darkness as the clouds roll in, casting shadows, because the gradation of colors is optimal.
He experienced this ideal scenario last March after keeping an eye on the weather from his studio window, which yielded a 24-by-48-inch oil painting of the downtown skyline called “The Towers.”
In the winter season, Holland is not out storm-chasing like he often is during the spring and summer months. But three of his most recent oil paintings — including “The Towers” — are currently exhibited at Oklahoma Contemporary Arts Center.
Holland’s work joins that of 32 other artists in the Arts Center’s annual fundraising show, ArtNow: “Shine,” curated by John Seward.
Like Holland’s work, much of the exhibit includes art influenced by nature.
“Holland’s cloud paintings fit the spirit of ‘Shine’ … a recently completed work shows a reflection of sunshine on the Devon building at the same time a storm is building to the east,” Seward said in a press release.
ArtNow showcases various media, including painting, drawing, printmaking, fiber, wood, mixed media, photography and sculpture.
The exhibit is held in the Eleanor Kirkpatrick Gallery, which is free and open to the public.