Engineering a career in art
Holden Pierson’s passion lies with something as simple as a pen and paper.
Pierson (senior- drawing and painting BFA) has done several types of painting styles such as watercolor and oil painting, but his drawing specialty is just dry media on paper.
Line quality, he said, is probably his strongest talent since he uses lines to describe form as accurately as possible.
Pierson said what sets him apart from other artists is his analytical mindset.
“I didn’t intend really to be an artist at first,” he said. “I always thought of myself as someone who could be a scientist or a doctor or an engineer.”
But, it would seem the Pierson had a knack for drawing even as a young boy.
“There’s a picture of me, maybe three years old, no clothes on, with a little tyke’s easel, just drawling boats with chalk, and I think that carried throughout my life,” he said. “I would always draw in class like I would have a notepad full of paper, and in the back there would be tons of little drawings.”
But, he said, he didn’t take his drawing seriously until around high school, but was “on the fence” because he also wanted to one day become an engineer.
Pierson said he actually didn’t change his major to art until the second semester of his freshman year.
Initially, he said he thinks his parents were a little apprehensive about the major choice, also possibly questioning whether he himself was sure of his decision.
“I would try to come up with art-related careers that would provide me a salary and convince them,” he said. “I think once they saw how disinterested I was [in my current major], they were on board with the switch.”
Pierson said he gets inspiration for his art from storytelling, the natural world, movies, people and their relationships.
He also said that Japanese animation has been a huge influence on him with its form on storytelling and artistry.
Overall, the combination of all these things feeds into what he produces in the studio, he said.
Primarily, Pierson said he works in greyscale because of the pencil and pens he uses.
His art as a result can look a “muted” because of the shades of black and white, he said.
“My style kind of seems cold and mechanical because in cross-hatching, it’s just thousands and thousands of lines built up to describe form,” he said.
Other than winning first prize in his second grade art fair, Pierson hasn’t really entered any competitions.
But, he said, he does run a popular Instagram account, plasmaterial, where he posts his work.
He picked the name after a song he likes, he said.
“I like the combination of words, plasma and material,” he said. “Something amorphous with something definite and solid—the ambiguity kind of like describes who I am as a person.”
As an art student, he is only provided canvas from Penn State, but he said he doesn’t use canvas for his work.
Luckily, he said ballpoint pens are very cheap, but the paper he works on is another story—a roll of it is about $200.
“Yeah it’s expensive, it’s not a five-star notebook,” he said with a laugh. “My Christmas is usually just art supplies, like I got a roll of paper for Christmas, which may sound really boring to most people, but I was incredibly excited to unwrap that roll of paper. Yes, I unwrapped paper to get to more paper.”
Pierson said that one thing about being an art major that you learn really quickly is that they’re always unsatisfied with what they make.
Another thing about being an art major, he said, you get to a point where you stop counting the hours because some art pieces take a very long time to complete.
Pierson said he’s sure he’s spent at least more than 72 hours on a piece.
He also said that critique is a natural part of an artist’s life.
“If every piece, you know, was your magnum opus I don’t think we would have the variety off artists that we have,” he said. “So negative criticism is something we all deal with on a daily basis. It can hurt sometimes.”
But, he said he learned to build of a skin pretty quickly and take criticism with “a grain of salt, because at the end of the day, it’s your work, and your baby, and you do what you want with it.”
Video: Unwrapping paper to get to more paper
As an art student, Holden Pierson is responsible for providing the majority on his own supplies, and the price can be high for some his needed materials. However, the presents under his Christmas tree every year help in his endeavors.