A Q&A with the Winner of This Years Dean’s Purchase, Brooke Holleran


Each year, Transylvania’s own Morlan Gallery holds a Juried Student Art Show, with the highest prize in the show being a “Dean’s Purchase Award,” which is placed in a permanent collection on campus with past winners. I had the opportunity to talk with the winner of this Dean’s Purchase, Brooke Holleran, to get her thoughts on this great achievement.

Here is a transcript of my Q & A session with Brooke. My voice will be J and Brooke will be referred to as B.

J: So, starting off, tell me a bit about this piece — what do you like about it, what inspired it? Is it a real location or an invented landscape?

B: It’s a mix of impressionism and realism as I see it, or at least, I tried to make it as realistic as possible, though it ended up being impressionist. It’s not an exact location, though, it’s a bunch of things blended together… I don’t know, I was mostly going for, like, a traditional “nature landscape” painting, but it turned more impressionist and fantasy-ish with my color usage.

J: And did you select it to be in the gallery, or did a professor advise you to?

B: I just chose four paintings I had laying around to turn in (for the gallery).

J: Okay, so there were others?

B: I had to pick a few and turn them in. Those were some of the only ones I had in my room with me that I could submit, since most of my (art) stuff is at home.

J: Oh okay, so then has visual art been a lifelong passion of yours — I know we attended Governor’s School For the Arts together back in 2019 and you were there for visual art — but how long has this been a part of your life now at 21?

B: I’ve been drawing since sixth grade, painting since eighth. So, I don’t know, I guess it’s pretty “lifelong” by now.

J: So is it something you plan on pursuing for a career?

B: I would like to go into graphic design, or, I guess I could always get my Masters (degree) in art and teach it, maybe at the college level.

J: Okay, so what does this Dean’s Purchase do for you? What are the implications on the rest of your art career?

B: It definitely looks good on a resume. It also shows me I’m on a pretty good level, based on, like, where I am in college.

J: Right, it boosts confidence.

B: Yeah, it lets me know I’m not awful.

J: Right, right. So, during your years of visual art, have you found any particular artist or artists that have great influence over your work?

B: Yeah, my favorite painter is definitely John Singer Sargent, and my favorite, like, line artist is probably Gustav Klimt. He’s mostly known for his paintings, but a lot of his linework in his sketches is really good.

J: Could you elaborate on what you mean by “line artist?”

B: I just really love his sketches, like his beginning art. You can look it up online, I just like it a lot better than his finished work. He’s mostly a painter and uses mosaics and stuff, though.

J: What do you like most about their works that you try to strive for in your own work?

B: It’s very expressive. They mostly do, like humans and stuff, like portraits. Though, I guess my painting is nature. I just love their usage of color, their usage of balance and stuff… they’re also really professional.

J: And do you seek to move towards more humanistic territory with something like portraiture?

B: I mostly paint portraits, yeah, but people seem to like my landscapes, so maybe I should try that more.

J: Okay, so do you have any landscape artists you like, or are you exclusively drawn to portraits?

B: I like portraits, definitely.

J: Do you think there’s a reason why? Like, an aspect of the human form in art that’s just more inherently interesting to you?

B: I think people are just more interesting. I like the personality in each portrait, and it’s also really challenging to capture that, so that’s probably why I like them so much. Like, painting a landscape, no one’s gonna know if it’s imperfect, you know?

J: So do you value the realism or the personality of portraiture?

B: Definitely the personality. John Singer Sargent is definitely a more “realistic” artist, but there was still a ton of personality in his stuff. I’d say his stuff was even a little less realistic than what you’d think of as “realism” today.

J: Man, I wish I’d looked into some of these artists before the interview, but I guess that’s on me.

B: Ha, it’s okay.

J: Well I think that’s honestly all I got for you. Thanks for sitting down and talking with me, Brooke.

B: Yeah, of course.