Upper Canada College art department head David Holt practices what he preaches to his students, as he continues a busy art career outside of his teaching schedule.
“It’s what energizes and feeds my whole teaching practice,” says Holt, who taught at Marymount College in Tarrytown, N.Y. before moving to Toronto and UCC in 2005.
“I think it’s helpful because I can speak from my direct experience. Whatever challenge someone may be having with something they’re working on, I’m able to say that I’ve been dealing with the same issue or dealt with the same case before.”
Teaching also allows Holt to continue to learn, he says.
“Because I work with students whose interests are widely varied, especially in IB visual arts, I am always exploring a range of art forms, techniques, styles and histories. I am constantly on the lookout for artists and sources to share with individual students in order to assist them with their work. This helps enlarge my awareness to a wide range of ideas and influences that is also useful for my own work.”
Holt’s art consumes whatever spare time he has and he says he wouldn’t know what to do with himself if that wasn’t the case.
“It’s something I’m always thinking about and always doing.”
Holt has been a recipient of a painting grant from the Ludwig Vogelstein Foundation and an artist’s residency at the Ragdale Foundation. His works can be found in private collections in the United States and Canada.
Holt exhibits his work at private galleries approximately every 18 months, and his latest show is at Toronto’s loop Gallery. It’s titled “Zoology” and features paintings of living, extinct and imaginary animals playfully depicted in grid-like arrangements.
The paintings are part of an ongoing series of works inspired by natural history museum displays and illustrated atlases, subjects that Holt first became interested in during the 1990s when he was broadening his artistic horizons.
“My experience in painting was in the traditional academic model where you work with models most of the time, and maybe do some still lifes and landscapes in terms of subject matter.”
Holt’s exhibitions generally include 20 to 30 paintings, depending on their size, and he always has several more on the go in his studio in advance of his next show.
“Since I am always working on my own studio pieces, along with sketchbook and research material, I share the same kinds of excitements and frustrations that the students have with their works in progress,” he says.
“Zoology” opened on May 21 and the early response has been positive. Those interested have until June 12 to see it.