Written by Elizabeth Cuthbert

The Osher Institute is pleased to announce it will sponsor a series of art exhibitions featuring the work of several Osher members. The art will be exhibited on the walls of the Osher Office. Richard Hollands graciously agreed to hang his works first, in January and February. Sheryl Smith and Bill Bailey now have their works displayed in a single exhibition, while Tommy Hudson and Larry Braganoff will each present an exhibition in the spring and summer. Visit the Osher office over the next six months and see the work of our Osher artists on display.

To help launch this Osher project, I interviewed Richard Hollands. He told me he became interested in art when he was just a youngster, maybe 7 or 8 years old. Comic book illustrations fascinated him. During World War II, he wrote letters to his three older brothers who were serving their country in faraway places. He enclosed his letters in envelopes specially decorated with his own drawings of military action figures. 

Richard took art classes in high school where he worked primarily with colored pencils. He would select a newspaper photograph that portrayed an exciting moment during a sports event and then use the photo to help him capture the same emotion and intensity in a drawing of his own.  

Although Richard was serious about his art while he was growing up, when it came time to decide on a career, he chose chemical engineering. A native of Nyack, New York, he graduated from New York University with a B.S. in Chemical Engineering and enjoyed a long career in that field. When I asked him about the cities or countries where he had worked, he chuckled. He then recited a long list that included New York City, San Francisco, London, Scotland, Houston, Saudi Arabia, Taiwan, The Hague, Antwerp, and Mexico among others.

Richard came to Richmond in 1995 when he accepted a job doing environmental work for the Richmond Department of Utilities. He worked with companies to ensure compliance with Department of Environmental Quality standards regarding effluents released from commercial plants into our rivers and streams and on to the Chesapeake Bay. He retired from the City in 2010.

About ten years ago, Richard decided to take up painting again. He enrolled in classes at the Visual Arts Center of Richmond and took courses in watercolor, oil, and pastels. Since then, he has also taken classes at the Crossroads Gallery and For Arts Sake Gallery. These private galleries offer art lessons, but more important to Mr. Hollands, valuable critique. For example, he may paint a picture, take it to the gallery, and ask the instructor for suggestions regarding painting technique. 

Richard has converted a large utility room at the back of his house into an art studio. He has furnished it with suitable lighting, a sink, easel, and art supplies. This well-designed space allows him to lose himself for hours in a hobby he finds emotionally satisfying and rewarding.

Among the still lifes, landscapes, coastal views, and street scenes he selected for the Osher exhibition, Richard chose several works inspired by photographs he took on a trip to Japan: an oil painting of a Japanese stone bridge in Kyoto, a watercolor of Geisha girls scurrying down an alleyway, and a striking pastel of burnt orange and black Koi fish swimming through dark waters laced with delicate pink water lilies. Osher members will recognize his oil paintings of Boatwright Library and Westhampton Lake. 

Osher is a family affair for Richard and his wife, Ellen, who leads Osher’s bridge interest group.  Osher’s wide-ranging course offerings appeal to both Hollands.  They have found Glenn Winters’ lecture series “Understanding Opera” and William Seay’s course, “Commonwealth of Nations” especially interesting.   

As he looks back, Richard occasionally wonders what would have happened if he had decided on art as a career, rather than chemical engineering. However, he seems to have few regrets. His profession rewarded him with interesting employment opportunities and a chance to travel all over the world. Now, in retirement, he can relax and paint to his heart’s content!