By Lauren Brooks
There is a blank wall, with three nail holes, in the kitchen of Jamie Holley’s Vestavia home where a large painting used to hang. And there’s another similar spot over a sideboard in her living room. This prolific artist can’t keep any of her acrylic abstract paintings in her own house—she ends up selling them all—mostly to friends and customers who drop by to pick up a piece and decide they want to purchase more.
What started as a love for crafting and creating with friends has turned into a business for this wife and mother of three young children. Jamie, a self-taught artist, started painting when she was a student at Auburn.
“I had weekly craft night with friends,” she says. “People started buying the paintings and then I made more for myself and family members. And it just kind of evolved into a full-time business. I’ve always had an entrepreneurial spirit—when I was little I used to fold paper into boat shapes and sell them.”
The Gadsden native met her husband, P.J., at Auburn and after graduation, they married, moved to Birmingham, and have been living in Vestavia for the past 15 years.
Jamie says her business really took off when she began posting photos of her paintings on Facebook Marketplace. These days she posts on her Instagram account more than Facebook, but it’s the same social media marketing that keeps people in the know about her pieces. “Most work comes from word of mouth and I end up getting orders when people see other pieces of mine,” she says.
Although customers often request paintings like ones they’ve seen, no two paintings are the same and each one can be custom designed to fit a particular space. “I go to a client’s house to see the space where they want a piece,” she says. “They tell me the style, size, color scheme and proportions that they want. It’s a layered process and I’ll text them photos of the piece in stages and then stop painting when the customer says ‘That’s it!’”
Jamie begins with a blank canvas, usually one that’s 24-by-36 inches or 30-by-40 inches, and begins the layering process with liquid acrylics—generally using cooler color schemes. She goes back to a painting over and over adding more paint, texture, and often incorporates pieces of gold metallic leaf for detail.
Sometimes Jamie frames the paintings and other times she paints the metallic gold leaf along the edge of the canvas for a finishing touch. “The gold leaf on the sides really dresses it up,” she says.
To paint, Jamie often uses her hands rather than a brush. Sometimes she uses sponges, a palette knife, or pieces of rubber to get a textured look. Occasionally, she even uses a blowtorch to add an extra touch to a canvas. “It’s therapeutic. There’s nothing like the feeling of getting to paint,” she says. “God created this creative side of me. I feel so spiritually connected and close to Him when I’m painting. I was made to do this.”
Jamie’s studio is what was supposed to be her garage—previous homeowners turned the space into a den and Jamie and P.J. intended to turn it back into a garage—but it’s the perfect spot for her to work. Drips of paint on the concrete floor don’t matter and usually Jamie skips the easel and paints sitting on the floor. Even the wet wipes plastic container in her studio is artistic—she splatter painted it Jackson Pollock-style. Works in progress are propped up all over the room, and it’s easy for Jamie to add layers to paintings and then walk away while they dry.
“I keep layering and tweaking,” she says. “It’s hard sometimes to know when to stop touching it up.”
The holidays are Jamie’s busiest time of the year for orders since people love her smaller pieces to give as teacher gifts. They also make good housewarming gifts or baby presents, so she keeps a stash of these “little happies” available so customers can stop by and pick up what they need. Smaller pieces start at $25 while large pieces range in price from $300-$400.
Generally, Jamie can offer a two-week turn around for a commissioned piece. They are mostly commissioned for residential settings, but she has also painted for small commercial jobs like a dance studio and a doctor’s office.
Besides painting, Jamie is skilled in interior design and works full-time in this field, helping clients transform spaces in their homes.
“I can polish anything and make it more,” Jamie says. “I love turning anything into something more. We’re all made for more. Paintings, like humans, have so many layers—we can add more and turn anything into a masterpiece.”
To learn more or commission a piece, contact Jamie Holley Designs at firstname.lastname@example.org or 205-542-0028 (text or call), or follow her in Instagram at @JHDesigns_art.
Depending on her mood, Jamie usually listens to one of these while she paints:
- John Mayer shuffle
- Kim Walker Christian music station
- Podcasts like The Mysterious Mr. Epstein and Gangster Capitalism
- Bravo TV