Tell Me a Secret Virtual Tour- Interview with Holly Cupala

July 28, 2010, Posted by Georgia at 7:00 am

I am so happy to welcome my sweet friend Holly Cupala to Eve’s Fan Garden today as part of the virtual tour for her debut novel Tell Me a Secret.  I blogged a review of Tell Me a Secret last week, and if you missed it, this is one of the best books I have read all year.  Honestly.

In Tell Me a Secret, Miranda is an artist.  Her artwork becomes a strong theme in the story and is woven throughout the book in a variety of ways.  As a photographer and artist myself, I felt an immediate connection to Miranda, and in conversations with Holly we decided it would be really fun to discuss art and some of the ways it plays into TMAS today for our tour stop.  Did you know that in addition to being an author, Holly is an amazingly talented artist as well?  Well, now you do!  I have put together a slide show of some of Holly’s art, gorgeous isn’t it?

I asked Holly to share a little about each piece, and then she and I got to chat a bit about her art and TMAS.

Labyrinth, age 17:  I was really into this drawing, and this is probably where Miranda’s labyrinth thing came from. The funny (but totally embarrassing part): the guy could probably just scale the wall, chest-height, and walk across it! Notice the beginning of the tree and crack theme…

Intertwined, a.k.a. the woman tree, age 19: I drew this during a really intense period, when I was in what I would now characterize as an extremely unhealthy relationship on many levels. A lot of the internal emotional stuff in TMAS comes from these memories.

Girl and Moon, Moon and Trees,  and Chasm, age 21: A different unhealthy relationship…and for some reason I didn’t notice how bleak my artwork was, and that it might be a good idea to leave! Eventually I did, but not before my heart had accrued a few scars.

Tree, age 25: A lot more hopeful here! I’d moved to Seattle for grad school, had some great friends, and life was looking up. No more cracks!

Written in the Palm, adult: I painted and collaged this in memory of a very difficult period in life, and shared signed prints with the many people who supported us during that time. If you look closely, you can see the same collage piece that Miranda notices at the end of chapter 5, which is from a book of engravings I have.

Paradise Lost, just last year: This was the first painting I’d done since Written in the Palm—partly because I was a busy mom, and partly because the artist in me just wasn’t ready. There are layers of Milton’s Paradise Lost and Isaiah, and fabric and lots of images from the next book, tentatively titled STREET CREED—black birds, empty trees, and home. It’s kind of huge, 3’x4’, bigger than anything I’ve ever done. It’s hanging in my living room!

Me: How many years were there between Written in the Palm and Paradise Lost?

Holly:  Four. I did Written in the Palm when we lost our daughter at birth, and there were so many beautiful friends who came to support us. I did the painting in her memory, and then we made signed prints for everyone who had surrounded us during that time. Then when we were expecting our second daughter, I was consumed with that and with writing TMAS. When she was about three, I brought out this huge canvas and just started collaging! I was also working on the second book at the time, so a lot of the same themes trickled in.

Me:  It looks like you may have been using pastels or colored pencils (Prismacolors maybe?) in some of your pieces.  Prismacolors were my very favorite tool for years.

Holly: Prismacolors! Intertwined is Prismacolors on black paper, so it reproduces horribly. One really cool thing I discovered about Prismacolors is that you can use turpenoid with them to blur the pencil texture, a little like watercolor pencils but much more juicy and saturated.

Me: Was Girl and Moon a piece that inspired how Miranda drew her baby from the ultrasound image?  That was the first thing I thought of when I saw this and remembered how you described the drawing of her baby.

Holly: No, but I can see that! Girl and Moon was basically inspired by a very depressing relationship. The ultrasound images come directly from my own experience, the awe I felt at looking at those strange, almost mystical images of life in process. I’m still in awe. When we were expecting our second daughter, we told our parents the happy news by giving them a framed ultrasound picture. So much hope in those lines!

Me: Right off one of the first things I noticed about your tree’s was the huge difference between the tree’s in all of your pieces, and the one you did at 25.  The one at 25 is filled with leaves!  And I did notice no cracks, but I also saw no cracks in Paradise Lost.  Even though the tree’s are empty in Paradise Lost, there are butterflies, which are symbolic for so many things.  Usually change.  Maybe something changed for the artist in you and you were able to create again?

Holly: Definitely! A lot of hope and healing happened before painting Paradise Lost. I always love craggy trees—but you’re right! I never thought of the lushness of that age 25 Tree! That was also a very hopeful period, after some difficult college years. A lot of that emotional turmoil in TMAS came from those years.

Me: Woman Tree is all kinds of amazing.  It is hard to see the details because the images are small, but the tree and vines are all made up of women right?  SO cool.

Holly: Thank you! I wish I could get a better pic of it. Also it’s framed, so that doesn’t help. I had a friend from the Philippines once, and when his parents came to visit, they wanted to buy it from me. Seriously, you would not believe how much they offered…but I wouldn’t let it go. I’m a very slow artist (obviously!), and it has a lot of meaning for me.

Me: What are your favorite art supplies to use?  Has that always been your favorite or has it changed?

Holly: I LOVE oil paint. But it’s not a particularly convenient medium for a mom, right? So at the moment, I mostly use acrylics. I do like Golden acrylics. Very nice, saturated colors. Plus there’s a lot you can do with mediums and glosses and stuff. And also I’m doing more collage now, so papers are very interesting to me. My husband’s family is from India, and they have the most breathtaking wedding invitations on handmade paper. His mom gives them to me by the bag, and I want to do some kind of collage with them one of these days.

Me: I have one more question, do you have any favorite techniques to use now when collaging or painting?  I went to an artist retreat last fall and learned some really cool techniques, which made me wonder if you had any favorites.

Holly: I really love layers—layers of paint, layers of material, layers of images (my favorite word is palimpsest, which means basically layers of words or meanings). I like using acrylic mediums to create subtle texture, then dry-brush scrubbing with very light layers of paint to create that effect. I’m basically self-taught, but I would love to do something like that to see what other artists are doing and learn new things! Sounds like a dream.

Thank you so much for inviting me to Eve’s Garden, Georgia! It’s been a lot of fun to discuss art and secrets with you!

Thank you Holly for sharing your art with us!  I loved seeing some of the collage details and art inspiration that made it into TMAS!

Be sure to check out the rest of the TMAS tour schedule HERE, and check out tomorrow’s stop at The Hiding Spot.  Holly is giving away all kinds of goodies this week too, so when you look at the tour schedule click over to the stops and leave some comment love to be entered for the giveaways.  Here are the official rules:

TELL ME A SECRET Tour Contest Entry Rules

•        Leave comments at any official tour stop or Holly’s blog ( throughout the tour! Each comment counts as an entry (one comment per post*).

•        Tweet about the tour (@hollycupala) and tell us what you think!

•        Post about the tour, then leave a comment at Holly’s blog.

•        Prizes available to US/Canadian shipping addresses only.

Each week’s prizes will be announced at Holly’s blog the following week – check back to see if you’ve won and contact us at the contact link (we will hold prizes for 2 weeks).

* Comment calculation: for instance, during week one you can comment once at every official stop, and once on any of my posts for that week to be entered in that week’s prize drawing.

I would like to thank Holly one last time for inviting us to join her tour, and also I want to tell YOU, if you have not yet picked up your copy of Tell Me a Secret, you can read the first two chapters HERE, but after you read that you really should run out and buy a copy.  You will be happy you did!


Currently have 3 Comments

  1. holly cupala says:

    Thank you, Georgia, for inviting me to Eve’s Fan Garden! It’s so fun to chat art with you – and I hope you show some of your artwork, too! Loved those saturated Prismacolor drawings. And thanks to everyone for stopping by – I hope you enjoy the art discussion!


  2. Ashley says:

    Those are so gorgeous! I love seeing them chronologically like that and noticing the differences. The colours in ‘Paradise Lost’ are lovely.

  3. Natalie Aguirre says:

    I love the pictures, especially Paradise Lost and Tree, though they all are amazingly good.

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