Holly Jolley Spills the Tea


Portrait of artist Holly Jolley

Holly Jolley is a quirky freelance illustrator and designer based in Chile. As a freelancer she has many hats to wear – from manager, to accountant, to lawyer and back – but as an artist she still finds beauty in beauty itself.

For more on Jolley’s process and inspirations, read our full interview below. We’ll be mailing a surprise art print by Holly Jolley to our subscribers in November, be sure to subscribe by October 31st!

Interview with Artist Holly Jolley

Portrait of a woman holding a teapot by Holly Jolley

Tell us about your artwork for Papirmass (not pictured).

I feel like a crazy cat lady. I need cats. I’ve never lived without one and I feel like they are such beautiful, complex creatures with unique personalities and character traits. This illustration came to me in a very natural way, like a self portrait that wasn’t intended to be one. In terms of inspiration, there is a nod to Renoir’s portrait of Julie Manet as a child with her cat on her lap. It’s one of my all-time favorite paintings.

What’s a typical day look like?

I try to get up early (so hard!). Then, before I can even think of starting to work, I have a massive bowl of oats and way too many cups of tea. I have a tiny calendar and I make a list of things I want to accomplish by the end of the day, little goals so I don’t feel so overwhelmed by work and being alive in general. Once I’m all ready, I sit at my desk, put on a good playlist, and start to wade through the endless sea of emails and paperwork that comes in every day. The freelance life makes you be your own lawyer, accountant, agent, manager, mother, you name it… After all that, I actually start to draw and paint! 

Illustration by Holly Jolley that says "J'ai du bon tabac"

What is your creative process?

I have two different ways of working. When I’m doing something for a client I go straight to a concept, imagining the final illustration and how do I want it to be. I do a few sketches, play around with color palettes before I start the base, and then I add digital alterations and details on top.

When I’m working on something personal I don’t really have a plan and I don’t seek any specific results. I just let myself go and let my emotions lead the way in every aspect.

In this case, I skip the digital process and just paint. 

How do you get into your creative zone? 

1) Trying not to be a mess, I mean sometimes I wear lipstick and nice skirts just to feel I’m working better, even if I’m alone the whole day.

2) TEA. Drinking a lot of tea makes my life tolerable, can’t paint without a teapot by my side.

Photograph of Holly Jolley and her cat in her home studio

What’s your studio like?

I live in a tiny apartment/ studio, so my home and workspace are basically the same, for that reason I try to keep it really tidy and organized, making an effort to separate my personal life from work.

Even if it’s a small place I think It’s wonderful, filled with everything I love. 

I have my books (many of them since I was a little girl), my plants, and beautiful things I’ve been collecting because I’m a flea market junkie, specially addicted to stamps and tin boxes.

Seeing all those beautiful things around makes me happier while working.

What is your most important tool?

My tiny red moleskine sketchbook, laptop/wacom tablet, paint and pencils, tea(again).

Photograph of a notebook cover designed by Holly Jolley

What inspires you to create?

My books, watching fashion shows and staring at paintings for ages, specially impressionist portraits, Victorian girls with beautiful uncomfortable dresses and Renaissance-era naked ladies.

I love taking long walks too, watching people on the streets, you never know who’s wearing a crazy outfit out there!

How did you learn to be an artist?  

My Dad was key in developing my interest in art when I was a very little girl. We wrote stories, made massive drawings together and went to every possible art exhibition.

Then, I attended some kind of indie school with a lot of art classes and after that I just kept experimenting and trying out things while studying design at uni, I’ve never had any formal training on illustration, I just follow my instincts.

How do you make a living?

At the moment I have one fixed job at a local magazine and the rest is all commissions!

How do you promote your work? 

Mainly through Instagram, I think It’s a wonderful tool when used in a healthy good way.

A shopping bag designed by Holly Jolley in collaboration with Lounge

Any advice for your younger self?

Just go girl! 

Everything is going to be fine,  just keep painting and wearing those weird sparkly shoes.

What do you love and hate about the creative life?

I love how I can turn my abstract feelings and thoughts into something, trying to make sense out of myself.

I love seeking beauty too, and connecting with others through it, I think sometimes beauty is enough, because looking at something beautiful can make you feel good.

I hate the constant anxiety of working independently, HAVING to create something even If you don’t feel like doing it sometimes, I hate fearing I could lose the joy of drawing and painting.

What are you excited about right now?

1) Very excited about cooking and trying to be healthier, I’ve been experimenting a lot with food and I’m very proud of my consistency these past weeks.

2) starting a new big illustration project! a book with a botanical approach to the Anthropocene.

A photograph of Holly Jolley in her studio

Favorite Artist?

Matisse/ Renoir/ Jen Mann

Favorite Film?

The Royal Tenenbaums

Favorite Book?

Breakfast at Tiffany’s

Favorite Musician/Album?

Florence Welch

Favorite City to Visit?


Favorite Meal to Cook?


Favorite Online Art Blog/Account?


Holly Jolley is our November 2019 artist. Sign up for a Papirmass Art Subscription today so you don’t miss her print!

Check out more of Holly’s work in our online gallery and follow us at @papirmass for more news about our November issue.