Behind the Design: Rainbow by Holly Sharpe

Thanks for the feature Deny Designs!



Holly Sharpe is an artist and illustrator from Scotland, UK and she’s also a DENY artist. We had Holly sit down and answer a few questions to give us a peek into what makes her pencil drawings so captivating and what inspires her.

How do you stay creative? I try to keep my eyes and my heart open and awake to allow inspiration to come in from everywhere. From people, nature, music, writing, etc. This helps me to stay inspired and fuels my need to create. I pretty much always have ideas, too many in fact, so it is practice and experimenting and figuring out which ideas to pursue. Music and podcasts helped keep me motivated during days in the studio!

rainbow-artprintAbove: Rainbow by Holly Sharpe Oversized Art Print + Hanger

What are you inspired by? Everything. I know it is cliché, but it is true. Music always helps. Being in nature is…

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Trust in YOU.

As per usual, it has been over a month since I last posted something on here. I have actually drafted a few posts, but some I am still working on, and others the timing doesn’t feel quite right, yet… I have had some intense creating time recently – which involved painting for long hours to create some new work for Breeze gallery here in Scotland. It had probably been a few months since I had painted that intensely, and it really felt like it was needed. It is such an amazing feeling to let something out that has been inside of you, and sometimes weighing you down, the whole process is quite cathartic. However, like with most creative things, and with most things that are worth doing, it also comes with some element of struggle. Struggle to not over think what you are doing, and why, trying to not question your work too much, and trying to come up against and cross this weird threshold that seems to hold you back from finishing anything at times. Thankfully I was under a nice amount of pressure – ie not too much, but it was still there – which meant I knew I had to finish them, rather than leaving them in this strange limbo where it’s as if by leaving them there you have some excuse as to why they ‘don’t work’. Maybe to some of you that made no sense at all, but I am hoping some of you creatives out there, from all creative disciplines, can relate to what I am talking about, even if I didn’t word it in the best way.

Since then, it now leaves me with a mass catch up operation. Yawn. This involves emails, making my new website (which has been ‘in progress’ for so long now it is starting to hurt >< ) , and the tedium that is photoshopping what feels like endless amounts of scans/ files so that they are ready for web/ printing. I have been wondering if I need to do a class in photoshop as it is quite possible there is a quicker way to do what I am doing… and I know I have a bad track record for inadvertently making things harder for myself. Anyway, my, longwinded, point is that because I haven’t been doing anything that creative for the last week or so, I am once again flooded, with a running commentary of words all jumbled up from everything I have thought/ learnt/ listened to / conversed about of late. It’s like I have too many to make any sense of. And they often hit me at times when I can’t actually put them down on paper, like when I am driving and listening to music, or if I am out for a walk by myself, or exercising, basically at times when my mind is allowed to wander. Which is a bit weird because I am by no means a writer, but I think perhaps because I don’t currently have a creative outlet whilst I am doing all the tedious stuff, that therefore I have to explode my creative stuff in some other way, and it has started to come out in words. Maybe because in some ways it is more instant, that’s what it feels like for me anyway, like I can off load a tonne of stuff quite quickly and it is like a weight has been lifted, or like a sense of having achieved something.

So I did start to write this to explain why I finally managed to unearth some sense and some direction to be able to hone in on a topic amongst all the other noise/ commentary in my head. And here it begins, the thing I actually sat down to write about(!) :

I came across this article the other day, an interview with none other than THE real life Erin Brockovich. Which many of you may know because of the film in 2000 where Julia Roberts played her. And if I am honest, is still one of my favourite films. It inspires me, and I love the whole idea of someone fighting against something that many would deem impossible/ insurmountable. (And even more so because the someone in this case is a woman!! *and I think women are amazing*) I also feel this is an apt moment to quote from another brilliant (!) film, also based on a true story, that I re-watched recently, ‘The Imitation Game’

“Sometimes it is the people no one imagines anything of who do the things no one can imagine”.

The quote below however, was the main catapult to put my thoughts into words. Mainly because, upon reflection, this concept was the main thing I learnt for myself last year, 2015. There were a few instances with my work, and decisions I had to make/ risks I chose to take in relation to my work, but also in my personal life (needless to say there is a very grey line where one starts and the other ends) where it was pointed out to me, mainly by a few of my nearest and dearest friends that I need to believe in my own decisions more, and trust in them more. I was actually taken aback when it was first said to me, even the language I was using was almost like justifying a decision in some way. I hadn’t even realised this was something I did. It was like my default, to think that someone else always knows better than me. It was also one of my great yoga teachers that made a similar point, that with some of the biggest decisions in our lives, we often turn to someone else for help, he used the example of buying a house, we entrust the help of a solicitor etc – and pay them a lot of money to do so! Now, I am not sure it is even possible to sell or buy a property without that in the UK, but if you think about it, it is a bit crazy, especially when I know many people who are so frustrated by the incapabilities of their solicitors in these instances, missing details at the start and quite basic things which then hold up the whole process, and yet we still pay them thousands to do this for us.

Erin B quote

Of course I accept and acknowledge that sometimes someone else does know best, sometimes I need someone that has the experience, or expertise or knowledge that I simply don’t have, and I hope I will be humble enough to take their advice. However I also know I still need to practice, as I’m sure many others do, to listen to myself and look back on how well I have managed so far, in a lot of aspects in my life, and usually through my own decisions, and hard work etc. So why would I stop trusting that sometimes I do know best? I can’t help but think that we live in a society where it is commonplace to assume that you do not know best and to often pay someone else or look to someone else for the answer. Perhaps we wouldn’t have many of the problems we do if more people took charge of their lives and situations, and spoke up about certain things. Rather than think just because you are young, or old, or because you don’t have this or that, or you don’t have a certain qualification, does that mean your opinion, thoughts or ideas don’t matter?

One last quote, on that note, that I saw on Instagram, so not sure who even said it, but it made me laugh, and is also very true! :

“Don’t let anyone tell you you’re too young to accomplish something.
A baby shark is still a fucking shark”





EU ILLY - 02 - 100 dpi - holly sharpeWords are not my forte  so sadly I cannot express as well as others can my complex feelings on the news today, but I felt the need to attempt to do so too strongly not to try. There are a whole host of reasons why I voted to stay in the EU, which I will not go in to entirely. I hope that in the days, weeks, to come I will be able to be more positive about the whole thing and figure out how we can attempt to get out of this mess.

The whole scenario, for me, has highlighted that this world is becoming too driven by greed, power, and money. And at times appears to have forgotten the power of love and the necessity for human connections, for remaining connected, as individuals and as countries, across the entire world. I believe that people are generally good, inherently so. Yet in many cases this has been clouded over by unhealthy distractions, and has led people to think that the purpose of life is to make money, and to somehow imprint their power on others, and on the world. The media for one has done a stellar job at brainwashing the masses into believing that somehow people that were less fortunate than us to be born in a country in a far worse state that ours are something to be scared of? And to abandon them. To make them feel like they are somehow less than us.

We are all human. And we are only human. And too many people have lost touch of what is at their core, their human spirit. We have so much power in our hands, with the right weapon, or vehicle, one can take another human’s life with such ease. Equally, we are so capable, of such wondrous and special things. Yet we are fragile and easily led astray, and too quick to turn our back, to seek revenge and to play to our egos and to the egos of those in power. NEVER believe that just because someone is in a position of greater ‘power’ than you, in a position to enforce laws, shun the less fortunate, to make a decision that will take the lives of many, to neglect their human spirit in exchange for wealth and power, never believe that that makes them more worthy, more intelligent or ‘right’. We, everyone, all ages, all races, need to question those in power, and speak up.
Headspace, and physical space, in my opinion should be a priority in everyone’s life. Take time out, by yourself, to allow your thoughts to drift, and be unobstructed by pressures and opinions that are not necessarily your own.



“Very few people on the planet have the opportunity to even follow their dreams at all. Most people live in poverty, or in communities where the repercussions for behaving how they want are a lot worse than people just talking shit. If doing what you want is an option for you, you should do it, because you’re one of the few lucky people who can. And even if you fail, you will be in a better position than if you’d never tried. Every horrible thing that has ever happened to me has added integrity to my art and improved my understanding of the human race.”

The above was said by Grimes, apparently. I love these words so much, and I love them even more knowing that she said them. I also love her. Have been a big fan of hers for a while, and then I got to see her live earlier this year in Glasgow, and now I am slightly obsessed. She is so amazing. She exudes energy, creativity, and complete and utter individuality. But anyway, she is right. If there is even a small, tiny strand of hope, window of opportunity or thread of chance that you can do what you want to do, you have to grab it with both hands and chase it until you can do so no more. I think the majority of people that aren’t happy, are unhappy because either they don’t know what they truly want, or they aren’t trying to get it, and have decided that it is not possible before they have even tried, which is insane when you think about it, and also because they cannot see how lucky they are with everything that they already have.

I put the above photo on my Instagram earlier, and not that that can sum up how I was feeling today. But I was feeling insanely thankful, and a tad overwhelmed, which happens to me a lot actually. Through a few things I have done over the past year, and things people very close to me have done, I have not had to tread far to witness first hand how unfortunate some people are, how fragile their lives are, how much they got the opposite of a head start in life. It makes my heart bleed, and break, and want to envelope them in all the love in the world. I want to take all their pain away, and stop all the pain that I know is still to come for them. But I know I can’t. I can try, and there are some things I can try and do within my power to help them. But I can’t live their life for them. And if I didn’t feel grateful for so much in my life before, which I did, I now feel even more so. I feel so blessed, so lucky, so fortunate. Rather than feeling some sense of guilt or sadness that for some reason I have been more fortunate in some ways than them, I see it as a chance to be even more grateful, and instead to take advantage of my situation. And to me that means spreading my own positive energy as far and wide as I possibly can. Whether that be through my work, or by each and every time I come in to contact with any other person. Which is not always easy to do, I have my bad days as well. But rather than dwell on those, I try to cherish the good days, the good moments, and hold on to them as long as I can, and to let them radiate to anyone I can connect with.

And until I figure out how to take their pain away, that is all I can do. That, and encourage everyone else to be more compassionate, to think before you judge someone, because you literally do not know what burdens they carry, you do not know what they have been through, you can only try to imagine, but until you have walked a day in their shoes, be kind, be more accepting, and the world will do the same for you.

To come back to the point of ‘The best things in life aren’t things’. The best things I know I have been given are by people. I have been brought up with stability, with a family around me, and with that, so much support, and I know how rare and splendid a thing to have had that is. And through many ways, that has given me love, so much love, and I know that has made me capable of feeling and understanding love, as well as understanding how important it is for everyone to have. So if you are dwelling on the money you feel like you don’t have, or the materials things that you crave for so much, take a step back and look at the people in your life, the love that is hopefully there all around you, and that you can give back to others. Showing someone you care, giving them your time, is more valuable than anything you could every buy them.

– Holly


A little corner of my world

studio corner

Above is a recent photo of one little corner of my studio, and of course my world (!) when I stayed late to keep painting. – see more pics on my Instagram.

I just wanted to post a quick update on what I have been doing recently as I feel like, once again, time is somewhat escaping me and I haven’t been able to keep up to date with everything that I wanted to (what’s new). But I think it is important to keep swimming, and flow with it, rather than resist what is trying to happen to you and instead embrace what is coming your way. Not always so easy to do, especially when we get caught up and fixated on something that we are so desperate to make happen.

Storm - H.Sharpe Close up of ‘Storm’

The main focus I have been working on for most of this year, is creating new watercolour paintings for Breeze gallery here in Scotland (see above image). I feel really lucky to have a very supportive outlet to create new originals for. They really believe in me and my work, and of course that is always encouraging. So in some ways it feels like my illustration work is taking a slight side step, but then I like to think that it isn’t always necessary to define this work or that work and decide what you do and what you don’t do, as a creative person this scope is so broad and as much as it is good to have a focus, I do not want to be bound by any title or genre. And I know I am not alone in feeling like this, for anyone else that is very creative and has many ideas and directions all at the same time, it is sometimes a struggle to ‘manage’ it all and find the ‘right’ direction. So as I said before, I try to go with it and embrace what is working, and what I most enjoy doing at that moment in time, and this usually helps to produce the best work, if it feels right, and isn’t forced. So for me, right now, I am painting, a lot. And drawing. I draw before I paint which is part of my process. As well as trying to create lots of new colourful, sunshine-filled watercolours, I have also been busy with a few private commissions for individuals, all very special and unique in themselves. And then there is all the background stuff, seeing to my online shop, trying to create a new website (my on-going saga) , and constantly trying to make my studio a bit more organised and less messy…. but then I start drawing/ painting and it all gets a bit crazy again! There is probably lots more that I can’t think of right now… but that is my brief work update for now!  – oh and stay tuned on the new website… I *hope*


BE. inspired.

Sky - Holly Sharpe
‘Sky’ (sold)

Spring is here, and along with that so much light, everywhere, and a strong sense of hope. That is how I feel anyway. I love this time of year, when it feels like anything is possible and each day is getting longer – in Scotland anyway… Hopefully these words are uplifting in some way…. I wrote them on my phone on the bus after meeting a friend who was full of energy and enthusiasm and it made me light up and want to share it.

Let yourself be inspired.
Seek inspiration.
It is everywhere.
Don’t see it? Think your life is boring and the same every day?
That is your mind and the way it has been conditioned to think that life is dull, boring, and unexciting.
Open your eyes. Open your heart, and let in the thing that is always there, it longs to break free and escape the mundane.
All you have to do is change your perspective and see things differently. It all comes from your mind.
Everything you look at will change, if you change your mind.
Walk on the other side of the road.
Drive a different way to work.
Smile at someone.
Start a conversation with someone you wouldn’t usually.
Speak like you mean it.
Act like you mean it.
Do everything with more awareness.
If you are more aware you will start to notice even small glimpses of hope, and little opportunities that you don’t even realise you usually walk straight by because you decided that you are stuck and that you don’t deserve better.
If you do even small things and start to change your mind, your heart, and see things differently, I promise you your world will start to open up. Things and people will come your way, if you believe it is possible for things to change, they will.

This is all a practice. It is about breaking long term bad mental habits, like being negative and not seeing opportunities but rather always feeling stuck and like there is no option. And instead to practice building up good mental habits, like choosing to be happy, trying to think with clarity and remember that there is always a solution. Whatever situation you feel trapped in, there will be a solution. It might not be an easy one, but, if you don’t scale the mountain, you won’t see the view….

Image from my Instagram


Fashion. Diaries. day 9.

D&amp;G H.Sharpe 05

Here is my latest (and slightly overdue!) fashion illustration of the INCREDIBLE D&G Alta Moda collection. Images from >> 

I really hope to have time to draw more from the collection..

D&amp;G H.Sharpe 01

Fashion. Diaries. day 8.

Elie SAAB: Holly Sharpe 3

Elie SAAB: Holly Sharpe wip

Here is my latest Fashion sketch…

Based on images from the Trend Council website of the Elie Saab SS16 Couture collection. It is a beautiful collection… but it did leave me craving some bright colours after looking at it for a while! Above is a work in progress pic of my starting point with quink ink ^^

The final image is ink, pencil and a touch of a brush pen to give it some colour… the ink base did mean the overall image is much darker than the dress/ image in the flesh… but hopefully I still captured something of it… If I was to critique it myself… I would say my image is a bit too heavy compared with the essence of the collection… I have turned it a bit gothic/ dark, which wasn’t intentional necessarily. I think I might have subconsciously been trying to make it edgier/ more dramatic, and with that perhaps loosing the romantic, delicate feel of the collection..Something to keep in mind for next time perhaps…

Elie SAAB: Holly Sharpe 4

Elie Saab: Holly Sharpe 1

Holly, x

Fashion Diaries. day 7.

photo 1


photo 4

Tried to keep things loose with this one and didn’t spend very long on it at all…it’s always easier to keep things quick and loose if I go straight in with the ink, which I did, and then added some watercolour to bring out the colour, and then finished it off with some pencil detail here and there. Although would maybe like to go back in and add some detail with pen… or will just leave it as it is and move on to another one!

I love Erdem. This is from there Fall 2015 ready-to-wear collection.

Back with more soon..,

Holly x

Drawing heals.

drawing maps- Holly Sharpe

Drawing heals

Through pursuing this thing inside of me, I hope to encourage others to realise they can do the same. Sometimes I wonder if it is selfish? To wrap myself up in my own world. To be able to draw / paint/ create for hours… Or have I simply made a choice, and by the way, in some ways have sacrificed a lot to enable me to follow that choice, to do what I want. I try to reflect from time to time on what my intention actually is, what do I want to say, or achieve through doing what I do?

Well, I like to think that firstly, when there is a wish so strong inside of you, a calling if you like, to do something so much… Perhaps if would be selfish, and maybe even foolish, to ignore this. Sometimes I think that it is my way of lighting up my world, of making sense of things, and by doing so, hopefully lighting up other peoples world, letting them feel something or encouraging them to feel something. Maybe even inspiring them. Inspiring them to bring to light what it is they feel, or what it is that makes them spark.

I also hope to encourage people to create. It really is a powerful therapy. With no desired outcome or objective, just play, dance, draw, paint, sing, create a lovely meal, write, sew, whatever it is, let the only reason for doing it be to let your heart and head wander, to feel free of any other aim or goal for that 30 minutes, or hour, or whatever time you can spare. And if you can look at what you have created afterwards and be proud or happy about it, that is simply a bonus. The process of creating it was a million times more important than the outcome.

I realise that this fairly brief post probably has more questions than answers, I suppose it is just me thinking out loud… The main thing I come back to and realise, is that whatever the answers are, and whatever the reasons are for me doing what I do, ultimately, I can’t imagine not doing it, I could never just stop it entirely, even if occasionally the thought does cross my mind, but I couldn’t, I would feel lost without it. I just hope that more people can wake up to the thing that makes them feel this way, something that you can’t turn your back on and that helps bring balance back into your life. I think everyone has that something, even if they just haven’t realised what it is yet.


twitter: @hollysharpe