Providence artist finds inspiration in backyard birds

Holly Wach’s stunning watercolors capture feathered families


From the time she was a young girl, Holly Wach knew she wanted to be an artist. Growing up, she watched her mother pursue the same dream, and their Florida home was filled with brushes, paints, canvases, and books about art. “It planted a seed,” admits Wach.

As a young adult, Wach nested in different parts of the country, attending graduate school in New York City, moving to Northern California, and in between, falling in love with her partner who has Rhode Island roots. Eventually, the Ocean State called to them, and when they settled in a near-century-old home with their daughter on Providence’s East Side, the master bedroom was transformed into Wach’s studio.

“A lot of time, my work supported art. It was time to draw a line in the sand, and I was done doing art part time. It was my passion,” explains Wach, speaking of taking the leap to pursue her painting full-time.

The artist gave herself a year “to go all in.” About nine months into the experience, Wach noticed the mulberry tree outside her window had fruited. Soon she realized she wasn’t just watching birds; she was watching avian communities at work – wrens, orioles, robins, blue jays, northern flickers, and many more. She observed more than just their striking colors and unique calls. “All these birds came, and I had a front-row seat to their lives,” says Wach. “They have drama and infighting and territories.”

The world outside her window became her muse as she watched the behavior of bird families – parental birds with young ones, sibling songbirds, etc. – travel around her yard from place to place. “They were bringing them around to show them where the food sources are,” Wach explains. The comings and goings and communications between these feathered friends also became a welcome distraction, she said, from things like cell phones. Birds beyond the ones in her regular repertoire began to visit. “Once you start to notice birds, you start to notice more birds,” she observes.

Capturing their distinct colors and personalities consumed Wach’s watercolor creations. “They pushed everything else I was painting out of the way,” she concedes. As with most working artists, family and friends were the first to support her work. Soon after, Wach was going to art shows and makers’ marketplaces, like the Providence Flea and started selling work online while building her social media presence (Instagram: @hollywach). “People responded to them rather quickly,” says Wach. So did regional galleries, including one with home furnishings retailer West Elm. The Providence location invited Wach to have a pop-up shop to sell her work and teach watercolor workshops so that others could unleash their inner artist.

As her art became a thriving business, Wach had outgrown her master bedroom home studio and set up shop in a 1,000-square-foot industrial loft nestled inside a repurposed Pawtucket mill building. The sun-drenched studio space with 15-foot ceilings and weathered original hardwoods dates back to the 1880s and allows Wach to imagine, create, market, and conduct the business of art.

Find Wach’s work at 545 Pawtucket Ave Studio C101A, Pawtucket (Thursdays, Fridays, and by appointment through the holidays), at Rhody Craft, Providence; Grasmere, Bristol; and OMO Jewels & Gifts, Westerly.


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