When he’s not making game-winning saves or serving as team captain, Holden Brown, University soccer goalkeeper and fourth-year College student, is pursuing a pastime different from many of his teammates — art. Between poetry, sculpture, painting, drawing and photography, Brown’s skills span a variety of mediums and are never confined to a certain style or concept.
Whether it be through his studies as a Studio Art minor or sharing his pieces on Instagram to inspire others to pursue artistic endeavors, Brown has found a variety of ways to engage his peers and classmates with his art, taking advantage of opportunities to refine his skills and share his creative pursuits with the community around him.
His first year — living in an athlete-only dorm — Brown was able to sell many of his paintings to his peers, an experience that motivated him to keep sharing and selling his work. The same year, Brown spent eight hours walking along a snowy field near Observatory Hill Dining Hall, carving a larger-than-life single line illustration in the snow, in what he affirmed as both his biggest project and one of his most rewarding artistic experiences after looking down from the top floor of his building.
As a dedicated student athlete, Brown said that his artistic pursuits both connect and conflict with his day-to-day life. While he admits that he usually lacks the time and energy to keep up with his art during the soccer season, Brown said he appreciates the contrast art provides him from both his athletic and academic life.
“It is nice every once in a while to occasionally have that escape away from soccer,” Brown said. “I can just kind of do something completely a different world away.”
Brown said he has also found connections between the realms of sports and the arts, from recognizing the benefits of rigid routine and forced practice of regular studio classes to acknowledging the artistry inherent in athletic movement.
“I don't think a lot of people realize how artistic a sport is,” Brown said. “For example, when a basketball player is trying to score a basket, they have to do a dance with the ball in order to get past the defender to shoot.”
Brown has been involved with visual art for several years — he first began to explore art when he took a sculpture class his first year of high school. While he fell in love with the art form, Brown said that he hated the curriculum — he found a loophole and became a teaching assistant for his sculpture class to gain access to the supplies without being restricted by class structure. When the pandemic hit just a few years later, Brown began devoting his newfound free time to painting and photography and has not looked back since.
In his time at the University, Brown has found some of his most educational experiences to be simply observing other student artists.
“The [classmates] that are very talented helped me drastically,” Brown said. “Just being able to watch these people and take notes from them.”
Placing low stakes on most of the art he makes, Brown values the different perspectives he has received on his artwork — even on pieces he himself was not proud of.
“Every single person that I've ever met has a different favorite piece that I've made,” Brown said. “You can make five pieces that you hate, and five different people will like each one specifically for their own reasons.”
In sharing his art with the world, Brown said he hopes that others will be inspired to pursue their own artistic endeavors. With no “end goal” in mind when he starts a piece, Brown lets his artistic instinct drive him to a final product. According to Brown, art has taught him the beauty in embracing mistakes and unexpected changes along the way, and he encourages others to experience this themselves.
“[If] something’s not how I want it to look, I’m not mad or dissatisfied with it… I’m kind of just seeing what's gonna happen at the very end of it,” Brown said. “To make art, to make mistakes and to keep going is my main message.”
Many of Brown’s paintings, poems, photography, sculptures and off-the-field pursuits can be found on his art instagram, @hb_things.
Although Brown does not know exactly what he wants his career to be, he said that he would “go crazy” if it did not involve something creative. With a multitude of goals on his radar — organizing an independent art exhibit, publishing a book of his photography, making a movie or working in sports production — it is clear that Brown will thrive anywhere that allows him to create.