Hollo's Harbour Reflections - Sydney in Vibrant Pastel (Part 1)

Oil pastel artist Nick Hollo has spent two decades producing drawings that distil why the Harbour Trust's destinations in Sydney have become beacons of inspiration for so many

We hope you enjoy this special, two-part exhibition featuring drawings by Nick Hollo that depict the Harbour Trust’s network of natural and built environments in vibrant oil pastel.

In this instalment, we’ll introduce you to the prolific artist, highlight his work with the Harbour Trust, and shed light on his artistic process.

Nick has contributed commentary, revealing why our extraordinary places on Sydney Harbour capture his imagination and what he has sought to evoke with his art.

View over the Eastern Banksia Scrub towards the Northern Beaches (2014) by Nick HolloSydney Harbour Federation Trust

"Everywhere I looked, I wanted to draw"

The Harbour Trust was established in 2001 to protect places with heritage significance and provide public access to precious bushland, parks and open spaces on Sydney Harbour. This has included rehabilitating former defence sites, once hidden behind imposing barbed wire fencing.

Georges Heights Fortifications (2012) by Nick HolloSydney Harbour Federation Trust

Located in First Nations countries on Sydney Harbour, the places under our stewardship feature heritage structures and other significant remnants from the nation’s colonial, maritime and military narratives.

Reflections of the Former Platypus Buildings from Across Neutral Bay (2015) by Nick HolloSydney Harbour Federation Trust

Notably, when the Harbour Trust began in earnest, many of our sites had long been closed to the public. One of the people tasked with conserving them was Nick Hollo...

Collage of Nick Hollo oil pastel drawings completed between 2000 and 2015 Nick Hollo Artwork Collage (2000-2015) Feat. The Artist (B&W) (October 2022) by Nick HolloSydney Harbour Federation Trust

An urban design specialist and oil pastel artist, Nick also has the distinction of being a founding Harbour Trust leader. 

He was initially the Head of Design & Planning but later served as our Deputy Executive Director, eventually retiring in 2015.

Collage of Nick Hollo oil pastel drawings completed between 2000 and 2015 Nick Hollo Artwork Collage (2000-2015) Feat. The Artist (Colour) (October 2022) by Nick HolloSydney Harbour Federation Trust

With unprecedented access to the Harbour Trust’s built and natural environments, a creative fire ignited within Nick...

Cutaway Workshops and Cliffs beckoning an Urban Plaza (2000) by Nick HolloSydney Harbour Federation Trust

“In 2001, many people were still unfamiliar with the Harbour Trust’s former defence sites,” Nick recalls. “Many were initially fenced off... derelict."

A Public Vantage Point at a Working Dockyard in Woolwich (2015) by Nick HolloSydney Harbour Federation Trust

"As I soon discovered, the sites entrusted to us were full of surprises, including wondrous new vantage points of Sydney Harbour.” 

Looking Over Successive Headlands and Bays (2006) by Nick HolloSydney Harbour Federation Trust

“Everywhere I looked, I wanted to draw, and so – out of curiosity and for my own relaxation – I began sketching what I saw.”

Collage of Nick Hollo oil pastel drawings completed between 2000 and 2015 Nick Hollo Artwork Collage (2005-2015) (July 2022) by Nick HolloSydney Harbour Federation Trust

Before long, Nick’s professional life dovetailed with a personal interest in creating artworks that distilled what made each of the Harbour Trust sites special.

“The communities near our former defence sites were adamant they remain in public hands and, initially, they were suspicious of the Harbour Trust."

Collage of Nick Hollo oil pastel drawings completed between 2000 and 2015 Collage of Nick Hollo oil pastel drawings completed between 2000 and 2015 (July 2022) by Nick HolloSydney Harbour Federation Trust

"I wanted my drawings to be a record of each location’s special qualities. I hoped they would reflect the community’s values and excite people about Sydney’s hidden gems." 

"I sought to convey a shared appreciation for the extraordinary places we were sworn to protect and were beginning to make public through open days, site tours, and track openings.”

Nick Hollo drawing North Head from Forty Baskets Beach (Unknown) by Helen Wilson (photographer)Sydney Harbour Federation Trust

An artist at work

In this section, Nick offers a behind-the-scenes look at his artistic process, revealing what motivates him, and how his work developed during his tenure with the Harbour Trust. 

The Former Marine Biology Station Overlooking the Waters of Camp Cove (2004) by Nick HolloSydney Harbour Federation Trust

“I love capturing the movement, reflections and translucency of water and the quality of light," Nick explains. "It helps switch my mind off when life becomes hectic.

Happy New Year on Cockatoo Island (2010) by Nick HolloSydney Harbour Federation Trust

Macquarie Lighthouse in Moonlight (2003) by Nick HolloSydney Harbour Federation Trust

Artist Nick Hollo drawing the view at Lower Georges Heights, Mosman with oil pastels and pens. Artist Nick Hollo drawing the view at Lower Georges Heights, Mosman with oil pastels and pens. (July 2022) by Greg WeightSydney Harbour Federation Trust

“Oil pastels and pen on coloured paper enable me to be spontaneous, and the materials I use are easily transportable so I can draw quickly on location – on a coastal rock ledge, in the bush, and on the ferry.

“Often, I create a single work across multiple vertical or horizontal sheets where the subject demands a panorama.”

“This approach to art making, together with my time with the Harbour Trust, broadened my understanding of our environment, the forces that shaped it, and the natural and built attributes we need to protect." 

Artist Nick Hollo drawing the view at Lower Georges Heights, Mosman with oil pastels and pens. Artist Nick Hollo drawing the view at Lower Georges Heights, Mosman with oil pastels and pens. (July 2022) by Greg WeightSydney Harbour Federation Trust

"I feel my drawings contributed to the close bonds we formed with local communities. They also informed how we would rehabilitate our sites and return them to the public. We sought for them to evolve organically. In that way, it was like tending a garden."

“As Geoff Bailey, our Executive Director at the time, once put it: The Harbour Trust aims to enrich the cultural life of the city." 

Collage of Nick Hollo oil pastel drawings completed between 2000 and 2015 Collage of Nick Hollo oil pastel drawings completed between 2000 and 2015 (July 2022) by Nick HolloSydney Harbour Federation Trust

"During my Harbour Trust years, I sketched what I loved about our sites... I always tried to capture the unique, even quirky qualities of each place and building. I suspect I have completed more than 150 artworks on the Harbour Trust’s sites to date." 


"Unintentionally, my drawings have become a record of an uncommon approach to planning and development during a formative period in the agency’s journey." 

In the following video, created for the Harbour Trust's 20th anniversary in 2001, Nick recalls the ‘romantic, ruined beauty’ of the former Defence lands when they were handed to the Harbour Trust, and describes their uniqueness amongst other public spaces in Sydney owing to their heritage buildings and 'vistas of nature'.

We trust you enjoyed the first instalment in our two-part exhibition, Hollo's Harbour Reflections – Sydney in Vibrant Pastel.

In the second instalment, dive into Nick’s striking artworks and journey through unique terrains spanning the northern and eastern suburbs of Sydney as well as the largest island on the city’s iconic harbour.

Click here to continue to Part Two.

Collage of Nick Hollo oil pastel drawings completed between 2000 and 2015 Nick Hollo Artwork Collage (2000-2015) Version #2, Nick Hollo, July 2022, From the collection of: Sydney Harbour Federation Trust
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Credits: Story

Special thanks: The Harbour Trust wishes to thank Nick Hollo, for his text and visual contributions to this exhibition. We also thank specialist fine art photographer, Greg Weight, for producing high-quality digital reproductions of Nick’s work, enabling us to share them widely.

Harbour Trust — Extraordinary Places on the World's Best Harbour

Helpful links

1. About the Harbour Trust
2. Visit our extraordinary places
3. The stories of our historical sites
4. Harbour Trust 20th Anniversary
5. Nick Hollo, Sydney Artist
6. Greg Weight Photography

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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