Inspired people – Drew Harrison
Artists are inspired people. But what makes them create what they create? What lights the fire that produces such wonderful work? Here are a few questions that will hopefully inspire some answers.
This week I’m honoured to present Drew Harrison, an award winning professional artist I met while he was hosting an art group at the WEA (an adult education centre). Drew’s skill with a paintbrush is simply amazing. His realistic works are stunning with a level of detail rivalling that of a photograph, yet possessing an emotional presence, powerful and unique to his painting. His surreal and abstract pieces are thought provoking and clever. And dare I mention the frog? I’m still in love with the frog! Thank you so much, Drew, for this interview. It is fantastic to have you here.
Who are you? What factors in your life have led you to create? Was it an epiphany moment or something that has always been?
I am a practicing artist with an illustration background and teach general drawing and art media through the WEA. Creation for me has always been a form of escapism and enjoyment. It is impossible to recall what led me down the creative path, although, I have been designing, drawing and sketching since childhood. Throughout High School there was a strong inclination to pursue a career in Architecture or Graphic Design – my grades for mathematical subjects proved otherwise! Drawing remained a constant and determined my path into a now defunct Illustration Degree course at the University of South Australia. Ironically, Architecture and many other design disciplines such as Engineering, Industrial Design, Sculpture etc have all influenced my subsequent painting.
Where are you from, where do you live, and how does your location influence your art?
Born, raised and living in Adelaide suburbia. I do not believe my location has ever directly influenced my art, maybe subconsciously.
Were you ever distracted away from your art and creating by the need to make a living? Have you ever stopped creating?
The intention has been to earn a living from a creative pursuit. For many reasons this has not always materialized so I have found teaching can be a good way to find balance as it helps to maintain the creative drive. The negative aspect is it tends to draw the energy away from my own, already time consuming, projects.
I am constantly distracted away from art, however, the same distractions also feed the creativity. I personally find it very difficult to separate from the creative process as the brain is always switched on and looking for inspiration
What do you create? Do you have a niche or do you spread your creativity across several disciplines? Do you have a preferred subject?
The desire to create is often a journey of discovery and learning. Through most of my formal illustrative training there was an experimentation of different tactile media and approaches. This has continued with my teaching and, although some materials are more practical and manageable, Acrylic paint is my preferred medium. It is very versatile and suits all forms of painting technique on canvas. Late last year I experimented with digital video more as an extension and promotion of the painting. It was fun to explore a different creative outlet that encompassed many new skills from composing music (actually just chopping and changing sound loops!), editing, timing and directing. The results can be viewed via my YouTube Channel. Returning to the painting side of things – there is no singular preferred subject matter and many areas have been explored over the last few years. I will say the challenge of mechanical, textural, detailed and realist painting are becoming a stronger hallmark of my work.
What inspires you to create? Do you have any techniques to find inspiration?
This is a difficult question to answer. I guess creativity can be an inherent quality, more often than not the creative spark is a driving force with an indeterminate starting point. Painting is a very primal way to communicate and at the heart of any form of communication is the desire to express an opinion. In recent times more commentary and narrative has been creeping into my work as a way to convey an opinion.
I have been responding to an identifiable shift in social change reflected through simple and often quirky subject matter (see the Chasing American Dreams and Chaos Theories galleries of my website). These visual statements are not necessarily right or wrong and are always open to individual interpretation. Personally, the inspiration for a painting can be drawn from any number of sources including media through to literature or responding to a memory, location, texture, object etc.
How often do you create? Do you procrastinate? How do you balance between the things that have to be done versus the things you want to do?
My own creativity is a constant. There is always the flicker of an idea, however the resolution is never quite as simple or direct. A lot of ideas never reach fruition or, at the very least, are shelved with the intention to revisit later. The actual painting process can be sporadic and is often dictated by finance (quality art products do come at a premium!) and more importantly motivation. As I have gradually been re-aligning my style and approach to create a more unified collection of work there are many times when motivation can be lacking. Seeking support and interest in new work is very trying and does cause procrastination.
Scheduling creativity around other life’s pursuits can also be problematic and it has never been a great strength of mine, especially when the creative process can be so rewarding. The only constant when working on a piece(s) is a deadline. From there it is easy to work backwards in terms of a rough schedule but sometimes the proposed timeline can be skewed. More often than not the projects that I expect not to take long usually end up lagging. Similarly, on some days, the creative inspiration just does not flow and I can actually be counterproductive to a painting. Other days the adrenalin kicks in and I can work for hours at a time and it seems like minutes.
Having worked briefly in the Illustration industry it was equally tricky to balance between things that had to be done to things that I wanted to achieve within set projects. Even so this way of working is no different to a commissioned painting. In other words, a client setting a brief (description of proposed artwork) and then responding. And yes, the customer is always right!
Where do you create?
From my home/studio.
What do you enjoy doing the most?
The creative process is probably the most exciting phase of any work. Generating ideas and planning for a painting certainly is enjoyable. It may sound odd but the painting stage can actually be a little tedious. I do enjoy many of the challenges that are presented when painting a different subject matter, although these are usually thought through in the planning. Despite a long association with Acrylics there is always an underlying sense of fear when beginning a new work – Can I paint that? What did I do last time? What colour needs to be mixed? You would think there would be more confidence after more than ten years of painting with the one medium! These fears are all unfounded once the rhythm of a new work has been established. This is an unspecified stage when it all just clicks. Of course, there is no greater sense of enjoyment than when a painting has been completed or specifically when I have achieved resolution with an idea.
Do you have any advice for other artists?
I am certainly in no position to give advice to other artists. None the less, here’s more of a personal observation… learn the basics and attempt to balance creation of individual works of art with an easily replicated product. They are one and the same.
Where can you and your art be found?
I am currently seeking a suitable gallery so the majority of my public work is online at the present time via my own website or Facebook page. There are also select works available for rental at Artlogic. I have Limited Edition Digital Prints for sale of select Aviation and Landscape works. There is presently no dedicated point of sale, however, details can be found via my gallery pages or I can be contacted for details.
I was so lucky to have been able to take a class with Drew and I admire him and his work immensely.
Thank you for this great interview
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