Thursday, May 12, 2022

DPW Spotlight Interview: Robert Harris

Each week we will spotlight a different DPW artist who will give away one of their best paintings. To enter to win Robert's painting "banana 02" go to Daily Paintworks and click on the link at the top of the page announcing their interview.

From Robert's DPW Gallery Page: 

I was lost until I started painting. I'm still lost but slightly less so.

banana 02
(click to view)

Enter to win by clicking on the link at the top of the DPW home page announcing interview

What did you want to be growing up?  
I always find this a bit of a strange question because I really didn't even consider ever wanting to do any "traditional job" as a child. I was more concerned with just wanting to play and goofing around. I suppose once I became a teenager I became pretty enamored with film and wanted to be a filmmaker but I quickly realized that it's a very collaborative profession and as someone who struggled a lot with social anxiety it wasn't really in the cards for me. In one way I guess painting really suits me in that sense because it's largely a solo activity.

When did your artistic journey begin?  
I took art classes in high school but I can't really say it was ever an interest at that point. I never made art outside of the assignments for classes and I can't say I was particularly any good at it. Right now I'm 40 and I didn't start really learning how to draw until a few years ago at age 37 and didn't begin painting until I was 38. I was feeling pretty lost several years ago and really just decided to learn to draw on a whim as a challenge to myself which eventually led to painting. I started by learning to draw with an online course called which I'm currently a teaching assistant at and have been for the past two years. I took a few community college courses for drawing and painting which were helpful but the bulk of my learning has been from various online courses and books.

grapefruit 01
(click to view)

Did you have any long periods without creative expression? How did you get back on the horse?

Most of my life has been spent living without creative expression. I've always been interested in the arts through filmmaking, music, novels, etc but never actually created anything myself. I had a brief sojourn into learning guitar in my twenties but despite practicing it daily for a few years I never really developed a knack for the fundamentals so I ended up shelving it. I guess in some sense I was feeling burnt out from a life of only consumption which sparked my interest in drawing. It's funny I don't even really consider myself a creative person now but rather a translator more than anything else.

Which mediums and genres do you gravitate toward? Which ones don’t appeal?

I am pretty exclusively an oil painter at this point. I still practice drawing regularly with graphite and ink but never any "finished pieces". I've tried watercolor, gouache, and pastel but I had a really hard time adapting to those mediums. Oils make sense to me and I really like to be able to use heavy impasto and texture that isn't really present in those other mediums. In terms of what I paint, the subject almost doesn't matter to me. My work is heavily informed by realism and impressionism but I try to push abstraction into the work as much as possible. I primarily tackle still life and landscape right now but plan to start doing figurative work and portraits eventually. It's really a matter of getting my drawing ability up to a level where I can execute those more complex subject matters at a satisfactory level.

tools 01
(click to view)

What was the process like of pinpointing your personal style or finding your voice? 

I don't really think I have a personal style or a voice at this point. Almost every painting is still an experiment for me. I still consider myself a beginner and don't really worry about trying to find a style as it's sort of baked into everything you make anyways.

Name an artist (or artists), well-known or not, who you admire. Why? 

It's funny my knowledge of painting is very new and I really couldn't have even named any painters besides maybe Rembrandt and Van Gogh three years ago. It's really been a whirlwind of information trying to learn about all of this art history and contemporary painters the past few years. I would say I like the same three masters painters that everyone does who paints realism. Sargent, Zorn, and Sorolla although I definitely gravitate more towards Sorolla as his outdoor paintings are a huge inspiration and I love how much he drenches his paintings in purple. I also really love Isaac Levitan and the sensitivity in which he depicts the everyday landscape that was around him. My favorite living painter is Fred Cuming. His ability to capture the mood and atmosphere of the scenes he paints is incredible. The way he exaggerates colors and pushes abstraction while still making his subjects ring incredibly true and evoke a mood is something I hope to achieve with my work. The last artist I want to mention is my cousin Lee who died a few years ago. He was a talented writer and filmmaker and always the most creative and inspirational person I knew growing up. He really turned me onto a lot of art that I ended up liking. I really wish he could have seen my paintings.

bridgeview golden hour 01
(click to view)

If you could offer one piece of advice to your younger, creative self — what would that be?

This is a tough one because in a sense I didn't have a younger creative self. While I was interested in the arts and I did want to create, I didn't have the type of mindset that would allow that creation to happen. I guess I would tell him that it's okay to produce a lot of bad work and not only is it okay but it's absolutely necessary in order to ever be able to make something good. 
Do you utilize any habits or tricks for winning the distraction and procrastination battle? 

This is a battle I've largely lost most of my life. There really is no "trick" I've found that works but instead it's about developing enough self discipline to force yourself to do the work even when you don't want to do it. I have found that some of the best paintings I've done were executed when I really wasn't in the mood to paint but forced myself to do it anyway. In a lot of ways I find that my mental mood going into a painting is largely irrelevant as painting is such a complex process that requires most of your faculties that what you are feeling mentally sort of vanishes as your brain enters a problem solving mode trying to work out a painting.
(click to view)

In moments of self-doubt or adversity, how do you push forward?

Self doubt is a huge struggle for me and has been my entire life. I suffer from severe depression and have since I was a teenager. In some ways painting is a godsend for me as it's a distraction that takes my mind off negative thought patterns but that said I still wouldn't say it's particularly enjoyable because it's such a mentally draining activity.

What are some of your long and short term goals for yourself or your art?

My long term goal is to be able to support myself with painting full time. I'm currently working other jobs while painting in my spare time and would really like to be able to dedicate all my time towards perfecting this craft. In the short term I would really just like to start selling on a regular basis. Currently almost all of my sales have been to personal friends and that has been very sporadic.

grapes 01
(click to view)

What does success mean to you personally? 

I'm not really sure what that means to me honestly. I can say that I've never felt successful with anything in my life up to this point. Painting is probably the first thing I've done that has even given me a glimpse towards something better. But that said I wouldn't consider myself a successful painter at this point.
What is one of your proudest moments in your creative life?

This is another tough one for me as I can't say I really have any. I've never entered my art into any competitions or even sold anything to someone who didn't somewhat know me already. The one thing that comes back to me is that in the Beginning Painting course I took at a community college there was a final project painting that was the fourth oil painting I ever made which a lot of my classmates really liked and some even ended up taking pictures of it. That was the first time I ever felt like maybe I was onto something with painting.

some pairs 23
(click to view)

Thanks, Robert!

© 2022 Maddie Marine

1 comment:

  1. I think your work is phenomenal, Robert, and you must have had latent artistic talents your whole life to have become so good at painting in such a short time. No telling what other latent talents you have that you have yet to discover! Lots of people feel "lost" until they discover that thing that drives their lives. Please continue what you are doing, branch out if you feel so inclined, and do not get discouraged. You have a treasure to share with the world.


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