AS I AM MOVING THIS WEEK, I'VE DECIDED TO RE-POST SOME FAVORITE POSTS FROM THE PAST FEW YEARS. I WILL BE BACK WITH FRESH POSTS ONCE THINGS HAVE SETTLED DOWN A BIT! THANK YOU! THIS WAS ORIGINALLY POSTED IN 2007.
A couple of months ago, I was reading one of my favorite design blogs, Peak of Chic, and came across a post on the work of artist Harrison Howard. His style, use of color and obvious talent left an indelible impression on me. I left a comment on the post and was surprised to find that Harrison himself emailed to thank me for it! Sometimes, I find that some talented people can be a bit prone to be impressed with themselves or exude an attitude of entitlement or lack of consideration for others. I sensed none of this from Mr. Howard and was so pleased that he would take the time to acknowledge my comment. He seems to be a very warm and genuine man, seemingly unaware of the talent he possesses and completely unaffected and down to earth. This is certainly one of those instances where you admire or respect the work of someone more established and developed and think, gosh, I'd love to attain to that level of professionalism! Mr. Howard was kind enough to let me "interview" him and feature the man and his work as one of my "Artist's Portraits" here on Annechovie.
Harrison's lovely wife, Lou Ann and son, Alec,
at Harrison's show opening at Thiele and Sons Gallery, La Jolla, CA
Harrison's resume boasts commissions from some of America's most prestigious decorating firms, such as McMillen, Irvine & Fleming and was hired by Pamela Banker (later of Parish-Hadley). His work has appeared in Architectural Digest and also graces many prestigious residences, such as those of the Vanderbilts, Firestones, DuPonts, Goodyears and stars like Kirstie Alley, as well as the Royal Saudi Embassy in Virginia.
Harrison says that much of his professional career has been devoted to mural work in private houses, and has included screens, panels, easel paintings, and watercolors. Primarily, his work has focused on decorative themes including architectural subjects, chinoiseries, and scenics, often with bird, animal or floral motifs. He has worked extensively with alkyd paints, oil paints, and to a lesser extent, acrylics.
His father, Wing Howard, was also an artist, and is known to many in San Diego, where Harrison now lives, through the murals he painted in the Whaling Bar of the La Valencia Hotel in La Jolla. Harrison started his career at the age of 19 with a one-man exhibit at the upstairs gallery owned by Ross Thiele & Sons Interiors, then located on Prospect Street in La Jolla. All but one of the 24 available watercolors were sold. Since that time Harrison has worked primarily as a freelance artist. Today, Harrison has returned to a focus on smaller paintings, and is now producing limited edition giclee prints of many of these paintings as well.
Harrison resides in gorgeous San Diego, California with his lovely wife, Lou Ann, and teenage son, Alec.
I spent three years at the School of Fine Arts at Boston University in the early seventies studying painting, and later I received a Bachelor of Science in Industrial Design at Art Center College in Pasadena, CA. That program involved a lot of drawing and industrial model building.
What are your earliest memories of being involved making art or wanting to be an artist?My father was a professional artist, although largely self taught, and I never gave any serious consideration to doing anything else. Drawing and painting were a very big preoccupation from the age of five onward, but the results really were rarely anything to suggest that I would choose to be an artist. In hindsight I think I was very close minded about considering alternatives, because there are a lot of other interesting things to do. However, at my present stage of life, I have no more regret about my choice than a parent feels about having their children. I would say my father influenced me more than any formal art training, and the interests that both my parents had in art and traveling.
I’m interested in fashion illustration, stage set design, children’s book illustration, decorative and fine art in general, and all of those subjects are sources of inspiration, but in the final analysis I think there’s nothing more dependable than your own imagination, and the things around you in every day life. We have mostly antiques in our house, and they have repeatedly served as props in my paintings. Many of those things conjure ideas that would no doubt seem a big stretch to another person. I do live very close to the Pacific Ocean, and I enjoy that very much, but I don’t really think it has influenced my frame of mind a great deal.
I think the fact that you ask that question is particularly a reflection on your own personality Anne, which strikes me as exceptionally happy and upbeat, and that shows in your paintings. My wife and seventeen year old son are without question at the core of my well being, as well as my recollections of my parents, who are no longer alive, and my friends and other family members. The fact that I make my living as an artist gives me great satisfaction, because I enjoy immensely what I do. Contrary to the stereotype of artists as tormented souls, I am convinced that artists must enjoy what they do if they want to produce worthwhile results, even if in some cases they may not be particularly happy the rest of the time. The only things that really torments me are all my bills.
What are the most challenging things for you about being an artist?
I think I could speak for the overwhelming majority of full time artists in saying that making a living that meets my family’s needs is the biggest challenge. There’s also always that sense that the next painting is going to be better than the one before it.
Which artists have influenced your work the most?What I find odd is that some of the artists I like the most are not necessarily the ones, who have always influenced me the most. My father, Wing Howard, who taught me to use watercolor, was the most influential, although my paintings are quite different from his. I’ve been influenced by Jean Pillement, Lisbeth Zwerger, (the Austrian illustrator), Kay Nielsen, Charles Doyle, (father of Arthur Conan Doyle), Helen Dryden, (the art deco fashion illustrator), Jean Hugo, and J. J. Grandville. There are many others, not necessarily widely known.