Caroline Harris: Artist of the Month - August 2014

After last month's interlude, due to our award-winning excitement, we're back on track with our featured artist series. Most months, we ask a different artist to design a banner for our newsletter - Penorama. If you don't already receive Penorama, you can subscribe here.

This month's artist is Caroline Harris, a freelance illustrator who lives in London, with her kitten, called Squirrel.

This is the banner Caroline designed for us:

And here's how it will appear in this month's edition of Penorama:

Cult Pens: Tell us a bit more about yourself.

Caroline: I have drawn since I can remember. As a child most of my friends would get dolls, Barbie, Action Men, etc. for birthdays or for Christmas (nothing wrong with them, I am sure they are a heap of fun but not for me). I would ask for pens, and pens I got! Gel pens, glitter pens, pens that printed rainbows and stars, thick nibs, thin nibs. I had a lot of pens... Since then I have taken my pens and studied Fine Art at Byam Shaw School of Art and Middlesex University. Since graduating I have worked on commissions, participated in group and solo exhibitions and am currently illustrating a children’s book.

Cult Pens: How would you describe your work?

Caroline: My art represents urban city life and architecture. I use pen and ink to create complex cityscapes to reflect the claustrophobic and chaotic nature of the metropolitan city. London has a rich and varied mixture of Gothic, Victorian, Edwardian, Georgian and Contemporary architecture that is spread throughout the city. My drawings are nostalgic in nature as they capture a city we are familiar with, but sometimes miss in the rush of our daily life. I try to convey the tight and compact nature of urban city environment; although our boroughs are closely bound together there is a distinct division that creates the complex and unique communities in London.

Cult Pens: What got you into drawing/illustration?

Caroline: From when I was very young I remember being really interested in the front covers of Disney videos. When Mum would buy one I would get cracking on copying the front cover of say Aladdin or Cinderella. I would be persistent in getting down as much detail as possible. The good thing about this is kids love cartoons, so when I would go to school and show my friends they would think I was really cool, when in fact I am a bit nerdy and shy. I suppose drawing made me feel like a rock star at school and a little less shy. So, I would say Disney got me into drawing.

Cult Pens: If you weren't an illustrator, what was the back-up plan?

Caroline: My back up plan would have been trying to crack being an illustrator I think. I have no idea what else I could have been. When I was young I knew that I always wanted to draw in some form. Although I did take piano and singing lessons when I was a teenager, so maybe some part of my brain that no longer exists wanted to become a piano-playing singer. Fortunately I gave that a miss, definitely not my forté.

Cult Pens: What are your favorite subjects/topics to draw?

Caroline: I love drawing cityscapes and buildings. I have an ongoing interest in the local history or anywhere I go. I try to incorprate this into my drawings.

Cult Pens: Where do you get your ideas or inspiration?

Caroline: From the outdoors. I like to go on long walks around London. Wherever I go I have my camera with me and snap away. I do enjoy reading about London’s history and architecture which probably filters into my work.

Cult Pens: What are you currently working on?

Caroline: At the moment I am working on a series of “maps” which consist of my interpretation of a district. The borough where I live is Haringey in London. Haringey has 19 districts that are vibrant and full of diverse communities and rich history. I am in the process of interpreting each district with its individual quirks and community.

Cult Pens: How long does it normally take to complete a project?

Caroline: Once I start a project I spend all of my spare time on the piece until it’s completed. I usually work on A2 sheets of paper, so a drawing of that size can take 2/3 weeks depending on the detail and type of drawing.

Cult Pens: What are you top five pens or pencils?

Caroline:

  1. Staedtler 308 – 0.05 or 0.1
  2. Sharpie Fine point black
  3. Caran d'Ache pencil HB or 2B
  4. Pentel gel pen in white
  5. Gelly Roll pens in any colour, although pink's my favorite.

Cult Pens: Do you prefer black & white or full colour?

Caroline: I mainly work in black and white, although I am becoming more interested in working in different colours. I used to when I was younger and will, at some point, experiment with more colour in my drawings.

Cult Pens: What pen or pencil couldn't you live without?

Caroline: That would be an HB pencil and a Fineliner pen like a Staedtler 00.5. That is my pen of choice at the moment.

Cult Pens: Do you know when a work is finished or are you constantly tweaking?

Caroline: Yeah, I usually say to myself “it’s done” after I have worked consecutively on a drawing for a few weeks. There have been times that I have returned to some of my past drawings, but I generally tend to know when it is finished.

Cult Pens: What work are you most proud of?

Caroline: I suppose it would be a cityscape of London. I finished one quite recently and could see how I have developed over the past few years since starting my cityscape drawings. It was nice to compare and see how my lines have changed.

Cult Pens: What tips do you have for inspiring artists/illustrators?

Caroline: Keep working at it. There will be times where you come back from work feeling like you don’t want to do anything but sit down, watch TV and eat cake. You can still do this but draw and keep pushing your work too. Get a website, promote yourself online, get talking to local art groups in your area, look for places where you could exhibit your work. There will be people out there interested in your art, just don’t keep it hidden. Knock backs are always inevitable, so a thick skin and marching on is the way to go. 

You can see more of Caroline's work on her website, and for her current project 'Miles Around London'.

29 July 2014

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