Welcome to the first in our series of blogs by artists exhibiting in REALITY exploring their backgrounds and influences and providing an insight into what life is like as an artist.
We start with Phil Harris, painter of Arizona Bloom and S.P Behind a Glass Door. Here he guides us through his early years and his journey of discovery into the world of art.
Look out for a regular weekly blog from Phil as he charts his life’s journey to today as a highly respected and internationally renowned artist.
Phil Harris Blog 1 - School and College
During my childhood I drew quite a lot at home and probably had an embryonic talent, but in the broader sense art was not present in my life. I do not come from a family that has an interest in the arts or from an environment that encouraged its pursuit. Fine Art was completely absent from my life and I did not set foot inside a Gallery or museum until I was seventeen years of age. Until that time I had no idea that it was possible to be a professional artist or that contemporary art even existed.
At school I slipped through the cracks, left with a limited range of qualifications and no idea of what I would do next. After a month or so at home my father forced me to visit a careers officer and somehow the vision of an art college came into view. Mansfield College of Art and Design accepted me on to a two year course in General Art and Design, I immediately felt more at home there than I had at any time during my school years and although, by no means an ideal student, began to excel in some subject areas such as objective drawing and life class. The course encouraged experimentation but also had a great respect for the teaching of technical skills. This was when I first visited a gallery and I can still remember that feeling of excitement today.
Following on from Mansfield I applied for several courses in Illustration but the college which accepted me was Bradford College of Art and Design which offered another course in General Art and Design. For the first two years I struggled with the course and the usual distractions and problems of a student living away from home for the first time. In my view the teaching, such as there was, was poor to non-existent and to me seemed to actively discourage the type of work that I had any ability or interest in.
In the final year however something seemed to galvanise within me and a little self-confidence blossomed. I increasingly found my own way forward and completed the course specializing in Painting, Sculpture, Printmaking and Illustration. Somehow I realised that I was predominantly a painter and that my personality was fitted to it. I intuitively understood painting better than any of the other disciplines and perhaps more importantly it excited me.
My final degree show included three large figurative oil paintings, crude in style and technique but I have never looked back from that point. That final year at college and the following three to four years are the period of my life when both my art and my life took-off and is the period in my life of which I am most proud.