News / REALITY Artist Blog #5 - A day in the life of a professional artist

REALITY Artist Blog #5 - A day in the life of a professional artist

Phil Harris tells us how he spends his day, what his motivations are and life outside art.

For the past 20 years I have been living and working in the New Forest in Hampshire. My studio is in my home, part of a converted Victorian manor house. The grounds are surrounded by ancient woodland, it is teeming with wildlife. I try to take a few minutes a day to walk around the gardens or into the woods to see what I can see out there. The great majority of each day however is spent in the studio.

After 28 years of life as a professional artist I know that people still find it hard to believe that I spend the whole day working, the image of the artist as dilettante is hard to shift. I’m convinced that friends and family believe that I spend my days wearing a smoking jacket and swapping witty aphorisms with the characters from a novella by Oscar Wilde.

My typical working day will start at 8.00 - 8.30a.m. I love not having to travel to work and the solitude of my working life suits me well. I tend to take a short break every 2 hours or so to give my eyes a rest particularly if I am working in close detail. I usually finish work between 6.30- 7.30p.m. My technical style of work is slow and painstaking so it is essential that I work fairly long hours. Admin and correspondence is usually done at the weekends or if I can find time in the evenings.

My daily interactions are minimal. After my wife leaves for work I will be alone all day and will probably not speak to anyone until the evening. I have always been more comfortable on my own than in a crowd so this suits me well.

Many people find it almost impossible to work productively from home without the social interaction, distractions and pressures of office life and a ‘to-do’ list. I learnt long ago not to allow myself the option of whether or when to start work. Motivation is fortunately never an issue, once I have started a painting it becomes an obsession that I can’t shake off until it the work is completed. It can be quite a relief to finish, sign the painting and get it out of the studio.

There is never a shortage of work to do as I have more ideas for paintings than I could ever produce. My sketchbooks are full of notes and ideas for paintings that I will never have time to make and for whole projects of work that may never see the light of day.

I do have a life outside of art. More than anything else I love to travel, the wilder the area the better. I am an outdoor enthusiast and there is nothing more exciting to me than watching wildlife in its own habitat. One day I would like to produce work which reflects that love of the natural world.

When I can find time I like to catch up on the cultural side of things, Realist film directors like Ingmar Bergmann, Michael Haneke, Nuri Bilge Ceylan and Alejandro González Iñárritu are favourites of mine and a real inspiration to me.

If I am not in the studio then I can normally be found doing some kind of physical training. Early mornings and most evenings are reserved for the endurance sports of running, road cycling and Duathlon.

Overall the day-to-day working life of an artist probably isn’t so very different from that of other professions but you do have to be comfortable with solitude and be highly self-motivated to have a chance of surviving long term. That said, if you can make it work then it can be a richly rewarding occupation and life. It suits my personality like a glove and I find it hard to imagine any other way of being.