R. Anthony Harrison
Where I am
Vancouver, BC Canada
Tell us a little about you, what is your background & where do you come from?
I’m a self-taught artist / art lover who has to create. It’s not something I think about.
I’m arranging sushi on my plate before eating it. Sometimes snapping cell phone photos first.
My background after high-school was Classical Theatre. Three years of full time theatre school prepared lead to a couple of years working on stage in and around Vancouver. Tired of ketchup sandwiches and needing a job to support my live theatre work, I started to concentrate more on film and television work. This became my day-job.
When did you first start painting?
I first started painting as a kid with water-colors and felt pens, but seriously began to express myself when I was in my mid 20’s. Large bold acrylic works. Lots of big shapes and bright, bright colors. They were real eye-candy for me. I was thrilled to have created them, and never needed to share them with anyone other than family and friends.
You paint more than just horses, what is your favorite subject?
I love to paint human faces. They are by far the most challenging. To capture the essence of a person on canvas is such and incredible feeling.
Exploring the depth of flesh and bone on canvas is fascinating. There are just so many elements and techniques that are part of an always evolving experiment.
You also design tattoos, sculpt and write, what is your favorite way to express yourself artistically?
There is no one way I favor over any other to express myself. Usually it depends on how I feel and what I want to express. This may sound immodest, but it’s tough for me to settle in one place artistically, because I usually feel that I have conquered a medium pretty soon after starting.
I’m realizing now that tattoos are definitely an avenue for releasing some of the more frustrating emotional and not so pleasant feelings that come with being an artist.
Sculpting is very physical and tactile and it’s tremendously satisfying to hold an object that exists in a three dimensional space and know that you are responsible for it’s existence. My dream is to one day travel to Italy and study classical sculpture techniques.
Who are your main influences?
When I was young I loved M. C. Escher‘s drawings and Salvador Dali‘s paintings. I used to really enjoy creating very detailed surreal pencil sketches. Using realism to combine the most absurd variety of subject matter.
Do you (or did you) have an animal that is the muse behind your work?
Without a doubt the horse is the most inspirational animal in my life. I cannot truly explain why. There is an unexplainable connection there.
In theatre school I played the lead horse Nugget in Anthony Schaffer’s play “Equus”. When I began to spend time with the horses I felt a connection that went back to when I was probably about 6 or 7 years old and walked amongst the horses during a school field trip. I think I was the only child who didn’t want to ride them that day, but I lead them around while the other kids rode.
The feeling of walking beside them, looking into their eyes, was unforgettable.
Do you have any secret rituals you do to help you get in the zone for your art?
The subject matter of what I’m painting is the only reason I get into the zone while working.
That zone is a state of being that is continually imagining what it means to be this creature and experience the moment that is coming to life on canvas.
What effect do you think the Internet will have on art in general?
The internet is the single most amazing advantage all artist have today over every artist that has ever lived. I have enjoyed sharing my art with collectors from around the world. People who would never have seen my work otherwise.
Meeting collectors and becoming friends with some has been a tremendous experience, especially since creating art is such a solitary adventure for the most part.
Which one is your personal favorite piece? I have a personal favorite painting that I spent far more time than any rational person ever would on one piece. I knew I was going to keep it from the moment the image came to life in a sketch.
It’s a horse, of course, and everything about it just fell into place. I’m not sure photos will ever reveal it’s magic. It is my comfort piece now. I feel at home when I have it around.
Whenver I’ve gone out of town to work on a film or television shoot, I’ve taken it with me like my security blanket or something. I misplaced it once and was traumatized for few days until I found it again. It had been tucked in a ‘safe place’ while a room was renovated.
The painting is called ‘Olympus’. It is my highest mountain.
Would you ever sell it?
I would never sell it. I’ve said that about other pieces and then turned around and handed them over to people who made offers I could not refuse. This is not one of those pieces. Until now I have never even talked about this one.
What else are you passionate about?
There is a ‘secret’ project that I hope one day my brother, who is also artistic, will help me bring about.
Sorry, I can’t say more, but I think it will change the way people think of their world. It’s more of a theatrical event that involves art. That’s all I can say.
Working on anything new?
Right now I’m thinking of taking on some students for the first time and sharing some equine oil techniques.
Most of my energy is going toward tattooing right now. I’ve done a couple and it’s a strange experience to see someone wearing your art on their skin.
Haven’t put a horse on anyone yet, but very soon I’m sure.
More to Come
Thanks to Anthony for answering the interview and sharing his art. Be sure to check out his art website periodically for updates about his latest works.
Also stay tuned for more interviews with horse artists and photographers.
Are you a horse artist or do you know an equine artist you’d like to see featured? Add your name and website in the comments below or drop me a note to get involved.