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Staying Creative with Chris Harnan

This week we catch up with SS21 collaborator and creative force Chris Harnan. Chris is an Illustrator and Designer working hard out of a boiling hot studio in South East London. Having worked with us on our Abraxas capsule for SS21, we took the time to meet up in his studio in June 2021, we talked process, exhibiting work, favourite anime's, and Kentaro Miura's Berserk.

Thanks for chatting with us Chris, how is it that you got into making?

Yeah no problem! Apart from drawing/painting throughout school, I spent a lot of time working on flash animations and mouse drawn characters/stories for fun. I spent most evenings working on crudely drawn music videos and intense space scenes. I was a part of a bunch of online communities and crews just making some real niche stuff, but before Wacom's and drawing pads were so common. I think it informed my attitude of low, untechnical aesthetics.

Has there been anything particular that has effected this approach to making work?

Japanese comic artists and graphic designers have had a big effect on the way I approach making work; messing with mark making and materiality in interesting ways. Heta-uma And Garo, King Terry especially. David Hockney too.

You seem to use both digital and analogue processes in your practice, both existing with a very strong visual identity and aesthetic, whats it like balancing all that?

So I’ll kind of switch my mind between them, and they’re separate when it comes to allocating time to them, but they definitely inform each other. It’s only positive really because I’ll go away from painting and drawing for a couple of days or a week and come back renewed, and will have thought about ways of applying myself to it while moving around things on a screen. They’re really different approaches though, I have always been a perfectionist with my work but having the ability to control-z and find the perfect spot for something made my digital work spiral into something more intensely deliberate when I got more serious about it in my twenties. My analogue work is more about guided experimentation. 

Your analogue work in particular translates as very gestural, almost automatic in process, do you think about any themes or subjects when making these?

For me a lot of the fun of working is reducing and streamlining the work, I choose where to apply detail and when to give more attention to certain elements of the work, but I always have one eye to reducing and simplifying the work and making it more straightforward. I love the idea of a more direct way of communicating - colour, kinetic gestures, simple symbols and characters and words.

Can you tell us some more about the work used for our Abraxas capsule? 

The work for the collection is made up of a series of drawings that combine pen, charcoal and oil pastels. Inspired by runes and Abraxas iconography, the mark making on show is the result of simplifying and reinterpreting the original inspirations.

Got any advice for upcoming creatives? 

I’m very happy I kept another non creative job alongside drawing, so I could continue making what I wanted until that stuff became what other people wanted.

Dream client/collab? 

I don’t really have one, sorry haha. More work in fashion, maybe to see my current work fully realised as animation. Outside of that it’s personal books and paintings. 

Lastly, any designers/artists we should know about? 

Erlend Peder Kvam, Julien Gobled.

Cheers Chris!