INTERVIEW WITH ARTIST, REBECCA HARRISON
Discovering artists like Rebecca is the reason I love spending time on Instagram. I discovered Rebecca in lockdown last year and not only do I love her work, but I find her integrity to growing a value-based business inspiring too. There’s a clarity and vibrancy to Rebecca’s work which I find so up-lifting. Her seascape paintings are a particular favourite of mine; with strong yet soothing colour palettes I feel drawn in, transported to the water’s edge. But Rebecca’s portfolio is extensive, with a wonderful range of architectural illustrations too. Her background in architecture clearly provides the basis for these detailed illustrative works but she achieves a subtle balance between simplicity and detail.
I’m delighted to introduce Rebecca and her work to you. In our interview she shares her journey, her inspiration and how the past year has influenced her work with a longing I’m sure many of us have felt for escapism, a desire to get-away, to breathe more easily.
PLEASE COULD YOU DESCRIBE YOUR WORK FOR US?
I’m a self-taught, intuitive artist and at the core of my work is a longing to evoke a sense of peace, calm and freedom for my clients/customers. I’m one of those ‘multi-faceted’ artists/people – a term that has become a trendy way of saying ‘I’m more than one thing and have more than one skill’ – like most, if not all of us!
I’m currently deep into working on a collection of ‘paintings from above’ or as someone very creatively expressed to me recently ‘seagull’s eye-views’ of the ocean and beaches. This latest body of work is inspired by a personal and collective ‘need’ to get away, after what feels like a long and impactful year, the affect of which I am sure won’t show in many of us for some time to come. I have been sensing so much desire, almost desperation culminating for a holiday at the moment, to fly to some place far-away from home where we can breathe more easily and relax more freely. I think we all need a bit of healing and rest from the shift in perspectives that holidays offer us. My most recent paintings are my way of bringing that to my audience. I believe that art has a power to evoke feelings and influence energy within a space and within its observer. They are meditative pieces and escapist pieces that I hope bring peace.
I work in varying mediums including but not exclusively acrylics, oils and pastels and within my illustrative work I use fin-line ink pens. There is a contrast between the detailed hand-drawn illustrative work that I do (often architecturally themed which comes from my professional background or pet portrait commissions inspired by my love of the joy that dogs bring) and my more expansive and free painting style, specialising in seascapes and landscapes.
I’D LOVE TO KNOW A LITTLE MORE ABOUT YOUR JOURNEY TO BECOMING AN ARTIST
Having always expressed myself through using my hands and being creative as a child, I veered away from my pencils in pursuit of a ‘proper job’ after listening to the prolific narrative of the ‘starving artist’. I also didn’t believe in myself, so I never saw art as an option when I was growing up. I chose to study Architecture at Newcastle University and it was there actually that I picked up a paint brush for the first time (obviously I chose the more creative rather than the more mathematical course!). This path led to a career in Architectural Visualisation which I enjoyed for a decade, working with some of the worlds most influential Architectural Practices on bringing their visions and drawings to life in CGI’s.
For the latter few years of my career in Architecture, I had a growing sense that perhaps there was more to explore within my creativity and essentially it became more imperative to me that I back myself and go and see what’s possible with my own vision, take control of my own time, future and business than the very real fear of letting go of the ‘security of a job’ was. To cut a long-story short, the balance tipped, and I quit my job in January 2020 and went full time with my business.
WHERE DO YOU FIND INSPIRATION?
Inspiration is everywhere. I think it’s about being present and curious. I’m an observer and a deep feeler and I can be inspired by the smallest of things. Usually though, I get my energy and inspiration from nature, from the elements, landscapes, rhythms and seasons of the natural world. I grew up on a farm so I think wanting to be outside is just something that’s in my bones. When I lived in London, I often got the urge to go and plant myself on the grass in a park, I would just lie there and feel better (more like me) after a while, being close to the earth.
WHICH ARTISTS ARE YOU INSPIRED, OR INFLUENCED BY?
I’m inspired by anyone who is being true to their passion in life, be that in a creative industry or otherwise. As a teenager I was very much influenced by Henry Moore though, I love his heavy bronze sculptures and forms but I also really think his sketches influenced my own style of illustration. I’m a huge fan of Quentin Blakes illustrative style, it’s so fun and characterful. When it comes to painters, I’m drawn to atmosphere and depth so Turner is an obvious one, but I came across a guy in Whitby last year actually who I think is doing amazing work, he’s called Adrian Wright, he’s an ex-soldier who sustained a severe injury and found art through therapy. He’s so talented and what a story – that’s inspirational, I think.
CAN YOU DESCRIBE A TYPICAL DAY FOR US?
I don’t really have a ‘typical’ day but I am disciplined with my time. When there’s a business to run there is always something to do! I have certain things I need to do within each month to keep the cogs turning so I spread those tasks out over the 4 weeks which leaves enough time and space for my creative work, commission work and the unexpected projects that pop up. An example of a day would be waking early and enjoying a cup of tea in bed before heading out for a run over the fields where I don’t see a soul – I run alongside a river and up an old roman road before heading home for a shower and breakfast. This is the best start to a day, one that starts with fresh air and exercise, it sets me up and energises me. I’m usually in my studio by 9, I’ll log onto my PC respond to emails and then pack any orders that may have come overnight (I design & sell cards/prints/wraps through my own website and ‘friends of Joules’ too). The rest of the day will either consist of working at the computer on the ‘behind the scenes’ stuff of business or I’ll have made space for painting/commission work in which case, I’ll turn my phone off, put a podcast/music on and get into a mind state where I don’t feel like I’m being pulled away. I’ll have lunch at 1 for half an hour and return to the studio, working usually until 5/6 before locking up and most recently heading out to play tennis or simply being outside, perhaps going for a walk or chatting with friends. I try to honour my weekends by not working but it’s not always possible. If I feel I need it, I will delete social media from my phone for a weekend. It can be all-consuming running a business and I try to give myself headspace away from it where I can, so that I remain focused and fresh.
DO YOU EVER SUFFER FROM “CREATIVE BLOCK” AND, IF SO, HOW DO YOU DEAL WITH IT?
I don’t expect myself to feel inspired all the time and there is always plenty of work to be done that isn’t so creative but yes sometimes I want to be producing creatively and I struggle to find the ‘on’ switch!
I think we can get stuck in our heads too often, trying to think our way out of a problem or into creativity, inspiration and motivation and I have just learnt over time that it doesn’t work that way for me. Creativity comes from freedom, not through thinking too hard or trying to force it. I swear by getting outside, a bit of fresh air always does wonders. Often, I just need a change of scenery, to step away from technology and work and go outside for a walk, averting my brain and eyes elsewhere – that usually does the trick!
IS THERE A PIECE OF ART YOU’VE CREATED THAT YOU’RE PARTICULARLY FOND, OR PROUD OF?
Usually I am most proud/fond/attached to the latest piece I’ve created, I suppose that’s common. As we evolve and our work evolves, we hope that we’re getting a little better each time. Right now, I’m really in love with my latest collection (Soar, being one of them) as it speaks to how I feel at the moment and where I want to be, artistically I think it’s interesting too.
I can look back on previous work and feel proud too though. I’ve been commissioned to draw lots of dogs and I’m really fond of many of them as they’re so characterful and I can sense the personality of them and joy they bring to their families, that makes me smile and knowing they’re loved gives me a sense of pride. There is also one particular painting I did nearly 15 years ago now of a scene I took a photo of myself. I was cycling around the outer Hebrides with a friend and we were just pulling into our accommodation for the evening on the edge of the ocean, the light was absolutely stunning, there were cows grazing in front of the setting sun and I thought to myself ‘I must capture this’ – thankfully I managed to get a photo in time and when I returned home, I painted it…it’s still in my parents’ kitchen and I still love it as it takes me back to that moment and place and it’s sort of a multi-sensory experience every time I look at it because I remember the light and the wind and the smell of the sea air…I think that’s the beauty of working on personal commissions for clients now, if I can recreate a memory of a place or take them away to somewhere else in their mind then I think that’s where the magic lies.
IF YOU COULD CREATE A PIECE FOR ONE PERSON (CELEBRITY OR OTHERWISE) WHO WOULD IT BE?
Interesting question, I’ve never thought about this. My ambition with my work is for it to connect with people on a meaningful level. It’s the best feeling in the world, knowing that whoever owns my work is totally in love with it and as it’s creator, I have to accept that they love it for their own reasons; we all carry our own memories, history, stories and life experiences that get projected onto artwork. I heard a musician describe this process similarly recently, he said as soon as his work is in the public domain, it is no longer his. I think that is true of artwork too, it’s very personal. There are people whose creative work I absolutely love and devour, that I have gained so much value from myself and I would love to give back to them creatively in this way but I would want my work to do the same for them, which isn’t guaranteed. I’m going to back out of answering this question for that reason!
DO YOU HAVE ANY TIPS FOR PEOPLE CHOOSING ARTWORK FOR THEIR OWN HOME?
I am very much an advocate for designing our interior spaces with their psychological impact in mind; we can use colour, lighting, artwork, plants, proportions, and materials to evoke feelings within a space. Whether you are designing your space, décor and styling around the artwork or you are looking to find artwork for a space, my top tip would be to ask yourself how you want to feel within that space, what vibe do you want to induce? Kitchens/dining areas are usually much busier than living/sleeping areas for example where you want to relax and unwind. Is the space one that you want to feel inspired, calm, rooted or free within? Is it a slow and gentle space or a lively and energetic one? Narrowing down your desired atmosphere for a space to say 3 words can be a really helpful starting point for either choosing a piece of artwork or commissioning one and from there you can start to think/talk about tones, scale and scenes. I’m always happy to guide clients through these questions and provide consultations when required.
LET US KNOW WHERE WE CAN SEE, AND BUY, YOUR WORK?
My website is a great starting point www.rebeccaharrisondesigns.co.uk and I’m also active on Instagram @rebecca_harrison_designs where I try to share some ‘work in progress’ videos from time to time and often share my inspiration on Instagram stories; think nature appreciation, lots of waves crashing, interesting sunsets, skies and generally anything peaceful that I’m enjoying on a walk.
The majority of my clients have never worked with an Interior Designer before they hire me. So, if you’ve never used a designer before, and you aren’t familiar with the services they offer, how do you know if you need one? In this post I’ll shed light onto the process of working with an interior designer; WHAT they do and WHY you might need one. For the WHO and WHEN (i.e. who should you appoint, and when should you engage them) tune in next week!
The WHAT. So, what do Interior Designers do?
There’s often a preconception that Interior Designers spend their days plumping cushions and hanging pictures. And yes, designers do often get involved in the final styling stages but there’s so much that happens before the cushions are plumped and the pictures are hung. So let’s start at the beginning…
LAYOUT & FLOOR-PLANNING
Designers spend much of their time floor-planning; creating layouts that form the basis of a design. See it as the framework; without getting that right, nothing else will work as it should. A good layout takes into account your lifestyle, your space and how you plan to use it. It is the starting point of any great design and is an essential part of the design process. Without a floorplan that works for you, a room can look utterly stunning, but it won’t function properly. And if a space doesn’t function well, you won’t love it. Not for long anyway. A good designer will talk through who will use the space, when and what for. They will think about practicalities (sockets, switches, natural light etc), alongside the aesthetics.
Most designers offer a full room design service. This will combine a layout and design concept, resulting in a full design schedule to create a space that you love. All designers have a slightly different process, but they nearly always start by taking a brief from you, the client, considering what you want and need from a space as well as looking at your likes and dislikes in terms of interior style. Then it’s over to the designer to create a scheme that works for you. A good design needs to work for you and reflect your story, so I like to make sure there is a two-way process here; a conversation between client and designer throughout which ensures any tweaks are made to ensure the design is something you really love, rather than an on-trend design which is created and imposed.
Some designers offer design-only, others only take on jobs they can fully implement too. Others can offer both design-only and implementation, depending on what the client wants or needs. The project management part of the design process is the implementation; bringing the scheme to life. It consists of scheduling trades, monitoring works, places orders, taking deliveries, making sure everything is finished, on-time and on-budget. It is perfect for clients who don’t have the time (or the energy!) to get involved in the detail of the practicalities.
Some designers will offer stand-alone consultations, or a series of consultations to deal with specific design issues you may have. Perhaps you need help choosing colours for rooms, or perhaps you have a tricky spot and want some bespoke joinery designing. An interior designer can take a more objective approach, looking at that element as part of your wider living arrangements. They also have a wealth of experience and, in the case of colour consultations for example, is not tied to one particular paint brand.
Some designers and stylists will offer separate interior styling services. Often this is part of a full deign scheme; it’s the finishing touches, the cushions, the artwork, the accessories. But sometimes you may have a room that you don’t want to change much, but feel like the finishing touches are missing. That’s when the services of an interior stylist can help bring your scheme together, adding those important final elements to make your design sing.
The WHY? Why do you need an Interior Designer?
You may well not need one! But I am also conscious that lots of people are unsure whether the services of an Interior Designer are for them. Interior Design is no longer the preserve of the rich and famous. Interior Design is so much more accessible than it used to be and with people spending so much more time within their home than ever before, they are recognising the need to create something that truly works for them and which they truly love.
The reality is, people hire designers for many different reasons. You may well have a great eye for interiors but simply not have the time to focus on pulling a design together, let-alone the time to implement and project manage it all.
Or you may have a great eye for interiors and want to create the scheme yourself but working with a designer may help you think about the layout in a different way. Perhaps you’re drawing up plans with an architect for a new extension; a designer will bring a different perspective to the plans, considering your lifestyle and the internal flow to make sure that the space you create can be used how you need it to be used.
Alternatively you may just not know where to start when it comes to colour and pattern. You’ve read all the blogs out there, got lost down many a Pinterest rabbit-hole and now just feel completely overwhelmed. Perhaps you need an interior designer to get to help you define your style and create something that works for you.
Or maybe you’re a creative who loves design and interiors but wants to be challenged and pushed outside of your usual comfort-zone a little. Using a designer allows you to tap into their wealth of knowledge, suppliers, products and materials.
Whatever you want help with, whether it’s a lot or a little, a good designer will help you create a space you love and that works for you. As with any professional service, there’s obviously a financial investment but it results in an enjoyable process which helps you define your interior style and ultimately creates a home that tells your story.
Keep an eye out for Part 2 – Working with an Interior Designer – The WHO and the WHEN, out next week.
New Year. New Trends. New You?
Or should this be the year to discover your true interior style?
The one with a little more substance than trend following. The one you’re happy to grow old with through New Years to come.
But designing for life, not just following a trend can feel tricky. It’s far easier to try and replicate a look you’ve seen a hundred times before. Once you start to discover your style though, you’ll find that design decisions command an authenticity and you can begin to create a space that really feels like you. Like Home.
So where do you start?
Mad About the House’s Kate Watson-Smyth would suggest your wardrobe and I have to agree (unless, of course, it’s mine which is currently jam-packed with maternity leggings and big woolly jumpers). Look at the colours, the style, the patterns you like to wear. If it feels good wearing certain colours, you’re likely to respond well to them in your home too. If you like lots of pattern, chances are you’ll want at least a pop of pattern somewhere in your home.
Then look at your home (or previous homes). How have your past design decisions made you feel? Do you love that dark inky paint on the wall or does it leave you feeling a little out-of-sorts? In wanting a new start, a new design, it is all too easy to focus on something new without considering what we already have. But you may already have elements that work. And if nothing works, then at least you know what to avoid next time!
Inspiration not imitation
Then it’s time to look for some inspiration. Whereas a few years ago, we’d have flicked through the pages of a few magazines, now Pinterest and Instagram provide us with endless images of beautifully curated interiors. Colourful. Minimalist. Industrial. Maximalist. Granny Chic. We’re spoilt for choice with images to influence our design choices.
So how do you navigate your way through the plethora of perfectly styled interiors to find your own style and create a space you love?
By all means start online. Create Pinterest boards; it’s the modern equivalent of tearing out magazine pages (which, by the way, I still love to do). Feel free to get lost down the rabbit holes of Instagram; follow accounts whose interiors you love.
But the key to inspirational images is to use them as just that; inspiration. You want to identify looks and styles that you like and respond well to. You’re not looking to copy, but to create something new. You’re building up the layers of your style – not just finding an image to copy.
So, save all the images you love (and I wouldn’t limit the images to the specific room you’re decorating – I’d keep it general if you want to help identify your style). Then take a break. When you come back to the images, look at them critically. Try and identify what it is you like about the images you’ve chosen. Is it the colours, the patterns, the textures you like? And be ruthless, delete any you don’t really, really love. You should then start to see strands of consistency as you build up your style library of images.
Your home should reflect your personality. You’re looking to discover your decorating style; a way to tell your story. Don’t get me wrong, Pinterest and Instagram provide a wonderful forum for creativity and inspiration. But you can have too much of a good thing. Either it just becomes overwhelming or, worse, you loose sight of what will actually make you happy in your own home. Styled shots are beautiful to look at but they are often just that; styled shots. Not real life.
And just because something’s nice to look at, doesn’t mean you’d want to live with it!
So think about how you want your interior space to make to you feel. I try and ask clients to choose 3 words to help them focus. Do you want your home to to feel vibrant, bright and alive? Or do you want it to feel calm, cool and airy? Identifying early on words to represent your style will really help you make specific design decisions later on.
The Design Process
When I’m working with clients, it’s at this stage that I ask them to walk away from Pinterest and Instagram. Once we’ve been through all their images and started to build up the layers of their style, we leave the Pinterest boards and focus on a specific brief for the space we are designing.
And when you’re designing a room for yourself, I’d really recommend you do the same. It can actually be quite liberating. Create a brief, work out how you want the room to feel, the colours you like, the style of furniture you want to work with, and then stop pinning. It starts to get confusing, contradictory and that’s when you end up with a space that isn’t cohesive.
So what about the rest of the design process? Here are a few tips to help you pull your design together.
Get practical: It might not be as exciting as the pinning part, but it’s just as important. List your practical requirements for the space. Identify where you can compromise and where you cannot.
Lay it out: Next think spatial flow. If you’re replacing large pieces of furniture it’s worth drawing a floorpan; either electronically or just with pencil and paper. Measure the room to see what space you have to play with. It’ll give you a much better sense of scale and proportion. If you need more help visualising, then mark out the outline of new furniture pieces with newspaper. And especially if you’re tight for space, make sure your measurements include skirting boards, rather than just wall-to-wall; those few centimetres can make all the difference as to whether a piece fits.
Store it: It may not be glamorous and it isn’t always apparent when you look at beautifully styled interior shots, but storage is key to the success of most rooms. Have a good declutter by all means to reduce the amount you need. But make sure you’re honest and realistic and your needs and your lifestyle. Neatly curated open shelves don’t look quite so fabulous when they have piles of everyday clutter stacked up next to them!
Photo: P.Westwall @ 100% Design, London
Above all, have fun. Whether it’s just a room, or your whole house, it should most definitely be fun. Take your time if you can, and enjoy the process. You’re designing your home after all! So, get out from behind your screen and experience some design in real life. Have lunch in a fabulous restaurant (it’s research, honestly!), visit showrooms (nothing beats seeing and feeling products) or head to a design show (you’ll find products and brands you’d never heard of before).
And a final tip, once you’ve pulled your design together? Add in something a little unexpected. It keeps things fresh, adding a truly personal touch to your design and helping gently nudge you out of your comfort zone (go on, try it!).
It’s no secret that I’m a massive fan of dark, inky hues for creating spaces which envelope and cocoon. Dark, rich walls evoke a real sense of drama, which I love. But, whilst dark greys and navy have been recent go-to dark tones, here I want to explore some other options.
Source: The Design Chaser
So, in this blog post I’m looking at chocolate brown. Brown is not a colour often embraced in interiors and it can be met with a love/hate response. Yet, I’m keen to explore what this often overlooked, rich colour has to offer. Well suited for an Autumnal post, the earthier tones of deep brown can give a really warm and comforting feel.
Perfect for creating a modern elegance, dark browns work well with other deep, earthy colours such as greens and reds. Layering these rich tones gives a really sophisticated feel. Add in a pop of vibrant blue and you’ve got something really rather decadent.
Or keep things simple and dark for a smart, contemporary look. All you need is a little colour pop to finish off the look. As with all dark hues; creating depth in the backdrop really lets a touch of colour sing!
It’s a really effective colour for creating an eclectic look too. Mix up some vintage-style wooden frames for a quirky look or, if you prefer a sharper look use simple black frames and mix in some colourful, vibrant artwork.
Source: Unknown via Pinterst
For a more laid back look, soften it slightly and mix in some simple linens. The warmth of the brown walls here creates a relaxing, sensuous vibe. I really rather like it.
Whilst it might not be a look as easy to pull-off as a moody dark grey or a sultry navy, the earthy, rich qualities of dark brown are really quite endearing. If you want to give it a go, Abigail Ahern’s Bedford Brown is a really good starting point. It’s dark, rich and versatile, creating a really cosy space. Which all sounds perfect for the start of Autumn.
Source: Abigail Ahern