Sit Down With Our June '21 Featured Artist

Tessa Harris

Instagram /  @tkeh_art
Facebook /  tkeh_art
Featured Artist / June ScrawlrBox 2021

I’m Tessa, a 24-year-old artist living in Wales, UK. When I am not in the lab studying for a PhD I spend my time painting, focusing mainly on vibrant watercolour portraits. One of my favourite things about watercolour is how easy it is to transition from an abstract, loose style to fine, technical details. Embracing this aspect of the medium has helped me to develop my style and I’m hoping that will only continue to evolve as I paint more!

Could you tell us a little bit about your journey as an artist up until now?

I’ve been interested in art for as long as I can remember and as a child and young teenager spent a lot of time drawing, painting or otherwise making some sort of creative mess. I studied art at school until the age of 17, after which I effectively stopped painting and focussed on other hobbies and university (where I studied Biochemistry, nothing art related at all!). When I did come back to art I was around 22 and was doing small amounts of digital logo design to generate an income whilst I travelled. I only came back to painting when the corona virus lockdown started and I had a lot more time on my hands. This began with painting animals for people, starting with friends and then eventually gaining a wider audience! It was during this time that I rediscovered a love for portraits and began to focus on that area of my art. 

What 3 words would you use to describe your art style?

Expressive, bright and chaotic. But it depends on the day and the mood! That’s one of the great things about art – it’s so flexible and sometimes it’s nice to not feel constrained to one particular style. 

Where/what do you look to for inspiration?

While other artists are obviously a big source of inspiration, music is a really important thing for me. Often when I listen to a song I’ll create an image in my head that reflects it which I note down on my phone and then try to translate into art later. Sometimes that means it’s a little bit cryptic and sometimes it might not make any sense to anyone else, but it works for me.

Do you prefer working in colour or black and white?

Most of my work is in bright colours, mainly blues, pinks and yellows. I used to do a lot of black-only line work and really admire people who can use just black and white to create beautiful art, but for me I like how expressive bright colours are. I think it’s incredible how just changing the colour and nothing else can completely change the mood of something.

What do you love most about what you do?

Whilst I love the act of painting itself and how meditative it can be, I think the response from people who see the art and feel a connection to it is probably the most rewarding. It’s very humbling to have people identify a part of themselves in a painting and want to reach out because of it. It’s not that often that I can paint something that elicits that response, but when I do it makes all the time spent at my desk making a colourful mess worth it. 

What is your favourite subject to focus on in your artwork and why?

A lot of my work is self-portraiture, so I suppose myself! This wasn’t really a conscious choice to begin with, however as I started doing more portraits I found it hard to find references to use that captured the mood I wanted and so resorted to taking my own photos. Also, a lot of the paintings I do are tied to a particular emotion or thought I’ve had (even if that isn’t obvious from looking!) and so using myself seems more appropriate than superimposing that on someone else or someone imaginary.

How do you know when a project is complete?

I’m not good at gauging when something is finished because I’m quite impatient, so a lot of the time ‘complete’ isn’t actually complete. But I’ve also learnt that it is absolutely okay if something isn’t finished to a perfect standard but is left at a place you’re content with. There can be a fine line between complete and overworked, especially with art, and it’s definitely something I need to learn to balance better!

What is the most challenging aspect of being an artist?

For me, self confidence is probably the biggest challenge. It’s really easy to see flaws in your own work and put yourself down over it, which can make it hard to stay motivated and be productive, especially if you’re a perfectionist like me. I’m often amused to find what I consider my least favourite works to be other people’s favourites though, so I’ve come to realise that my own judgement doesn’t necessarily match everyone else’s! In art you have to be willing to put yourself out there a bit and overcome any lack of confidence in your work or fear of criticism to grow and develop. It can be daunting but it’s definitely worth it.

Favourite movie/TV series at the moment?

The last thing I really got into was Line of Duty – I love police and crime dramas so anything along those lines, but I also love fantasy and recently watched Shadow and Bone. A lot of the time I’ll just watch whatever is on though!

If you could only use one art supply for the rest of your life what would it be? 

My watercolour set, hands down. Watercolours are my main medium by a long way and there is so much to learn with them that I would never run out of things to practice! If I had to choose a single colour from my palette though it would be Payne’s Grey.

Do you have any goals/plans set for this year? 

I’m currently studying for a PhD so most of my plans will revolve around that, however outside of this I’m hoping to take on some larger commissions and just continuing to improve my art. I definitely want to branch into other mediums this year too and create more mixed media work, which will be a good learning experience that will hopefully feed back into the style I’m working with currently.

Are there any particular artists or art genres you admire?

The genres I like the most would be expressionism and surrealism, however since my artistic journey has been almost solely built through social media I couldn’t tell you much more than that! In terms of artists, one of my biggest inspirations and someone whose work I adore is Agnes Cecile, who I first discovered when I was at school. I think at that stage it was so different from anything else I’d been taught about that it felt like it opened up a whole new area of arty.

As featured in the June 2021 ScrawlrBox

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