Interview With Chloe Harris

Chloe Harris is an illustrator/printmaker whose body of work reflects a charming and patient approach to art making. Her ideas come from a serene space located in nature. Silence and solitude are intrinsic to these ideas and Chloe’s depiction of them manifests in the form of intimate portraits and scenes of flora and fauna.

So tell me about yourself – where did you grow up?
I grew up in Sydney on the Northern beaches. I'm lucky enough to have the ocean on the end of my street, so nature has all been a big part of life and my favourite place to escape to and get lost in.

Did you start your illustrations when you were younger? There's a whimsical playfulness to them that reminds me of art from storybooks!
Like most Illustrators will tell you I've been drawing since I was old enough to hold a pencil! However I've been drawing in this more whimsical style for about the past 4 years, before then my style was all over the place. I've always been drawn to children's books and have a slightly overflowing collection of vintage children stories on my bookshelf. There's something about the hand drawn, imperfect quality that attracts me to them, especially since so much illustration these days is digital.

Your art making practice seems quite a complicated process – would you be able to explain for us what you usually do to create works such as 'Bears are Home'?
Hmm for my Illustrations the process is pretty straightforward! I usually start off with a rough pencil sketch, then once I'm happy with the composition I'll develop the pencil sketch a little more, adding detail and refining the drawing. I then use a micron pen to outline and then add colour with watercolour or sometimes gouache, although I'm still figuring out how to make gouache work for me!

Have you ever tried other methods? Why is it this one works so well?
Illustration-wise that's usually my go to method. When I'm working on commissions there's a lot of draft sketching and pre planning that goes on before I start on the final drawing, however when I have the time to work on personal projects I'm much more spontaneous with my approach. It's great being able to be a bit looser with my drawings and if it all goes terribly wrong the only person who is disappointed is myself, so it takes some of the pressure off!

For my etchings such as "Winter" the process is a lot my complicated than my drawings. For this series I cut all the Zinc plates myself into circles, after that I covered the plate in a hard ground and used a scribe to draw in the trees. After that it was just a process of putting the plate into an acid bath, taking it out and test printing and then drawing in more detail until the print was as dense and as crosshatched as I liked. Usually this process was repeated about 4-5 times in order to achieve the dreamy atmospheric effect the prints have. I didn't edition any of the prints, much to the horror of my teachers! I wanted each print to have a completely different feel so each etching is inked differently to the last. The application and choice of colour changes the look of the same image so dramatically which is what makes the colouring process so exciting.

Are you experimenting with any other materials?
Currently I'm just sticking to Illustration work, although I'd love to expand and have a go at something new in the future! Super interested in experimenting with soft sculpture, polymer clay and ceramics as well as creating a new series of etchings.

Folk tales and nature seem to be a big inspiration for you in your works. Did you read a lot of fairy tales as a child or did this inspiration emerge purely from your travels?
Not so much Fairy tales but I loved books like the Brambly Hedge series by Jill Barklem and the Min Pins by Roald Dahl so they definitely inspired me from an early age! Travelling is also amazing for inspiration. Although Australia is a beautiful place to live I don't find the landscape particularly inspiring... I much prefer forests over the bush! My trip to New Zealand last winter was a massive source of inspiration for my latest series of illustrations. I also recently got back from exploring Japan and visited some pretty incredible moss forests and temples so they will no doubt be featured in some of my future illustrations!

Some of your works use 'Prussian Blue' ink in a beautifully evocative way. What drew you to this over your usual mixed colour palette?
I actually created these series of etchings before my latest series of mixed colour illustrations! But I think what drew me to using mainly Prussian Blue was the richness of the colour and it's ability to add a strong melancholy and atmospheric feeling to the scenes, which definitely helped in conveying the feelings of isolation and solitude in the works. For some of the etchings I also added in a warm white or black ink depending on the certain mood I was trying to capture.

Why do you use the circular framing for your works? What does it evoke for you?
I get asked this a lot, but I'm not quite sure if I have an answer for it! I think I just love the way it frames an image, and how it's not a harsh frame like a square or rectangle. The purity and simplicity of the circle is another thing that attracts me to it. I'm not afraid of other shapes though! I still use other frames apart from circles especially for commission work, however circles are my current favourite!

Have any work experiences, such as collaborating with Monster Threads, expanded your aesthetic?
Definitely! I'm currently in the middle of drawing up two designs for Monsterthreads T shirts, which are still drawn in my style but are a slightly less detailed and a bit more graphic and punchy. I like doing work occasionally that forces me out of my comfort zone, I need that little push! The end result is usually quite refreshing as it's different yet still feels authentic to my drawing style, which is great.

Do you have any new projects/exhibitions coming up?
At the moment I'm just focusing on working on Illustration commissions. I'll also be apart of West Elm's Local maker Pop up shop in September at their Bondi Store, so I'm about to start running around trying to get everything prepared for that! I'll be selling some of my originals as well as cards, prints and a range of other fun things!