I'm speaking with Eric Harrison, artist, who lives outside Blanco, Texas. He currently has a show hung in The Redbud Cafe, on the square in Blanco.
Jim Pounds: Eric, welcome. I want to just dive in with your art and your process. Your father is also a successful artist. Did he encourage you to paint?
Eric Harrison: Yes, he did. He provided the best type of encouragement - to encourage by example. He is primarily a self-taught artist but learned a lot from his grandmother who also painted Texas landscapes.
JP: Who else has influenced you?
EH: I see myself painting in the tradition of Texas art that goes back to the founding of the Republic of Texas. Hermann Lungkwitz, brought landscape painting from Germany to the Republic. I've also been influenced by Porfirio Salinas, Robert and Julian Onderdonk, Robert Wood, Dawson Watson, and my dad, Robert Harrison all of whom painted the Hill Country with a deep sense of connection with the land.
JP: I don't think you could produce the art you do without being so immersed in the place of your work. You told me that you look out of your studio window every day and see the subject matter you paint.
EH: Living in the Hill Country allows me to know the landscape I paint, which lends an authenticity to my work I don't think I could claim without the day to day immersion.
JP: Tell me a little about your process. How do you work?
EH: I'll see something that captures my attention. I can make a sketch, take a photograph, or simply observe long enough to make an impression in my mind. Then I'll take that sketch, photograph, or memory back to the studio, and work it up to a painting.
JP: You work in a home studio. Do you paint every day?
EH: Every day. Since my art is an extension of my everyday life and its source comes from my every day experiences, I am working all the time.
JP: I've noticed an amazing transformation in your painting in the three years since you've been out in Blanco County. You seem to be growing in many directions, Eric. What are you currently exploring in your landscapes? What's going on?
EH: I’m interested in making a reconnection to the land. Most people today live in cities and don’t experience being in daily contact with the natural world. That is a departure in our way of life that is somewhat experimental given that for the majority of our history we were very much connected to the land. Painting, for me, is a way of remembering and revering the land I am familiar with.
JP: Eric, I've seen that you do some figurative paintings and some of your more abstract work, but it seems that those other interests have taken a backseat while you've worked hard to get your landscape painting acknowledged. Do you have plans to paint in other styles and subject matter going forward?
EH: Yes absolutely. I work in many styles, but my galleries and collectors probably only know of a few sides of my repertoire. I'm looking to expand that knowledge of what I paint and show these different aspects of my work to the public. I'm definitely attracted to the way the Impressionist painters were able to use light and atmosphere in their landscapes and increasingly interested in how Post-Impressionist painters like Cezanne and Gauguin used color and abstraction to charge their paintings with more overtly emotional and spiritual overtones. I’m looking forward to seeing how these influences play out in my new work.
JP: You have a show currently hung in the Redbud Cafe on the square in Blanco. Running through when?
EH: Yes, I’m honored to be showing my work in my new hometown. My wife and I and our two boys moved out here from San Antonio about three years ago. Kim and I were married in 1995 at her parents place just west of Blanco. We always wanted to make a home here and are thankful we could finally do it. The Redbud Cafe was the place we began meeting new friends and making new memories so I couldn’t be happier with having my art show there. The show and sale began on the Spring Equinox and it runs through the month of June.
JP: Where else is your work offered right now?
EH: I currently have work for sale in Boerne at Smilovici's Galleria and in San Antonio at Charles Morin's Vintage Texas Art Gallery.
JP: Do your boys paint? Are you starting a family dynasty like the Wyeths? Let's see...your grandmother, your father, then you...
EH: Ha. I would love to see that. But I think I'll take the same path my dad did with me, in that I'll encourage them to pursue whatever their interests may be. There have been many famous second and third generation artists who came to their skill through great hardships under a demanding artist parent -- Picasso and Andrew Wyeth are two examples. But that success came at great emotional expense to the children and I think there is another way that sense of mastery can be achieved.
My oldest son, Noah, loves to draw. He's a very good illustrator. So, perhaps, we may see a Wyeth type of family tradition emerging here. Ethan, on the other hand, draws too, but he prefers to go out and find the bones, the nuts and berries, animals and birds. He's much more the naturalist like a woodsman or biologist.
JP: Eric, thank you for this interview. You've provided a lot of food for thought. I hope your show at The Redbud will be a huge success. I think it will be.
EH: Well thank you for being a friend and also a patron of the arts.
Eric Harrison may be contacted through his website: www.hillcountrypainter.com
Jim Pounds is a writer and architectural designer who lives in Austin and Blanco. You can visit him at www.CasaDesignCo.com or japounds.blogspot.com