Bringing Art Into The Studio with Britney Harmon
“The modern artist is working and expressing an inner world – in other words – expressing the energy, the motion, and other inner forces.”
I love this quote by abstract expressionist painter, Jackson Pollack, because in essence, it captures what I have had the good fortune to experience in its physical form as a dancer and choreographer. I have often heard people express frustration at not having a story to follow as you would have in more classical forms of dance or in more representational art, meaning a clear depiction of a person, scene, or story. The best advice I can give is to relax! Relax and allow yourself the freedom to sense something else. Abstract art can stir up feelings, can allow our minds to sort of open up and simply gaze on color and texture without clear thought, or it can have the complete opposite effect; it can inspire our minds to create our own stories, conjuring up shapes, stories, and images the artist never intended but are creations of the unique collision between our minds and the artist’s work.
My relationship with visual art really began when I transferred to a fine arts school in the seventh grade. Even though it was immediately apparent to me that my main track would be dance, we were required to take elective classes outside of our concentration and of course the regular academic load. My schedule would include half hour drama, music, or art class depending on the semester. It was an education that I took for granted until much later in life. It gave me freedom to “play” and experiment without the pressure to be an expert or “good” at it, much like the freedom and creative nurturing we give to our children but neglect in ourselves. Why do we give our children crayons and paint along with picture books full of illustrations and why would we deprive ourselves of this wonderful stimulation as adults?
As I grew older and began choreographing more seriously, I developed a slight envy of visual artists. After spending so much time and energy creating a dance work and then seeing it performed on a stage by beautiful dancers, it would vanish. Sure, you could have a video, but it could not capture the richness of the actual experience. The visual artist, however, had an enduring expression that could always exist, that you could gaze upon whenever you liked. Still later, I came to appreciate that even they would have to release those moments as they sold work and it went to live in new spaces separate from them.
When my husband and I bought our home in 2003, we did the usual exciting stuff - choose paint colors and arrange furniture. Then, we looked at our walls. Hmmm…what to hang here? We quickly realized that we very much desired to have original art in the home we were beginning to build together and were prepared to be patient and wait until we had more connection to what we would bring into our spaces.
The first piece of art I purchased was from the sister of a Juilliard friend who was a student in art school. I believe it was around $125, about the cost or less of purchasing a mass-produced piece from a big box store, except it has so much more meaning to me, helped support a student and artist, and is an original piece that has lived in several different rooms in our home over the years. I think we can feel intimidated by the pricing of art, and while there are certainly tiers of pricing depending on the stature and demand of an artist’s work, there is so much quality work available in a wide price range if only we seek it out, and the journey or story of how we discover that painting, photograph, collage, pottery… is part of the joy of having that piece in our daily lives.
When I opened my Pilates studio in Dilworth Artisan Station a decade ago, I had no idea my appreciation of art would become so closely linked to my work teaching Pilates. On the walk from the entrance to the studio, I would pass painting after painting in all different styles, some catching my eye and heart more deeply. My clients also experienced this interest and connection and many also collected work by these artists over the years as well. The styles were varied and we were attracted and drawn to different work depending on our preferences.
When I was in the midst of setting up a studio for filming the videos for my on-demand classes, I found I had a space to fill. Hmmm…what to put here? Thus, the idea for a place to feature a visual artist and his/her work. I am beyond thrilled to have Britney Harmon as a first featured artist in the virtual world of Sandvi Studio!
To see more of Britney’s work, visit britneyharmon.com
- What’s your background?
I grew up with two neighbors, sisters, who were both artists and I took art classes from them throughout my younger years. I have always painted, even while focusing on my career and raising a family. And now I’m really ramping up a new phase with a lot more life experience, to go public with my artwork. I’m fulfilling a calling that never really left me.
- What does your work aim to say?
"I want to have this in my home, and this looks beautiful in this room.” I strive to make it something you’re not going to get sick of in a week, or even a year. Something you can even move from space to space in a room, it doesn’t necessarily have to stay in one spot, so it flows with the entire house or individual’s style.
- How do you get ideas for each piece of art?
Some come to me in the moment as I’m painting. Others are inspired by my travels or experiencing beauty in the everyday moments of life. It’s a piece by piece experience for me that can evolve as I paint or the composition can change multiple times mid-painting.
- Tell me about your technique and anything you’ve been experimenting with.
I’ll share a few. I use various solvents to get a desired consistency for my medium. Then I will move the paint around the canvas by shifting the canvas with my hands, up and down, right and left, to let it flow. At times guiding it with my finger or brush. Alternatively, I’ll put thinned medium on a canvas and I’ll actually blow on it so it moves (laughs). I think this comes across in the paintings, the colors and shapes look like they’re moving organically. Lastly, I have been experimenting with conveying more minimalism…leaving the interpretation up to the viewer. This requires a more precise application and perhaps various methods of layering.
- You tend to let the texture of the canvas come through, rather than covering it with color. How do you feel this impacts your paintings?
Surprisingly, I think it actually makes the work look softer, even though you’d think the canvas looks harder. It comes through in part because I’m thinning the paint with thinner or water and the colors are sometimes softer, and not as bold.
- What do you believe is the key element in creating a good acrylic painting?
Creativity! Some of the best pieces are the untrained ones that come from mistakes. These are some of my most beautiful pieces.
- How have you developed your career?
Networking, local art galleries, some hotels actually have galleries where you can buy pieces. I like to make connections with various people in the art world. I sometimes auction off pieces or donate them to get my work out there.
- How do you cultivate a collector base?
I get a lot of feedback, so whoever buys a painting, or the auctioneers, I ask for positive and negative feedback. As much as possible, I try to cater it to what they like, while staying in my own role and style.
- How do you navigate the art world?
How do you navigate the real world?! (Laughs.) You have to go with the flow — that’s Art. There will be people who will always love your work, and also those who will always hate it. Being okay with that and staying confident in my work is important.
- How do you price your work?
It’s based on the finished product. Some involved how much time I spend on a particular piece. Or other times it’s how the end product speaks to me or the feedback will affect the pricing too.
- Which current art world trends are you following?
I see a lot of artwork sold online, especially Instagram, and it’s not my first choice. I can’t believe I’m saying this as an artist! (Laughs.) It looks better in person, so I struggle with the online sales side of it, even though I’ve done it. Aside from that, a cool trend is unexpected showcases for Art. People who wouldn’t necessarily be going out to see it are exposed to Art for sale as it pops up in restaurants, hotels, and even clothing stores — expect the unexpected!