We speak to artist and ceramicist, Harlie Briggs, on her love for nature and why her work is inspired by the female form.
Tell us about you. How have you got to where you are today?
I really have to thank lockdown for enabling me to do my job that I have today. If it hadn’t been for lockdown, I would have taken a long term year 5 teacher role at the school I was long term supply teaching for. Not only that, but if I had accepted that role a few weeks before then I would have been chained up to travelling into the school everyday in lockdown, rather than having all of the time to paint, experiment and grow!!
You show such an affinity to nature in your paintings. Where do you think this comes from?
I have such a love for light and colour, especially natural colours such as greens, browns, dusty pinks and oranges for example, as these feel like the natural Earth around me. As someone who was born and grew up in inner London, Islington, coming out east to Essex when I was in primary school was a bit of a breath of fresh air - we thought our garden was the countryside! Growing up next to Epping forest and having that escape at my fingertips whenever I wanted was cathartic.
My affinity to nature comes out in my work because it gives me solace and peace, and that is all I could wish for for the viewer as well.
What is it about the natural world that inspires you?
Nature is simply beautiful! I have always loved watching the changing seasons, and have always had a fascination with light and colours. Getting outside around greenery always reduces my anxiety, so I feel like I owe a lot to the natural world - it is a limitless source of inspiration for me as a person, and as an artist. The natural world also makes me feel so small. Understanding my tiny role in the ecosystem blows my mind a little and keeps me feeling grateful and grounded.
In my new garden, I hope to start growing my own flowers to tend to and then cut myself to paint; this whole process will be gentle, slow and rewarding.
We love how you use the female form in some of your art. What is your motivation for portraying images of the female form?
I began sketching and painting the female form whilst going through a really difficult breakup. I started by drawing my friends, particularly friends who were content in their bodies, which showed me slowly how to love mine again. It was then that friends of friends started asking if I could draw or paint them too! It kind of snowballed from there and I then started painting the female form onto antique vases and pots that I collected wherever I went, which brought me so so much joy. I still source and paint these today, and the beauty is that each piece is completely unique and has it’s own story, for example being salvaged from a French chateau.
What is your relationship like with your own body, and has this changed over time?
As I’ve got older, I have taken pressure off of my body. When I was younger I definitely got wrapped into the ‘Special K cereal dinner’ stunts and treated my body unfairly at times. For the past five years I’d say I am almost completely carefree when it comes to my body image. After all, why hate a vessel that keeps you alive, grows humans and allows you to experience this crazy thing that we call Earth?!
What would you love to do with your art in the future?
I would really love to have my own exhibition one day - it is a big (and daunting) dream of mine. I would love to shut myself away sometime soon with zero distractions to paint away and create a collection that I’m really proud of.
You can find Harlie here.
You can shop Harlie's edit here.