The Artist Behind the Canvas: Harrison Blackford


by Gabby Gomez

Harrison Blackford’s recent exhibit in the Dent Center, “fresh”, has just ended, but the canvases, with their rich palettes and visible strokes from the artist, are still remarkably unforgettable. The abstract and impressionist artist of 29 is a 2005 graduate of SDS and an alumna of Sewanee: The University of the South, where she majored in Art History. Her boldly-colored canvases often boast beautiful landscapes of fields, forests, marshes, boats, and even urban scenes. 

How long have you been painting? 

I have been painting all of my life! Having amazing art teachers along the way, while at the Spartanburg Day School and Sewanee: The University of the South, my appreciation for art exploded. During college, I focused on art history and studio art. Studying abroad, I had the opportunity to see all of the influential masterpieces in Europe that I had studied for years. I always loved painting, but it was not until after college that I had the time to paint daily and explore my own artistic style.

Had you always known you wanted to be an artist? Were there ever times you were frustrated, loss interest, or wanted to quit? What kind of professions had you had before?

I worked in interior design briefly before launching my career as an artist. Putting paint on a canvas and illuminating a space with a single painting feeds the interior designer lurking inside of me. Nothing excites me more than creating beautiful spaces through the color and drama within a painting!

Its been a journey to navigate owning my own business. I have never lost interest in the work. I feel that I have learned so much as being my own boss, making my own work schedule, and being productive.

What are your artistic inspirations? Do you think they manifest themselves in your work?

I am a Southern abstract and impressionist artist. I paint with personality and color! My passionate use of color and expressive paint strokes allow me to infuse my personality into each one of my paintings. I enjoy painting abstract, landscape, figurative, and still life paintings. It is thrilling to take an everyday object/scene/person and infuse a beautiful color palette onto a canvas with my paint brush.

My paintings derive from two different places. I will either have a color palette in mind that I am excited to experiment with… or often, there is a new subject matter that I want to dive into. I am constantly sifting through old photographs or snapping a quick picture when something strikes me.

What’s your ideal painting setting? What’s your studio like?

I love my studio! It is a light and airy space where I feel free to create. I have paintings all over the walls — lots of color. I love to have music playing while I am painting.

Are there any recurring themes in your paintings? What are your favorite colors to use?

I hope that paintings evoke a feeling of happiness in people. I love all the color, but I am mostly a blues and greens girl.

Do you have any funny stories from over the years you have been an artist?

When I was starting out, I had my dad transport a painting for me. He accidentally set the painting down on his golf clubs in the back of his car. The golf clubs almost poked a hole in the painting! I then learned to always transport things myself!!!

What’s the most rewarding thing about being an artist?

I find it rewarding when someone tells me that a painting makes them happy when they look at it. I also love to see a picture of a painting once it is hanging in someone’s home.


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