An up and coming Islington artist explains how lockdown allowed her to pursue her dream of becoming a full time artist after being rejected from art school.
Harlie Briggs, 27, a former primary school teacher, began painting full time during lockdown, which gave her the time and space away from school to trial things and find her style, leading to being featured in Vogue.
Harlie, an abstract nature and nude artist uses the world around her to inspire her work and found that lockdown became a blessing in disguise as commissions and orders picked up.
She said: “Lots of people started taking interest in my work. Instagram really helped.
“I found that the more paintings and vases I did, the more photos I made and then I started to get more people wanting to buy my art, which was amazing. Now it’s built up and built up and I don’t think I’ll be going back to teaching.
“When people started buying my art I was astounded. My new year’s resolution was to sell to one stranger.
“Then when lockdown happened I was selling to lots of strangers – I just couldn’t believe it.
“Lockdown was very good for my art, in very surreal times. I’m very grateful for it.”
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Harlie now ships her art worldwide, with paintings reaching Canada, the USA, China, Germany, France, Spain, Italy and The Netherlands.
Two years ago Harlie was rejected from art school, a set back that dented her confidence.
“When I applied I was really keen to go. This was after doing two degrees and a job for three years.
“I got through a few stages and then got rejected. I remember sitting on the classroom floor at school crying.
“It didn’t stop me painting in my spare time. It did hurt my ego for a little bit and I did have self-doubts, but you’ve got to push through them. If you really want something you’ve just got to believe in yourself.”
To Harlie, being an artist means taking inspiration from the world around you and turning it into something that people will admire and cherish, passing it down through generations.
Her art follows the change in seasons, with recent abstract nature art transitioning into orange and yellow tones. Inspiration comes from being outside, seeing imagery that she loves and incorporating it into her work.
Painting has been beneficial for Harlie’s mental health during lockdown and she wants to encourage others to pick up a paintbrush.
She told the Gazette: “It gave me a purpose in lockdown and has kept me a little bit sane I’d say. When I’m painting I really don’t think about anything around me.
“I completely encourage other people, even if they don’t feel like they’re creative to try and do something. Just have a go, it really does take you to another place.”
Harlie explains how her days have completely changed since being a primary school teacher, with days now spent packaging and sending orders, planning and sketching out the week’s commissions, answering emails and of course, painting.
“I get up a lot less early that’s for sure. I did not anticipate the amount of admin there would be with this job, I didn’t think artists would get emails, but I do get a lot,” she said.
For those wanting to transition to a more creative job, Harlie’s advice it to go part time first.
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She added: “It was a really big step for me to decide to go part time for my teaching.
“I thought is this right, should I be doing this? But I knew I wanted to do it.
“I spent those days painting and really making the most of my time building up a portfolio. Then when things started to take off I already had a bank of work and ideas rather than starting from scratch.
“Luckily, things went the right way but I’d say definitely have something part time or more secure while you’re working on your dream and then hopefully it will happen.”
Harlie’s upcoming projects include a collaboration with an independent homemade candle company and a private project which she cannot reveal yet, something she says is exciting as she enjoys seeing the different avenues her art can take.
When asked about her aspirations for the future, Harlie says: “My biggest dream at the moment is to be part of a gallery viewing. That’s something I haven’t done yet and something that I’d be really keen to do.”
Harlie’s art can be found at: www.harliebriggsart.co.uk or on Instagram at: @harliebriggsart_
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