Artist Update: Charles Harrington

Charles Harrington arrived at Creative Catalyst in 2006.  We filmed and produced Acrylic Landscapes the Watercolor Way with Charles Harrington.  We interviewed him again in July, 2015 to find out what was happening on his creative path.

Artist Charles Harrington  

What have you been doing since filming here at Creative Catalyst?

Primarily, I have tried to divide my time between conducting workshops and maintaining some level of studio work. Increased gallery sales has caused priorities to lean toward studio work.

In addition, I have participated in selected exhibitions in an effort to stay active in the art societies in which I hold a signature membership.

This year (2015) I will be the juror for the National Oil and Acrylic Society 25th anniversary Best of America exhibition. I will also be doing a workshop in conjunction with that event.

I have also enjoyed participating in a number of plein air events and actually conducted a couple of plein air workshops. ( the next three images are examples )

 Brady & Main_12x12 acrylic_plein air by Charles Harrington  

Brady & Main_12x12 acrylic_plein air


Did creating a video change your career path in any way?

I can't really say that the video changed my career path, however the CCP video, my North Light book, and multiple magazine publications definitely raised my visibility in the art community and by doing so created a market for my workshops.

Charles Harrington_Gypsy_16x12 acrylic_plein air

Charles Harrington_Gypsy_16x12 acrylic_plein air 


Tell us how your art has changed / evolved in the last few years:

I don't think that my interest in subject matter has changed a great deal. The Ozark mountains of Arkansas seems to provide all of the inspiration and subject matter I currently need; however, a couple of market related issues have motivated significant changes in the way I create my paintings.

My CCP DVD workshop focused on acrylics applied much the same as traditional watercolor on watercolor paper. Although that is a terrific combination, for me at this time two limitations are inherent in that process. These are the size of available paper and the need to frame the finished work under glass. These limitations became critical to me when I needed to create large works up to 48" x 64". At sizes this large I obviously had to get away from both paper and the glass; however,  I wanted to retain the same aesthetic.

This problem actually became a blessing. I had to develop a process that would allow me to retain the aesthetic of transparency that I had learned to enjoy on watercolor paper yet applied to canvas in a much larger format. The tremendous versatility of acrylics made the transition much easier than I expected.

Currently, I apply acrylics to canvas by substituting acrylic medium for the water that is traditionally used to thin a wash of watercolor or acrylic. Because of it's viscosity the acrylic paint and acrylic medium mixture stays where applied on a vertical surface much the same as an application of oils yet dries transparent, translucent or opaque depending on the amount of medium in the mix. The resulting aesthetic can be virtually the same as a transparent wash of watercolor without the need to frame it under glass and without the size limitation imposed by available watercolor paper. One might consider this process a hybrid between watercolor and oil application techniques taking advantage of the best characteristics of both.

New Hay_12x12 acrylic_plein air


What subjects, styles, materials are catching your interest these days?

I am still mostly interested in landscapes and landscapes with buildings, although  I am beginning to include more human figures in the narrative. T

I am still interested in the interaction between the natural environment and the man made contribution to his environment. As a former architect, I remain interested in man made structures.

 Winter Tapestry_24x24 acrylic by Charles Harrington

Winter Tapestry_24x24 acrylic


Are you continuing to teach art?

After 25 years teaching art in a University venue and the past 12 years teaching on the workshop circuit, teaching is a habit that is hard to break; however, there are turning points in one's professional career where changes come naturally. At this point in time my intention is to limit my workshop instruction to a few special venues and focus more on studio painting. Under the right circumstances I might consider doing another book and/or instructional DVD focusing on the painting techniques I currently use.

 Water Lilies at Lake Weddington_24x24 acrylic by Charles Harrington

Water Lilies at Lake Weddington_24x24 acrylic


Problems your students have.

After teaching students for over 35 years I am convinced that the single most difficult problem students have is a difficulty finding their own artistic voice. There are numerous resources available, including workshops, DVD workshops and good instructional books that address painting technique and other technical issues; however, meaningful help finding one's own artistic voice is difficult to find. It comes from inside and will not come until the student wants it bad enough to listen to their inner voice.

Sunrise at Dug Hill by Charles Harrington 

Sunrise at Dug Hill


New books, videos, shows, galleries, awards?

My work is currently marketed by two very good galleries. representation.htm

I have two one-man shows scheduled this year (2015). Each of these will show 30 plus paintings for a period of approximately 2 months.

I have been fortunate to win numerous awards in both regional and national exhibitions during the years since I filmed the CCP video. Probably the most significant was both a silver and a gold medal in the National Society of Painters in Casein & Acrylic. Their annual exhibition is in the Salmagundi Club in NY City each year.

My works have been added to several significant  collections in recent years. Collectors of note include the Arkansas Governor's Mansion, The Winthrop Rockefeller Cancer Institute, the main hospital of the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, the University of Arkansas Medical School, and the presidents residence at the University of Arkansas.

Something Old Something New_24x24 acrylic by Charles Harrington

Something Old Something New_24x24 acrylic 


Have you learned anything about art marketing?

Aside from sales at exhibition and occasional commissions, I leave marketing to the galleries  that show my work. I have found that they are much more skilled at marketing than I am.

Morning at Bella Vista Lake_36x36 acrylic on canvas by Charles Harrington

Morning at Bella Vista Lake_36x36 acrylic on canvas 


Do you have any advice to someone who wants to learn to paint?

Get instruction but be wise about who you take instructions and advice from.

Narrow your focus. Don't  try to be a Jack of all trades. By doing so, you will be master of none. Find your strength, then cultivate it as your single focus.
Select a medium that appeals to you and a few artists whose work you admire. Let them teach you via workshops, DVD workshops and quality instructional books. Workshops by the right instructors are good but can be expensive. A cost affective alternative is to purchase DVD workshops and/or instructional books by selected artists. A good DVD workshop is practical because it can be played over and over until you "get it".

Learn, learn, learn, then use what you have learned to find your own unique artistic voice. Don't try to be a carbon copy of another artist. A very successful artist friend once told me to learn from everyone but take from no one. After years conducting workshops and hundreds of workshop students I understand the wisdom of his advice.


Where do you see your art taking you in the next 5 to 10 years?

In the next few years I expect to focus more of my time on studio painting.  Workshops,  plein air painting and exhibitions will continue to be a part of my schedule but secondary to studio work. I guess that I would say that I intend to narrow my focus and be more selective about time commitments.


You can find my most recent bio and artist's statement at this link;