In the Studio with Trish Harding
This Saturday we introduce you to Trish Harding, Bellingham-based artist, owner, and instructor at Trish Harding School of Art at Studio UFO. While Studio UFO is an art gallery and school, it also serves as Trish’s personal studio.
Trish Harding exhibited at the Jansen Art Center in December 2019. Her exhibit, Separated from Normal, was a “painted novel of coming of age on Lummi Island.”
“In the decade of the 60’s we were the feral teenagers of a San Juan Island known as Lummi, a 12 minute ferry crossing from the mainland which is 20 minutes west of Bellingham, WA. The island was different. Everybody who lived there was unique, strange, or an outcast. Every day on Lummi Island I woke up feeling like a protagonist in a novel and wondering what will happen to my character today!”
How did you start making art?
Making art is my earliest memories. I remember closely observing things for hours so that I
could draw them better. For example, while mom had coffee (or maybe it was a cold beer)
with Louise Horat, I sat for hours observing Louise’s columbines and pinks blooming in her
garden. I would later draw them from memory. That was probably when I was 6 years old
and have understood the power of observation as an artist ever since.
Why do you create?
I have no choice! My whole existence revolves around creating. It begins with observation,
works through manifestation & symbolization, and then execution. Making art is the ultimate
purpose for all that I do.
What need does it satisfy?
Making art satisfies my desire to express my feelings. My preferred drug is oil paint these
days and it has become my partner to share with the world four major interests:
1. Figure Drawing. Figure Drawing is very zen like. It is not only my meditation but I also see
it as my discipline. In other words I practice it to keep my observation and drawing skills as
acute as possible because I believe that to be a good painter I must be a great drawer.
2. Seascapes and Landscapes. The extreme astonishment I feel when I experience
coastline here in the Bellingham region, probably from a non traditional childhood growing up
on Lummi Island, with one foot in the water and the other on the beach.
3. Political Art. I firmly believe that all artists are political whether they want to be or not.
Artists have power to help change perceptions on a universal level. Political art is power of
the people and I feel obligated to create art that helps to do that.
4. The Universe and Space. My facination with space started with my mother’s especially
after the launch of Sputnik and my father’s due to his love of mathmatics. Mom would sit us
out in the August nights and say, “Now look for shooting stars, Sputnik, and flying saucers!”
Dad and I would stay up all night, he with his whiskey and we would talk and argue about
such things as, Is the universe cyclical of linear? If I could leave in one direction would I keep
going for infinity or would I eventually return to the departure spot?
What is your most important artist tool?
I always envision myself wearing a tool bag as I navigate my painting. I wear all my tools in
that belt and can easily grab the tool that is best for the job at different stages of the work.
That being said, if I have to pick one and it has to do with traditional tools my answer would
be “value”. Value is the relationship of darks and lights. Value is what gives us volume to flat
shapes and my rule is that if your value is successful your painting will be successful. “It’s all
about value, Baby”!
Is there something you can’t live without in your studio?
I am really spoiled as I think that Studio UFO is by far the BEST studio space any artist can
hope for. Since I have had Studio UFO for almost 20 years I have had time to stock it with just
about everything that I would ever need. However, I might not be able to create as easily if I
did not have 20 foot ceilings. That allows me lots or room in my head to think clearly and
Creativity can be imaginative, inventive, and original. Understanding that creating
artwork is a very personal choice; what inspires your creativity?
I believe strongly in the perfect storm. By that I mean a good painting needs a concept and
reason to exist, it should be original and organic and based on a personal experience as well
as a universal one, and it should be fundamentally sound. When I am inspired by how my life
experiences react to a current experience I am not just inspired, I am compelled. Being an
advocate of the planet earth I can find inspiration everywhere. I could live 100 lifetimes and
never run out of inspiration.
What is your least favorite part of your process?
Cleaning up after painting!
What is your favorite part?
Undoubtedly the execution of the painting is my favorite part. I tell my students to embrace all
parts of a painting, learn to love it all or your disdain will creep into the painting and others will
see and feel it. By the time the painting is conceived, the research has been done, and my
thumbnail is right where I want it 95% of the work is done. That is when I start painting! That
is what is truly fulfilling!