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Islington artist on how lockdown helped her pursue her dream full time

PUBLISHED: 17:28 02 November 2020

Up and coming Islington artist, Harlie Briggs. Picture: Hayley Clarke

Up and coming Islington artist, Harlie Briggs. Picture: Hayley Clarke

Hayley Clarke

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.

The artist now ships her art worldwide to places as far away as Canada and China. Picture: Hayley ClarkeThe artist now ships her art worldwide to places as far away as Canada and China. Picture: Hayley Clarke

Former primary teacher Harlie Briggs told his newspaper the Covid-19 pandemic gave her the space and time away from school to shift career path.

The 27-year-old began painting full time during lockdown, trialling techniques and finding her style in abstract nature and nude designs.

Harlie uses the world around her as inspiration and found lockdown became a blessing in disguise when 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 has 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.

Harlie was a former primary school teacher, began painting full time during lockdown. Picture: Hayley ClarkeHarlie was a former primary school teacher, began painting full time during lockdown. Picture: Hayley Clarke

“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.

When Harlie was rejected from art school two years ago, the setback dented her confidence.

Harlie says painting has been beneficial for her mental health during lockdown. Picture: Hayley ClarkeHarlie says painting has been beneficial for her mental health during lockdown. Picture: Hayley Clarke

“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 and turning it into something people will admire and cherish, passing it down through generations.

The artists says she lost confidence after being rejected from art school. Picture: Hayley ClarkeThe artists says she lost confidence after being rejected from art school. Picture: Hayley Clarke

Her art follows the change in seasons, with her recent abstract pieces transitioning into orange and yellow tones, and her inspiration comes from being outside, seeing imagery she loves and incorporating it into her work.

Painting has also 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.”

Harley's art follows changes in the seasons. Picture: Hayley ClarkeHarley's art follows changes in the seasons. Picture: Hayley Clarke

Harlie explained how her days are now spent packaging and sending orders, planning and sketching out the week’s commissions, answering emails and 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 is 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 said: “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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