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Claire Harrison adopts a striking colour palette for her paintings (©AAH/Alan Wright)


West Grinstead-based artist Claire Harrison creates semi-abstract works inspired by the natural world. Her latest series of paintings, Portrait of Nature, explores mankind’s relationship with the earth and has been featured in a renowned art publication. Here, Claire describes her artistic journey to date…


Both my parents were interested in art and design and I inherited their passion. Mum would often draw birds and flowers for her own pleasure, while dad was a design engineer and had a more technical style. Growing up, I loved being outdoors and was always getting muddy, picking worms and growing plants in the garden. When I was little, I went out with mum to pick a violet to paint my first picture and all these years later, my work still has floral themes.

I studied Fine Art at the Surrey Institute of Art & Design, University College (now UCA). After graduating, I wasn’t sure what I should do, as being a full-time artist has always been difficult. My local art centre in Farnham offered me space for a solo exhibition, but I didn’t have a studio and had no paintings. So, I decided to display digital photographs instead. Digital art was relatively new, so the exhibition was picked up by a local newspaper and was well received by the public. 

I initially took an interest in photography to support my degree, as pictures formed part of my research for my art. It was only when a tutor asked to buy one of my photos that I thought about pursuing it further. However, thanks to the success of the exhibition, I was asked to become artist-in-residence at Farnham Maltings, a post I held for seven years. During this time, I was able to hold solo art exhibitions, teach art in the community and write about digital art for Artist & Illustrators Magazine.  

I have a vast catalogue of images that I use for my art, as I photograph flowers and plants in my garden and around the South Downs. Sometimes, I need to get close to capture a plant’s features and I remember embarrassing relatives once by lying down at High Beeches to take a photo of an oxeye daisy! Most of my output features floral scenes and although I incorporate environmental themes at times, my love of the natural world is always evident.

My imagination has always been overactive, so few of my works are purely representational. It’s just not my style! My mum used to say, ‘Why don’t you draw things as they are?’ or ‘Why can’t you colour-in between the lines?’ I’ve always leaned towards more abstract styles, whether working with pencils, watercolours or oils. Some of my bigger canvas paintings can take 18 months to complete as they can have up to 30 layers. One of the joys of oils is that you can create vibrant colours and translucency through layering.

Fading Blooms No.3 by Claire Harrison



My art took a step forward with a series called Fading Blooms. The paintings depicted the beauty that can be found in dying plants, celebrating death and the emergence of life. The series had a consistent colour palette too, as I wanted to capture the world from the perspective of insects that perceive UV light. Rather than capturing bright yellow sunflowers in full bloom, I focused on the end of their life cycle. I would sit by my window watching birds feeding on the seeds of wilting plants in the garden, before flying off and dispersing them elsewhere. That was the part of the natural process I wanted to document. 

I like to work on a series of paintings, as I find one idea leads to another. Similar concepts to Fading Blooms were explored in another series, Exploring the Miniscule. Here, I focused on the beauty of tiny wildflowers and insects. My greatest artistic influence is Georgia O’ Keeffe, as her floral paintings have amazing energy. But the Victorian illustrations of Richard Dadd and Arthur Rackham have always captured my imagination too, as they’re magical. All these influences can be seen in my recent output.

Portrait of Nature No.6 by Claire Harrison



Secrets of Nature was the series in which I introduced concepts of humanity intertwined with the natural world. The idea stemmed from my frustration with governments consistently failing to change the tide of climate change and increasing pressure on the environment. I’m not an activist, but I wanted to make a small contribution by highlighting the role that we play in the natural world and how humanity is just as vulnerable and susceptible to change.  

I visited an exhibition about masculinity in men’s fashion at the V&A Museum and saw a video of a large man dancing in a fluid way. Something about the movement of this scene fascinated me and stuck in my head. It made me think more deeply about my own work. I started drawing human forms dancing while intertwined with flowers and trees, which led to a painting called Dance of Nature. Gradually, I experimented with similar ideas and introduced camouflaged elements of human forms, such as hands acting as the petals of flowers. People find these ideas interesting, as each artwork has so much detail. More elements are discovered the more you look at them.

My latest series, Portraits of Nature, goes a step further. It explores decomposition and how everything in the natural world - us included – dies and is broken down to smaller organisms that eventually give rise to life. These works position humanity as equal to plants, part of a natural cycle without hierarchy. I feel it is a culmination of the concepts I’ve developed in recent years, as the work has an immediate impact yet also contains hidden components. People can look at them for hours and still find new things.  

I was delighted when Global Art Times featured the series. It has given me encouragement that I’m moving in the right direction. Next, I might dive even deeper into humanity’s relationship with nature, perhaps portraying us as a kind of deity that looks over all living things, although I haven’t settled on a final concept. I look forward to new opportunities and collaborations both locally and abroad. I have been involved in both solo and group exhibitions in the past and have my work in both public and private collections in the UK and abroad.  Although I enjoy selling direct to my collectors online, I am looking forward to planning my next exhibition in 2024. 

Further information: www.claire-harrison.co.uk

Article published in the January 2024 edition of AAH Magazine. Report by Ben Morris, with photography by Alan Wright for AAH