Michael Harnish – “Talking Bout my Generation” // words and photos by Mahya Shamai
Laguna Beach is home to a number of outstanding artists, one of which is Michael Harnish. Teaching at LCAD is not his only accomplishment; his work has been exhibited in galleries worldwide, capturing the attention of an eclectic audience. In his portrait paintings, Michael applies master techniques to contemporary subjects. His work fuses traditional and modern elements within areas of detailed rendering juxtaposing more abstract areas of abstraction. Their vast size demands the attention and time of the viewer. Don’t miss your chance to see these beautiful oil paintings up close in his duo show with artist Amy Hood : “Talking Bout my Generation” this Saturday at F+ Gallery. – Mahya Shamai
OCAR : We are really excited about your show at F+ Gallery in Santa Ana this Saturday March 2nd – tell us a little about the show?
Amy decided on the concept of creating a portrait show. The name “Talking Bout my Generation” stemmed from our desire to portray various subcultures, pop cultures, and fashion trends with in Southern California in the 21 st century.
How did you meet Amy?
I met Amy via social media. We were more or less involved in some of the same circles. I had seen her name around and knew she did art ,so I contacted her. Its not everyday you meet someone doing the same genre of art. It worked out well. She had the event planned and invited me on board to participate.
Please tell us a little about your body of work for this show… What techniques / mediums are you using? are there any new techniques you are experimenting with in this series?
Taking bout my generation is a show composed of contemporary portraits treated in a relatively “grand” manner. Many of the portraits echo royal portraits of the past, however they depict everyday figures of our lives. Many of the paintings are life size or larger in scale heightening the importance of the subjects portrayed and matching our works closer to old painting masters. I have to decided to use an array of various mediums for this event. I did not want to limit myself to only oil paint on canvas, so I decided to do works on paper using charcoal and pencil as well. I wanted to venture out of my comfort zone for this show, so I decided to try oil paint on paper as well as acrylic with charcoal. I am not sure if they are as successful as my typical works on canvas, but I definitely felt the need to explore further. I wanted to juxtapose contemporary and traditional aesthetics.
Are there stories behind each of your pieces? and if so, which are your favorites? There are many stories behind our portraits. The people I have captured makes up the fabric of my life and have affected me in various ways. It is really a beautiful thing to “immortalize” a friend.
Did you coordinate closely with Amy or work completely independently?
Amy and I got together several times to ensure that our work would be cohesive to a certain degree. We even painted together to bounce ideas off of one another.
What would you like the audience for this show to take away?
I guess I really want the audience to be inspired by the work. Hopefully it will be great to see everyday people treated and captured in this manner.
Let’s talk about the OC Art Scene for a minute… You’ve been involved in the OC art community for quite awhile and you have also traveled the world practicing your art.
Tell us a little bit about your favorite travels… where and why… and how those have influenced your art…
I have been fortunate enough to travel quite extensively. I used to budget my money all year in order to fly to Europe during the summer. It was there that I found myself fascinated with portraiture, museums, and painting. Standing in front of a painting the size of a house is one of the most sublime feelings. I hope to create paintings on this scale using everyday figures and environments.
Why did you choose to keep Orange County as your home base?
I have decided to use Orange County as a home base because it is where I grew up. I truly believe there is a lot of potential for an artist in California. I feel also that Southern California really does set the stage for a lot of unique and amazing trends.
You have a home studio – how much do you think location… or even the mental picture of a “studio” influences artists work? do you think it makes a difference with your work?
I really think having a proper studio space is ideal. It has to be inspiring to a certain degree and the lighting must be nice. It just so happens that my home studio fulfills most of my needs.
You have taught at various schools in Orange County – do you think teaching influences your art?
Teaching definitely affects my art in many different ways. It is crucial to stay in constant dialogue with other creative people and a school environment offers this. Students have the most eager and fresh minds. I love giving back all that I have learned, however I feel in most cases they give me more return with their enthusiasm and questions. It really is a beautiful mutual relationship.
What is inspiring you these days?
I am constantly inspired by life. I know it sounds broad but I find beauty and inspiration in the most unlikely places.It is not necessarily art that gets me, but more often the relationships and dialoguing with others.
For more information about Michael and “Talking bout my Generation” please follow F+ Gallery on Facebook and Instagram.