KAB.N! Interview with John Harwich

John Harwich: Portrait by Jerry Heath

1. Who are you and how long have you been working as an artist?

My name is John Harwich, because there are so many Johns where I work I’m normally called Johnny H. I trained as a technical illustrator intending to draw tanks and planes but my career got diverted by the fall of the Berlin Wall. So I ended up creating packaging and branding and have worked with most of the major entertainment and consumer goods companies. Lots of blue sky thinking over the years. People have been paying me to draw for 35+ years.

2. How do you personally define art block? How often do you get art block?

For me, art block is when things get ‘foggy’. You know the solution is just over THERE, but the neurons can’t find it. Then the over-thinking kicks in, maybe it’s impossible, maybe you’ve forgotten how a pencil works, the pile of empty paper is sniggering at you, your brain is on strike and so on. I rarely get art block now, I may not like a solution I come up with but that’s part of my review process.

Art by John Harwich

3. What are some specific strategies you employ when dealing with art block?

As many writers will tell you, get something, ANYTHING, down first. Then review, revise, redraw. 
Visual stimulation is important for me, which can be anything from comics to fine art masters, sketches or paintings, street art to sculpture. I think it’s important to be challenged by different visual art. Frequently I find inspiration from a completely unexpected area – it might just be a colour combination, or a perspective angle or even just an emotion.

Keep things moving, if you stop to think, you’ll grind to a halt. A warm up can work wonders – it frees the muscles, relaxes tension (especially in the neck and shoulders). Simple expressions, not even heads, are great. They normally provide a laugh too. Don’t get hung up on accuracy, it’s about volume of ink on a page (or pixels).

Art by John Harwich

4. Describe the biggest obstacle / challenge you’ve encountered working as an artist and how you overcame it.

I had to come up with a board design for a Disney chess set. The game pieces had been designed (Mickey, Minnie and others in medieval armour)  it was going to be an expensive hand painted set but nobody could come up with a premium idea for the board. So I started scribbling all the normal solutions, putting undersize armour on Goofy, slapstick fighting, visual gags between characters and they were all fine but not really premium. Then the lightning bolt struck me, let’s do a version of the Bayeux Tapestry, you know all characters side on, with a story that goes around the whole board. So I drew up one side and showed the client and they loved it and RAN with it. It became the theme on the packaging and all the marketing material. The only problem we had with the success was none of our Disney approved artists would go near the finished illustration, so I had to do the whole thing myself. But it was good fun.

Art by John Harwich

5. What’s your favorite, must-go-to online art resource that other artists may not be aware of? Why is it your favorite?

So many have disappeared now like “Retrolounge” or “fffound”. I love sites that can surprise me with something I’ve not seen before, that can be something cutting edge or from before I was born. That’s the problem with Pinterest (as good as it can be) the algorithm shows you more of what you’ve LIKED but not something different.
www.deviantart.com is pretty good or www.itsnicethat.com and theetheringtonbrothers.blogspot.com inspires me in so many ways

Art by John Harwich

6. Which artist(s) have been your biggest influences in your own growth and development as an artist?

Ron Embleton (Gerry Anderson/Century 21, Dave Gibbons (Watchmen), Robert McGinnis (pulp covers/Bond posters), Robert L. Williams (Lowbrow art), Drew Struzan (movie posters), J Scott Campbell (Danger Girl)

7. Where can we see more of your work online?

Instagram is where I have fun @johnnyharwich

8. Which three artists would you like to see profiled in an upcoming interview for KAB.N?

Staz Johnson, Lorenzo Etherington, Craig Gleason