Quintessence on Canvas: Portrait Artist Heidi Harrington

Harrington keeps a special stash of earl grey tea in her studio space at the American Fabrics Arts Building, which she visits many afternoons. She sips her tea mindfully, getting in the proper headspace to create. She connects with the working existence all around her; enjoying the sound of a nearby freight train as it rolls by. Feeling genuinely happy, Harrington closes her studio door and takes a moment to recognize this special space just for her.  In the absence of distraction or hesitation, she picks up her paintbrush and begins…

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Portrait artist Heidi Harrington describes the moment she first fell in love with painting. She was 18 years old and living in England as she gazed at Rembrandt’s self-portrait, “I was amazed that paint could create such a powerful human presence.” As it turns out, this lifechanging encounter lit a creative fire in Harrington that would eventually catapult her into her art career

Harrington, who had been drawing since she was a toddler, views her choice to attend art college and continue on as an artist as, “the natural progression of things”. She describes feeling incredibly lucky to have parents who supported her, as well as to live in a country that offered plenty of financial assistance to artists. She had access to good student grants, money for materials, affordable housing and an Enterprise Allowance that allowed her to pursue her dreams.

Interestingly enough, Harrington’s creative talents trickled into more than one art form, as she spent a year playing drums in cow-pop band “The Anthill Runaways” before eventually moving to London and renting a studio in Peckham.

“Stand-up Sitting” Takes Flight 

One of Harrington’s most notable projects, “Stand-up Sitting”, was a series of portraits featuring a long list of well-known British comedians. When asked what inspired her to paint comedians, Harrington states that she finds them to be particularly intelligent and edgy, “There’s something so interesting about that,” she shares.

Harrington was able to work her way up through a network of increasingly famous comedians by receiving referrals from each comedian she would paint.  The final comedian, and perhaps the most challenging individual to get ahold of, was of Terry Jones of Monty Python.

Terry Jones - Portrait by Heidi Harrington Oil on canvas 52" x 42”

Terry Jones - Portrait by Heidi Harrington
Oil on canvas
52" x 42”

All in all, the series was an absolute hit. Every portrait sold. Harrington was presented with a grant from The Elizabeth Greenshields Foundation to continue painting portraits of comedians in America. However, life handed Harrington with an alternate set of plans when she became pregnant with her first-born. She chose to press pause on her art career to mother two beautiful children.

In addition to painting a long list of famous comedians, Harrington also completed a portrait of famous golfer Nick Faldo. She acquired the opportunity after befriending his manager at a frame shop she worked at part-time for four years.

Projects & Exhibitions of The Present

Nowadays, Harrington’s children are older and increasingly becoming more self-sufficient— which gives her the opportunity to focus more on her art. She’s currently working on translating the lives of those she loves onto canvas by painting the portraits of select friends in Connecticut. Harrington plans to hold an exhibition for the series in two years’ time; during which she will enjoy being in a room surrounded by those she loves. At least five portraits have already been completed, and Harrington is sure to note that her studio space at AmFab has helped to accelerate this project.

Harrington currently instructs a portrait in oils class for adults every Thursday morning at Silvermine School of Art. “I love the community of this art school in its unique woodland setting. It feels that the students want to be taught by working artists, of which there are many teaching there,” she states. She’ll be teaching an additional course at Silvermine from July 17th to July 31st titled “Mastering Eyes and Mouths”. Harrington also teaches privately once per week.

Some of Harrington’s work is currently on exhibit at  The Gallery at Elemar  in Elemar New England’s marble and granite showroom. She also exhibits at Silvermine every September and during the Christmas season ( more information here ).

Some of Harrington’s work is currently on exhibit at The Gallery at Elemar in Elemar New England’s marble and granite showroom. She also exhibits at Silvermine every September and during the Christmas season (more information here).

Harrington Looks Towards the Future

Looking forward, Harrington intends to thoroughly enjoy painting whenever she’d like. She’s excited to delve deeper into the discovery of painting portraits. Her plans include challenging herself with a series that focuses on famous writers or musicians; in essence, utilizing one art form to capture another in action.

When asked where she sees herself ten years from now, Harrington responds, only half-jokingly: “I believe I’m well overdue to paint the Queen”.

With her tenacity and talent, we believe any goal is well within portrait artist Heidi Harrington’s reach.