Caroline Harrison

what is your name?

Caroline Harrison

how would you describe what you do?
Most of my work is some combination of drawing and painting on paper. In addition to my personal work, I’ve done commissions for metal bands.

what are you currently working on?
Right now, I have a few drawings going—I try to have more than one piece going at a time so that if I get stuck on one, I can chip away at another. One drawing is a personal piece that I had to leave alone for a while due to some assignments with deadlines. The other two pieces are commissions for bands. I’m pretty fortunate, because the people who asked me to work on both of those commissions came to me without any particular direction, and just said that they trusted me to create something that would work for their bands. In that sense, both pieces are pretty close to the personal work I’ve been doing of late, and I feel pretty lucky to have gotten both opportunities.
what has had the greatest influence on your work?
I’ve always been fascinated by work that looks at traditionally ugly subjects, examines them up close, and tries to identify how (if at all) those subjects are beautiful. As a part of this, I’ve always been drawn to discussions of mental illness, trauma, and physical disease. I love visual art that examines the grotesque in an appealing, inviting way, and I love figurative painting and drawing (I mean “figurative” in the sense that the work involves the human form). My favorite contemporary artists are all people who have mastered communicating a sort of sense of unease or disquiet to people who engage with their work. Especially now, ugliness and horror exist everywhere, and the best way to understand how to cope with that is to stare at it, unflinching, and study it. There’s plenty of wonder to be found in the world, but it does not exist apart from terror. Understanding the relationship between the sublime and the horrifying is key to navigating an increasingly complex world.

what is the greatest misconception about you or your work?
Gosh, I’m not sure. I guess a lot of artists who deal with darker subject matter get pigeonholed as unhappy people who tend to dwell on unpleasant things. I’m not the happiest person, but really taking time to look at hideous, unsettling subject matter has always been fairly productive, and I think it has made me a more well-adjusted person. I don’t choose to draw or paint certain things I so that I can wallow in some sort of macabre, cartoonish darkness; I choose those things because they help me try to make sense out of the world around me.

what do you see as the main strengths and weaknesses of the medium you work in?
A lot of my drawings are done with a nib that I dip into ink. I’ve accidentally spilled blotches of ink onto drawings more than once, and in a perverse act of self-flagellation, I usually make myself just keep going and figure out how to incorporate the mistake. However, I’m also able to achieve a really beautiful fine line with those same tools, so using this type of pen requires striking a weird balance between being fussy and being able to handle whatever shit goes wrong. Happy accidents and all that.

how has technology impacted upon the work you do?
Hah, it’s been both a blessing and a curse. I collect a significant number of reference images, and the internet has certainly enabled me to access a mind-boggling diversity of source material. On the other hand, oh my GOD I am weak and I love to procrastinate. I really need to impose limits on the amount of time I spend on Facebook or Instagram. Any efficiencies I gain in hunting down source material, I’ve lost to social media. But, at the same time, I also have access to the work of an enormous number of inspiring artists.

what’s the greatest piece of advice you would like to pass on?
Inspiration is horseshit. If you wait to be inspired, when inspiration finally arrives you won’t know what you’re supposed to do with it. You have to put in a lot of time practicing and making yourself better. I’ve been thinking a lot about how to be more academic in my approach to my work, and practicing to make sure that when an idea comes, I’m able to execute it. 9. where can we find you online?
I have a portfolio website over at, and I’m on Instagram at @carolinedraws.
what are you reading at the moment?
I’m partway through Toni Morrison’s Tar Baby, though I’ve admittedly been reading comics at the same time. Hickman’s Manhattan Projects is hilarious, and I’m re-reading Watchmen for the first time in several years. I also can’t get enough of both Anders Nilsen and Farel Dalrymple’s work, and I ADORED Dave McKean’s recent effort, Black Dog.

what are you listening to at the moment?
I’ve been listening to the newest Pyrrhon record (I recently finished the album art and the record comes out in August), and I got a chance to see Oranssi Pazuzu on Friday at Saint Vitus in Brooklyn. They were UNREAL. Other albums on heavy rotation include Inter Arma’s Paradise Gallows, Hail to the Thief by Radiohead, Third by Portishead, any and all albums by both Beauty Pill and Smart Went Crazy, and Cursed’s albums II and III. I also can’t get enough of WNYC’s show On the Media, and I’ve recently started listening to the FiveThirtyEight politics podcast.

anything else we should know?
Most of my commercial work is for metal bands but, strangely, I don’t really know a ton about metal. Metal groups just tend to be looking for a similar aesthetic, and often they’re willing to take more risks creatively. I respect the hell out of the diversity and ingenuity in that scene, even if I couldn’t really debate the finer points of it on any real, meaningful level. I listen to a decent amount of it at this point but that’s what happens when you’ve been romantically involved with someone for years who listens to, writes about, and makes metal music.

any suggestions for who we should interview next?
Oh gosh, I’m not sure. If you can get ahold of Paul Duffield, I’d love to know what he’s working on these days.

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