Award-winning artist, Richard Harpum, paints mainly with acrylics on canvas or board but also paints watercolour florals. He works in a realist style and pays meticulous attention to detail. His slogan is “High Definition Art”, reflecting his attention to detail.
Richard's primary areas of focus are landscapes, seascapes and cityscapes but he also paints still lifes, portraits and florals. The effective use of light is a key ingredient to all of Richard’s works and he spends a great deal of time before starting a painting in selecting a composition that provides both drama and contrast.
Born in Bromley, England, in 1951, Richard has had a passion for drawing and painting from a very young age. As a youngster, he was always drawing and became a prolific painter after he received an oil painting set for Christmas when he was 12. He has a Master of Arts degree from Cambridge University.
Richard's work was featured in a 10-page article in International Artist Magazine, Issue 73, June 2010. He has also won a number of art competitions and awards, including Professional Artist of the Year 2012 by the (British) Society for all Artists.
He is a strong advocate for using the golden ratio (Phi - 1:1.618) in his paintings. You may note that the position of the sun or some other key feature or length often fits this ratio. In some of his works there are several used. Richard believes that this gives his paintings a better balance than using the more traditional "rule of thirds".
During his life Richard has lived in many parts of England and currently lives in South Yorkshire. He has also travelled extensively for both pleasure and business and has lived abroad in Africa, the USA, Australia and Germany for a total of 20 years. This has given him a very broad perspective of the world, as well as providing him with wonderful sources of inspiration for his paintings.
Painting is one of my most satisfying pastimes. Although I drew and painted in oils as a youngster, a career in the British Army, followed by many years as a senior business executive, meant that painting was only a sporadic activity and I did not start pursuing my passion again in earnest until I was in my 50s. I am so glad that I did. Since a friend recommended that I try acrylics, I have never looked back; I am a very impatient person, so the fast drying time really suits me. Acrylics also give me options that are not necessarily available in other mediums.
I am an engineer by training and although I love the Impressionists, I have a great deal of difficulty being “loose” in my own paintings. Having tried and failed, I decided to take the route of being a realist artist and coined “High Definition Art” as my slogan. I have become a fanatic for detail. However, I am not interested in achieving photorealism – plus I don’t have the patience for it!
My time-consuming technique pretty much prohibits painting en plein air, so I use photographs and sketches for reference in my studio. Consequently, I take a camera everywhere. Although this drives my wife nuts, it means that I’m never short of things to paint.
In general, I try to avoid painting direct copies of my photos. Indeed, I usually make lots of changes, often combining a variety of references to achieve a broader or a more interesting view. First, I will often adjust the perspective, so as to create focal points on one or more “golden ratio” (see “tactics” below). I may also change the lighting, moving shadows and illuminated areas to maximise impact. I nearly always change the sky, referring to my large library of photos. And I often add features, such as flowers, to create contrast and interest.
I have deliberately avoided the temptation to focus on a common theme. I am always exploring what is possible, so paint what I enjoy and anything that I think is interesting, be it a landscape/seascape, still life, botanical, animal or portrait/figure. I want to avoid being “type cast” as having a particular style or subject matter.
I mainly use ARA and Daler Rowney acrylics. The latter’s Prussian blue still works best for me, as does their Titanium buff, which I use more of than any other colour. ARA paints are my favourites; they are smooth and easy to apply, and the nozzles on their containers allow me to extrude the desired amount of paint, resulting in minimal waste.
Although I used to paint on an easel, when I started suffering from acute shoulder pain, I invested in a drafting table. Not only did this cure the shoulder pain but it also dramatically improved the accuracy of my painting.
As an artist, I am self-taught but am constantly learning, not only by painting (every painting is an education) but by exhaustive reading and looking in detail at how other artists paint. I love attending art shows, as I not only learn and get ideas from other artists but also enjoy helping them by passing on my experiences.
My Design and Composition Tactics
1. Although I use reference photographs, I usually make substantial changes to these. Photographs often have serious shortcomings from a composition and lighting standpoint, so I do whatever I can think of to make the scene more interesting.
2. Although most canvases are supplied with gesso already applied, I always apply at least 2 additional coats before starting to draw my scene, often applying a texture in the process. I find it makes it much easier to apply paint and the surface is less wearing on my brushes.
3. I am a strong advocate of using the Golden Ratio (Phi - 1:1.618, known in the Renaissance period as the “Divine Proportion”) in my paintings. I use this to position key focal points, often aligning the sun or other focal point on a golden section. I believe that this gives my paintings better balance than using the more traditional "rule of thirds".
4. In most cases, I use a different sky from that in my primary reference photographs. I have built up an extensive digital library and select a sky that best suits what I am trying to achieve as the basis for the new painting. However, I still use a lot of artistic licence, so the final result differs considerably from the photo reference.
5. After blocking in the main areas of a painting, I nearly always complete a section or area at a time, rather than gradually building up paint over the whole canvas. I start with the sky and then move from the background to the foreground. I can therefore see a finished segment before moving onto another. Not only does this help me to avoid missing crucial detail but I also find that it inspires and motivates me to continue, as I get “instant gratification” from each completed section.
6. As the work progresses, I regularly look at it in a mirror to make sure that the perspective and balance are correct. Viewing upside-down is also useful. As an engineer, I have an eye for perspective and can usually pick up errors quickly and before I invest too much time in adding detail.
7. I always use a limited palette. This includes using “convenience colours”, such as titanium buff and sap green. I also make up a batch of neutral dark from a dark blue plus raw umber, which I store in an ARA bottle; this is far more natural than black, which I only use for man-made objects. For highlights I tend to use unbleached titanium, rather than white, as again, it appears more natural. I generally reserve white for clouds, waves and buildings.
8. For both highlights and shadows I make extensive use of acrylic washes, applied over the dry paint. Thin yellow and orange washes can really make the sun shine. I use plain water and no longer use mediums, as these can be shiny. After application, I wipe most of the wash off with a cloth before drying with a hair dryer and applying further layers, as necessary. And if it doesn’t work, I can just wash the whole lot off and start again – one of the great benefits of acrylics.
9. I always seem to know when I have finished a painting, although I do spend several days with it on view, so that I can pick up errors and correct them. In addition, I ask others what they think. My wife and printer (himself a professional artist) are my most reliable critics, never being afraid to hurt my feelings! After correcting the final snags, I have the painting scanned and then protect it with several layers of tough acrylic varnish.
Thoresby Gallery, 16th Open Exhibition; September/October 2012 Art in the Gardens, Sheffield; 31 August – 2 September 2012
Thoresby Gallery, Wide Open Exhibition; 19 May – 10 June
Doncaster Open Art Exhibition; 22 October - 3 December 2011
Doncaster Open Art Exhibition; 24 October - 6 December 2009
It's all about Art, London; 23 - 25 July 2009
Doncaster Open Art Exhibition; 18 October - 7 December 2008
Thorseby Hall Open Art Exhibition; 12 September - 11 October 2008
- Patchings 2013 Competition (Artists Category); "Mont Saint-Michel Soir" was Highly Commended.
- FineArt America; Winner of 'Children and Water' contest, April 2013 with "Sandcastles".
- Society for all Artists; Professional Artist of the Year 2012 with "Hera II, Valletta, Malta".
- FineArt America; Winner of 'Historic Britain and Ireland - The Best of 2011' contest, December 2011 with "Winter Sun, Houses of Parliament, London".
- FineArt America; Winner of 2nd and 3rd prizes of 'Amazing Geological Formations' contest, September 2011 with "Sunset at Delicate Arch, Utah" and "Dawn at Mesa Arch, Canyonlands, Utah".
- Patchings 2011 Competition (Artists Category); "Winter Sun, Houses of Parliament, London" was Highly Commended.
- FineArt America; Winner of 'Historic Britain and Ireland' Contest, April 2011 with "Winter Sun, Houses of Parliament, London".
- Liquitex Artist of the Month, August 2010.
- FineArt America; Winner of 'Trompe L'Oeil Painting' competition, May 2010 with "Amalfi Vista".
- FineArt America; Winner of 'Sunset or Sunrise in Acrylic' competition, February 2010 with "Sunset over Delicate Arch, Utah".
Finalist in International Artist magazine's Landscape Art Challenge No. 55 and published in Issue 71, February/March 2010 with "Knaresborough, Yorkshire".
Art in the Gardens Gold Award for exhibition stand, Sheffield, September 2009.
Society for All Artists’ Artist of the Year Competition 2009; Commended Finalist with "Barrington Court Gardens".
- Paint Magazine, May 2013.
- Artists & Illustrators Magazine, April 2013; Mont Saint-Michel Soir selected in the monthly Portfolio.
Artist & Illustrators Magazine's website March 2013; Featured Artist. , Mont Saint-Michel Soir was also featured in the print edition.
- Artists & Illustrators Magazine, September 2012; Sandcastles selected as Picture of the Month.
- Paint Magazine, May 2012.
- Paint Magazine, March 2011.
- Artists & Illustrators Magazine, January 2011.
- International Artist Magazine, Issue 73, June 2010; 10-page feature article.
- Knaresborough Post, 12 March 2010.
- International Artist Magazine Issue 71, February 2010.
- Rotherham Advertiser, 19 February 2010.
- Paint Magazine, January 2010.
- Doncaster Star, 2 March 2009.
- Retford Times, 26 February 2009.
- Rotherham Advertiser, 27 February 2009.