Allen Harrison, Untitled, oil on panel, 48 x 48 in. (Courtesy: Allen Harrison).

Allen Harrison is an accomplished painter known for his evocative skyscapes and career that has spanned several decades; his work has been showcased at more than 30 solo art exhibitions. 

Harrison’s work is constantly evolving,  his current process is, in some sense, a study of Tibetan Thangka imagery. Starting with a blank canvas, Harrison begins by carefully tracing Thangka drawings on acetate, cutting up the designs, and collaging them together on the canvas. Never ceasing to honor the original work, Harrison uses the Tibetian works as a guide. The photos of the sky taken from the roof of his studio dictate the colors he will use to reinterpret the sky in the final piece. 

What: Allen Harrison: Beauty, Inspiration, Abstraction

When: January 15—March 12, 2022

Where: Lois Lambert Gallery, 2525 Michigan Avenue, Building E3, Santa Monica, CA 90405

The Thangka imagery remains a swirling blueprint beneath the cloudscapes of the artist’s photography, layer upon layer on the canvas. The final product is multi-dimensional and rich. 

The artist told us this about his process, “These are very stylized images of people that don’t look realistic. I project the landscape and clouds and such over these collage pieces. They run through one color, then into another shade. I cover the entire painting.”

Allen Harrisom, Winslow, oil on wood, 75 x 42in. (Courtesy: Allen Harrison).

Take, for example, Harrison’s painting “Hank.”  It comprises a photo of the sky mirrored on top of the artist’s Thangkok-style drawing. Again, symmetry is achieved, creating dimension and depth. “Winslow” is another example of the artist’s meticulous process — it usually takes Harrison about three months (sometimes longer) from start to finish. According to him, “it ultimately comes back to abstraction: when I look at the painting, I look for little areas that seem to have a composition.” He adds, “I never try to make something that pops right out at you, but sometimes that happens.”

A friend once told Harrison that a good artist always pulls you into their work but never tries to tell you what to think, and he has been aware of that ever since. The California-born artist and teacher works out of his Burbank home studio, steps away from his childhood home. He started doing abstract art and realized that he didn’t like what other artists were doing at the time. After discovering the work that photographer Alfred Stieglitz captured toward the end of his life, he felt drawn to cloud imagery. “I love this idea that you cannot physically touch clouds; they form in any way they want. So I started looking around for ways to recreate these clouds in my work.” 

Allen Harrison has received many recognitions throughout his extensive career. His work is included in the permanent collections at the Portland Museum, the San Francisco MoMA, the Byer Museum of Art, and prominent private and public collections. In addition, Harrison has taught at the University of California Berkeley and Pasadena City College.