Harry the Pencil Harrison’s portraits: putting a name to the face
Harry’s paintings of disenfranchised people are timely, haunting, and a reminder that everyone has a name, a personality, and, above all, feelings. We are all human beings, after all, and it goes without saying that everyone deserves to be treated with dignity and respect, no matter what their circumstances. Harry’s work encapsulates that and provides yet another reason to appreciate the power of art.
I am a retired Architect who has drawn and painted as a hobby all my life. My drawing and draughting skills, (more or less redundant in today’s digital world), were an asset in my architectural career and earned me the sobriquet ‘Harry the Pencil’. I moved to the East End in 1978 and have lived here ever since. I believe the East End is undoubtedly the best place to live in London and have never, ever considered moving. There have been many changes from a mono-cultural to a much more diverse neighbourhood in the last forty-two years but despite gentrification the area has retained its unique sense of place.
The portraits of homeless men Tom, Andrew, Tim and Angus and of Mick Taylor, a well known East End character, were inspired by a sense of compassion. I wanted to record the harsh reality of homelessness in our neighbourhood despite the increased affluence for some; many still ‘fall through the cracks’. The paintings were exhibited in a cafe in Clerkenwell to raise money for the homeless charity Crisis.
Since retiring three years ago, I have had the opportunity to devote more time to art and I work in a variety of mediums, pencil, watercolour and oil across a wide variety of subject matter. I have recently been doing a series of oil portraits of fellow dancers at a Northern Soul club called ‘Walls of Heartache’ held at the Luna Lounge in Leytonstone, which we frequented prior to the current lockdown.
The Gentle Author also has a lovely post of Harry’s sketches.
Follow Harry on Instagram: @harry_the_pencil
Photos courtesy of and © David ‘Harry’ Harrison