Isolation, introversion and intoxication: traverse the surrealist dreamworlds of Harrison Earl

Born and raised in Sydney’s Western suburbs, Harrison Earl is a visual artist making a name for himself thanks to his love of comic books, anime and 90s alternative rock music. Earl’s mind is a canvas for adolescent-inspired surrealism, taking mediums such as aerosol, ink on paper and digital illustration and turning his fascinating, twisted illusions into a reality.

As a child who had a love of drawing which eventually progressed into a career, Earl’s work embodies the human form and mind, conveying reoccurring themes and hallucinatory dream-sequences.

Recently being commissioned for murals at World Bar and Oxford Art Factory, this guy is on a role. Earl has also created independent clothing label Heavy Mental, a 42-page soft-cover book and has a second upcoming solo exhibition showcasing next month.

harrison earl Joel Westworth
Photo: Joel Westworth

Harrison Earl’s works can be recognised for their bright, attractive colours, in-depth detailing and abstract illustrations with a surrealist edge.

HAPPY: Tell us a bit about how you first got into illustration and graphic design?

HARRISON: It was a combination of a lot of things, but I would say it began with drawing as a child. Everyone draws when they’re children, in some capacity, but I like to think I just never stopped. Similarly, as a child I had an above-average obsession with cartoons and comics, and to this day that obsession still grows, and feeds my work.

But by far the most crucial factor has always been that my parents have supported me pursuing a career as an artist. Without that, I have no doubt I would have given up years ago.

Harrison Earl
All images courtesy of the artist.

HAPPY: Your work is inspired by comic books, anime and 90s rock music. How did these symbols of adolescence come to be the main influence of your work?

HARRISON: That pretty much sums it up, haha. In a nutshell, what influences me is what makes me feel the way I want my work to make others feel. Music is a major part of my life and thus, a major part of my artistic process, as well as its subject matter, on many levels. And I’m somewhat of a 90s alt-rock geek so it’s a natural and inevitable influence.

Harrison Earl

HAPPY: There seems never to be a dull moment in your artwork. Can you talk us through the process behind it all?

HARRISON: Life is already full of dull moments; I feel I needn’t add to them.

I cherish the analogue in my process. Everything I make begins in my sketchbook as a passing idea and evolves from there. I flesh it out in pencil until what I see on the paper resembles what I see in my mind, and if it does, I ink it and scan it. What happens from here on is dependent upon my intentions for the finished piece, but the sketchbook is the birthplace of all of my paintings, ink on paper illustrations and digital illustrations.

Harrison Earl

HAPPY: We’re looking forward to your exhibition Black Rainbow at the M2 Gallery on June 8th. Is there a particular theme, or underlying narrative behind the works that will be showcased?

HARRISON: Thank you, I’m glad to hear you’re looking forward to it. The work in Black Rainbow mainly explores feelings of isolation and introversion, through a study into the human form. There are indeed recurring themes and motifs in the body of work that form what I would call a very loose narrative, more akin to a dream sequence or a series of hallucinations than the conventional ‘beginning-middle-end’ narrative.

Harrison Earl

HAPPY: What are some projects you have taken part in so far, and are most proud of?

HARRISON: I literally just last week finished hand-painting Oxford Art Factory’s new cocktail menus, which is something I’m really proud of, even though it’s quite different to what I usually do. It was a lot of fun working with the heads at OAF, they’re a great team.

I was also invited by artist and curator, Jodee Knowles, to contribute to her Father Superior 2017 collection and group exhibition of hand-painted vintage jackets, open for one night only on Thursday, 25th of May, at aMBUSH Gallery. I’m really excited to be a part of this show!

Harrison Earl

HAPPY: And in addition to these projects, you have your own independent clothing label, Heavy Mental. Why did you decide to expand your work to clothing design, and is this a pathway you’ll continue to go down?

HARRISON: Heavy Mental is a passion project of mine, and something that’s been a long time coming. I was inspired by brands like Fuct, created by Erik Brunetti, and Burma, by Jordan Hartigan, and seeing how they have translated their art into a brand with a message behind it that invites a cult-like following. I’d like to think of Heavy Mental as a lifelong project of mine from here on, so I have no intentions of seeing an end to it.

Heavy Mental has a range of hats, tee’s, stickers and sew on patches, as well as a 42-page illustration book, all available for purchase here.


To have your mind melted by Earl’s absorbing works of art, head to the M2 Gallery in Surry Hills on June 8-20 for his second solo exhibition, Black Rainbow. Poster below.

Find more information on the Facebook event.