|maria harding of stencil portraits|
Portraits are very difficult to do well. They often look too contrived and awkward, and for those who don't enjoy having their photo taken it can be a very painful process (I speak from experience). However, graphic designer, illustrator, and fine artist Maria Harding merges all three skills to create distinctly different portraits - and they're incredible! Launching Stencil Portraits several years ago, after demand for her clever creations snowballed, Maria's niche is making graphic, almost Andy Warhol-esque portraits on canvas and woodblocks. Far from family portraits which can be a little on the embarrassing side, Maria's striking portraits are loved by parents and the little people they depict. Truly timeless, I imagine the stencil portraits will be something to reflect on with pride long after they're all grown up. Check out Maria's entire Stencil Portraits gallery here.
How would you describe yourself?
Mother, artistic, optimistic, passionate, sensitive.
What was your childhood dream?
I had a few! To be a dancer, a nurse, a teacher, to run away to a circus. Wanting to be an artist didn’t actually come until a year into my teacher training degree – thankfully I had the guts to change courses to an arts one.
What led you down your current path?
I suppose stencil portraits was born from the desire to get back to my artist routes in a more real way. What I mean by that is I’ve been working as a graphic designer for the past 15 years and I spend most of my working days on the computer; yes, it can be creative but in a very controlled, digital way. I started to crave using my hands and use real paint again. For a bit of fun, I created a stencil portrait of my sister and her pet rabbit for her 30th birthday. I was surprised at how much I loved cutting the stencil and spray painting, so I did another portrait of my 18 month old son. The idea to create a business out of it didn’t come until later but the seed was sown with my very first stencil portrait.
What do you love most about what you do?
I love being my own boss with the knowledge that I can change direction if I get bored. I also love receiving messages from my customers telling me how much they love their portraits – we sensitive artists need to hear these things! It makes what I’m doing have real meaning and reassures me that the love and energy I put into each portrait shines through.
Where do you feel most inspired?
Probably in bed! In that half-dreamy state where you dream up all sorts of wonderful ideas. Sometimes, just sometimes I make these ideas real…
Who do you admire?
So many people… for a start my husband, Tom Harding, who is an amazing musician sharing the love with thousands of children every year by way of samba drumming and percussion workshops. I admire anyone who stands up for what they believe in and makes things happen.
What challenges have you had to overcome?
Quite a few in life, as I”m sure we all do. Starting a new life in Australia in 2000 was a challenge (I'm from the UK), then starting my freelance graphic design business, Colourful Ideas, was a real learning curve. But I've had fun along the way!
What's been a 'pinch yourself' moment?
After working flat out for a couple of months in the lead up to Christmas on stencil portraits, sitting down and counting the orders and seeing it was a total of 79. The realisation that this idea was actually a reality and people from all over Australia were ordering my artworks. I was exhausted but totally over the moon.
What are your top creative resources?
I love starting at Pinterest and then seeing where it leads me; I've found some awesome blogs and websites that way. I'm also a fan of interior design magazines, even though I'm not an interior designer; I find them inspiring and it's good to see what's trending in terms of art and design - Inside Out would be my favourite. Ted is always inspirational too.
What is your idea of happiness?
Relaxing in the park or beach with my husband on a sunny day watching our son running around playing. Perhaps with a picnic and a cheeky glass of wine. I also love creating and designing, so to get paid to do this makes me happy.
I have a solo exhibition coming up in August at Sweets Workshop Gallery in Sydney. I'm really looking forward to starting on paintings for this - they will be stencil paintings on reclaimed wood with the theme 'Young at Heart'.
When the weekend rolls around what do you love to:
Read – Weekend paper, mostly the magazines.
Watch - At the Movies, ABC Iview.
Cook - As little as possible!
Create - Woodblock art.
Listen to - Radio National, and my two favourite artists Regina Spektor & Ben Folds.
Dream about- Having a lie-in but not getting one due to being mum to an energetic and early rising 3 year old.
Look forward to - My solo exhibition coming up in August, and also I’m going to Clare Bowditch’s Big Hearted Business Conference next weekend.