Table Talk

Forest Finds

Working across painting, ceramics and tablescapes, Harlie Briggs finds her sources of inspiration in the natural textures she encounters in her local forest.

I would describe myself as an abstract artist and a messy, creative human. My journey has been full of passion, emotion and a sprinkle of self belief. I feel like the journey has not yet been completed, it’s still going!

As a young girl viewing Monet’s garden paintings for the first time, I really felt the colours of nature and was intrigued by the loose brushwork, the vivid colours and the emphasis and play on light. Georgia O’Keeffe’s abstract compositions for flowers also made me view nature in a different way, rather than the lifelike still life drawings that were mostly imposed on me growing up. I also focused heavily on the female body at the beginning of my painting journey, heavily influenced by Jenny Saville and Lucien Freud. Their colour palettes are warm and their brush strokes taught me that it’s OK to not make the ‘perfect’ painting. Tracey Emin also taught me the power of meaning behind artwork.

"The forest is my biggest inspiration and always will be...
it stimulates my imagination and evokes a range of emotions for me"

The forest is my biggest inspiration and always will be; a place that holds so many different ecosystems; a unique and diverse environment that stimulates my imagination and evokes a range of emotions for me. If I feel stressed, the forest provides me with serenity and peace, which helps me reset before I come back home or to the studio. Lakes also seem to be a big part of my paintings. Blue would never be my first choice of colour but the calmness and tranquillity of it is so soothing.

Pink and green are complementary colours on the colour wheel, meaning that they balance and enhance each other. This combination will forever be a part of my work I think, and it makes me think of Spring the most as I feel they evoke a fish and lively mood, whilst also being relaxing for the viewer. 

I recently moved to Epping forest, where my parents live, I thought I would be super emotional leaving my North London life behind, but I haven’t looked back since. It’s a new chapter, and one that is very much nature filled. I now have more space to paint, I can walk to the forest whenever I like and explore new places. Knowing that I am a stone’s throw away from 19 kilometres length of woodland to explore gives me an immediate sense of calm. 

When I am in the best mood for painting tends to be after a dog walk to the forest and when the sun is out and shining. The natural light in my studio in the morning is so beautiful, it’s almost impossible not to sit down and pick a paintbrush up. 

Nature has subtle ways of encouraging you to be creative like this I believe. To be honest, even when it is pouring down with rain it is also a cosy time to sit and paint! 

"The natural world has taught me patience, in every disaster or mistake there will be growth"

The natural world has taught me patience, in every disaster or mistake there will be growth, the importance of sustainability and care and the beauty that there is in almost every corner of life. 

The natural world is full of breathtaking landscapes and incredible displays of beauty that can both calm you and inspire you. The importance of balance and sustainability is something that we can most certainly take from nature, being made from a diversity of species that are interdependent on each other which can be taken to the human world where diversity and coloration are important in creating healthy and thriving ecosystems.

There is so much that we can learn from the natural world and I hope that this year brings me even more time outside and even more teachings. 

I absolutely adore watching every corner ‘come back to life’ in Spring. There’s technically and metaphorically a sense of renewal and growth after winter. Blooming flowers and greenery bring me a real sense of calm, a lot of inspiration for new painting collections and a larger sense of hope for what’s to come. It’s also the start of lighter evenings, warmer temperatures which therefore means being able to create gorgeous tables to sit outside with loved ones. 

“I absolutely adore watching every corner ‘come back to life’ in Spring. Technically and metaphorically there’s a sense of renewal”

As you can probably imagine, I am not short of vases, so lots of vases means lots of flowers are always around, not only in the studio but also in my bedroom and around the house. I tend to stick to a very neutral and subtle decor with lots of dark woods, and bring the rooms to life by adding colourful nature paintings. This is the kind of environment that calms me and brings a sense of outdoors, inside. 

A beautiful and balanced space is one that makes you feel at peace, and one that is full of artwork that evokes good feelings for you, as well as personal touches. Hand-making or up-cycling items gives you a sense of belonging, ownership and happiness to items. 

I am much more of an evening creative, so in Spring particularly the mornings are slower and spent out in the forest with one of the many dogs we have. The lighter evenings mean I get to stay in the studio until whatever hour… Although 8pm has a tendency to turn into 2am real quick when I am in there and in the zone. 

There’s so many flowers that I love and they tend to rotate seasonally.. My favourite wild flowers tend to be taller ones and ones that droop and hang, such as hollyhocks (which you can see a lot of in my work) Forget-me-nots also really remind me of my late grandmother so they are pretty special. If I’m buying flowers it would be ranunculus, poppies (especially big Icelandic ones), cosmos, anemones, amaranths and delphiniums. I love pastels and dusty colours.

My perfect Spring gathering has a table or two set up with a floral focused theme, lots of dogs and delicious foods. Hopefully some birdsong provided by Mother Nature too! Perhaps even an outdoor nature painting class would be a beautiful and soul fulfilling gathering. That’s now been added to my to do list for the year! 

Spring is my favourite month! I would start with my Between The Vines tablecloth to add some nature and colour to the table first of all. I would then add a mixture of wild flowers and branches found in the garden with some white and yellow ranunculus.

I love finding antiques and preloved items too, items that would have been discarded - antique plates and pots to hold cutlery, a mismatch of antique candlesticks, off cuts of old fabric for tablecloths. 

I think a lovely personal touch is to handmade menus and name places, adding drawings personal to the guests. There is a beauty in handwritten rather than printed words I think. Most of all though, have fun with it and make sure your guests are surrounded by nature.

Follow Harlie’s wild-inspired life