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Net-Zero Visions: Interview with artist Philip Harris

Net-Zero Visions brings together communities across Devon with the creative industries and transition experts to produce positive ‘Visions’ of six locations as carbon net-zero in 2050. These locations will have their Vision realised by acclaimed professionals in different media, including animation, illustration, interactive games, and public murals.

During this exciting time as the Visions approach completion, the commissioned artists will be interviewed for a behind-the-scenes look at their creative process, collaboration with communities and next steps for their work.

Wembury is illustrated in a series of circles filled with scenes including cyclists, farming and wildflowers. The scenes are black and white, backed by a green illustration of flowers and foliage.
An example of Philip Harris’ work, depicting Wembury.

Tell me a bit about yourself!

My name is Philip Harris; I’m a freelance illustrator and printmaker based outside Exeter. I grew up in Devon and have lived here my whole life; you can see this influence coming through within the themes of my work.

I studied Illustration at Plymouth University, and whilst there, I inherited a collection of dip pens and nibs from my grandfather, who I never had the chance to meet. His legacy lives on in how I approach creating artwork, and I am passionate about using traditional mediums. My grandfather was also a keen printmaker, and I’ve recently begun exploring a new direction in my work using relief printing. I’ve found the printmaking process engaging as it links closely with my current linework approach and allows me to explore and develop my visual language and skill set. 

The landscape is hugely important in my work, and the nature around me is something I return to again and again for inspiration. You can often find me exploring the haunting wildness on Dartmoor, the woodlands’ stillness and the ever-changing windswept coastlines. Back in my home studio, I use photographs and location sketches to capture the essence of these terrains that have surrounded me my whole life and brought me so much joy over the years in a medium rooted in my family heritage and practice. 

How did you get involved with Net-Zero Visions, and what communities are you working with on this project? 

I became involved in the Net-Zero Vision project after connecting with Emma Whittaker through a mutual connection at Plymouth University, where I used to study. I have worked with a number of the communities involved in the project, including Brixton, Exeter, Wembury, Newton Ferrers and Noss Mayo, Torbay and Yealmpton.

How have you responded to the communities’ ideas to develop the Visions? 

I enjoyed getting the chance to connect with the communities involved in person through NVZ Workshops. It allowed me to share my initial concepts and ideas directly with the people from each area and take notes on the elements they felt were important and wanted to incorporate within each design. 

Please describe how you are creating the Visions.

I have created a series of drawings that represent each of the communities that are involved in the project. Each picture is inspired by the community involved and their feedback in response to visualising how they will become Net Zero in the future.

It was interesting that some wanted to focus on their landscapes’ beauty and the importance of the natural world. In contrast, others wanted to explore a more map-like illustration incorporating the environmental incentives they have in their location. 

The images are produced in traditional pen and ink style but rendered within Procreate on an iPad.

This series of illustrations will be part of a book published by the University of Plymouth Press about becoming Net Zero that will also contain short essays by experts alongside the images. 

What are the next steps for the Visions?

I am currently in the process of finishing the last of the illustrations before the images can be collected together into the Net zero book. 

Is there anything that you’ve learned from this process or will take forward with you? 

It is exciting to learn about Devon’s environmental incentives while discussing these illustrations with communities. It made me think about how communities can come together to work together to protect their environment.

When the Visions are showcased, what would you like people to take away from them? 

I want people to look at their local landscape in a new light and appreciate why it is worth saving them. I hope that making this connection with landscapes and communities will be an important way to get people thinking about their homes and how they could protect them further through embracing these environmental incentives.

See more of Philip Harris’ work by looking at his portfolio, Instagram and website.

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