Kris Hartas, artist

You’ll have to make sacrifices – not just of the financial kind – but when you start to see the results in your work, it’s all worth it ...

You can measure your love of a hobby by how many hours you put into it, but at what point in time does the hobby become something else? For artist Kris Hartas, his love of drawing overtook his desire to work as an architect and soon his pastime became a fully-fledged career. Kris is earning a following for his brand of highly detailed drawings, which take countless hours (and probably a few hand cramps) to complete. As part of The Design Conference, Kris will be showcasing his work with an exhibition called Changing Lanes. Before the fun kicks off, we spoke to Kris to talk about his transition to the art world and how he honed his unique style.

We understand that you initially set out on a different career path, having initially studied architecture and interior design. How did you end up becoming an artist?
That’s a question I get asked a lot and one that I often find hard to answer in a way that doesn’t sound cliche. After years of studying I did what so many people do and took some time to go out and see the world. When I finally came home there were a bunch of different opportunities for me in architecture, but after my time away I just didn’t feel like it was something I wanted to do. The motivation wasn’t there and I suppose it didn’t feel relevant to who I felt I’d become. At this time, drawing was more of a hobby – something I did to feel good. But before long, it was less of a hobby and more of a passion. It got to the stage where it was all I wanted to do – I’d be out with friends and all I’d be thinking about was getting home to draw. Everything I saw inspired me to want to get out my pen. So, I did. I quit my job and decided to focus on what I love!

Being self-taught in any art form is shows a great amount of dedication. How long did it take for you to hone in on your highly detailed style?
It wasn’t easy. During that first year, there were times when I was just so frustrated and felt more failure than success. But another six months and I really started to see an improvement in my ability and the more I recognised that, the greater my drive to continue became. My mind boggled at the different ways I could master the pen and achieve such diverse results. I knew that if I could really hone in on the shading and perfect the details, then the opportunity to create and translate my ideas to paper was endless. As humans we’re always evolving, and as an artist I’d say we never really stop learning and improving and that’s the exciting reality of what I do.

What are some of your key artistic influences and inspirations?
I draw my influence from my life and the people in it. I find that I thrive on the conversations I have with people I value. When I’m bouncing my ideas around and gauging reactions it drives me further and further. I always find myself surprised with the feedback and it inspires me in ways I could never have foreseen.

The realism in your works is mind-boggling – how long does the process take from idea inception to completion?
Some ideas are instantaneous and others can take months to form into something more tangible. Once I’m feeling good about an idea, the first challenge is the photograph that best captures it. I’ve navigated my way around my camera and put a lot of time into taking the right kind of image, and when I struggle I’ll often reach out to some local photographers who I know will share my vision. From there, an A1 image takes between 75-125 hours depending on the complexity.

What is the biggest challenge inherent in your art style?
Honestly, the shading. It’s taken a long time to really get a handle on how to use my pen to achieve such a variety of textures. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t struggle with patience and a systematic work-style.

We are excited to see your exhibition of work – Changing Lanes – at The Design Conference! What can you tell us about the exhibition?
Well, I can tell you I’m excited! I was so thrilled to be able to team up with Matthew Haynes of The Design Conference. We have been working together for the last six months curating the exhibition that sort of piggybacks his event. We wanted to do something different and interesting with the hope that the viewers will share the sentiment!

You’ve chosen to team up with Ellaspede and their range of motorcycles as a prime focus for the exhibition – what was it about their bikes that really caught your eye?
It was a priority for me to team up with a local Brisbane company. These guys are just really cool. If you find yourself in their workshop, you’ll see what I mean. They’re hospitable and relaxed and their whole vibe is incredibly alluring. Coincidentally, I studied under Leo Yip (founder) and the bikes are his pride and joy. Seeing them through the boy’s eyes was really inspiring.

Can you share any advice for those trying to develop their creative pursuits into a professional career?
Find something you love and do it. In life there are always naysayers and there seem to be a lot around the creative industries. But, at the end of the day, if you believe in what you’re doing then you need to harvest that momentum and persevere. You’ll have to make sacrifices – not just of the financial kind – but when you start to see the results in your work, it’s all worth it. There’s always light at the end of the tunnel.

What are you currently finding inspiring about the world around you?
People! I’ve experimented with such a range of subject matter from manmade objects to glorious beasts and everything in between but without giving away too much, my next project is more human-based and not something I’ve done before and I’m really excited about it.

Changing Lanes is a free exhibition and it opens on Thursday May 25 at the Brisbane Powerhouse’s River Studio as part of The Design Conference


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