Harry Campbell
Floating Forward
After seeing Kron's great collage of Anelle I thought I'd post this. For those from outside the illustrator's world, Anelle is the director of the Society of Illustrators in NYC and has done some pretty amazing things since arriving. I was enjoying a few beers before the recent SI editorial opening when I was told Anelle liked one of my pieces and wanted to buy it for her office. I saw her when I got there and said I would be honored and made it her birthday present. The piece was commisioned by SooJin, one of my personal favorites that I've done for her.
I haven't posted much in a while, 2013 was a very strange year. I did some work in the early months that I was okay with- then I got sidetracked around mid year and maybe was a bit distracted from work. So now after the dust has settled I find myself in a familiar place, not caring much for anything I've done in the past and wondering where I'm going from here. I think I've posted these lines before-about having to turn everything upside down every so often, thinking now is one of those times.
The Newtown work marked the beginning of 2013, the tragedy happened in December 2012 and the work I did was in the months after. I can't really look at that work objectively anymore, I've seen it so many times. I know it meant something to me when I did it but now it's just past work. I am however very grateful that the series, or at least four of the series, will be a part of the S.I. traveling show. Some people will see them who have not,and hopefully see what I can't see anymore.
Continuing on the track of not being able to see ones own work clearly-I was pretty thrilled that S.I. chose to put the frog on the program and poster for the institutional and uncommisioned show. That image kind of represents a direction I'd like to explore, more natural organic images but done in my vector way of working. Done for Jim Burke-thanks Jim, an honor to be in the FROG calendar.
Like I said, weird year, confusing and trying but collectively it was pretty great.  I was happy to be featured in two industry magazines, 3x3 and CMYK, thanks to Charles Hively and Ronald Cala respectively. Possibly the biggest honor and most moving was that friend and fellow illustrator Tim OBrien agreed to write a bio essay on me for the 3x3 feature. Tim penned a very moving and eloquent piece on me and my work. I've included that at the bottom of this post. Tim's writing is always worth reading, please do.
Another fine thing that happened this year was being featured in two magazines, 3x3 and CMYK, thanks to Charles Hively and Ronald Cala respectively. Time Obrien, my friend and brilliant illustrator penned a very thoughtful essay about me and my work. I've attached it at the bottom of this post. Thanks again Tim!
Another fine thing that happened this year was being featured in two magazines, 3x3 and CMYK, thanks to Charles Hively and Ronald Cala respectively. Time Obrien, my friend and brilliant illustrator penned a very thoughtful essay about me and my work. I've attached it at the bottom of this post. Thanks again Tim!
Harry Campbell; The Road to Finding a Voice
By Tim O'Brien
The roads rise and fall. Wheels whirring, wind whistling by his helmet. Harry Campbell is out on his bike
for yet another 100 mile day. A dedicated cyclist puts in some serious miles each year, and Harry is serious.
Of course riding is his hobby, but the fortitude and endurance needed are a perfect fit for his chosen profession. Harry Campbell has been a working illustrator for over 25 years. Like his long bike trips, the road has been winding and circuitous. There were no short cuts to where Harry Campbell’s career is today.

Harry Campbell graduated from MICA in ’86 and came to New York City with his admittedly, inconsistent portfolio. Work was hard to come by, and Harry took whatever jobs he could find, such as a t-shirt printing company where he learned to do precise line work and cutting with an x-acto blade for screen-printing. These skills would come in handy years later. Harry worked a design studio at The Warner Bros. Studio Store and had a stint at Nickelodeon doing all kinds of projects. “I designed everything from Rugrats refrigerator magnets to subway signage, style guides etc. While working at Nick I developed an illustration style that was very "Nick" influenced, cartoony but a bit edgy, Ren and Stimpy influenced. During these days I was just trying to make a living, it had nothing to do with who I am or was.” Harry Campbell was not close to being the illustrator he wanted yet, but he was learning and earning, something many younger illustrators can relate to today.
In 2003 Harry felt the urge to surge. Who knows why we do it, but there comes a time when our ambition and energy and inspiration combine to move us forward into something new. Harry began drawing again, only this time with vector lines. “I had been doing it for a while and felt quite comfortable. I would pick up objects on my desk, like a tin toy or a phone, and I would just draw from observation. Something began clicking, it felt intuitive and right, but what do I do with it? So I put together a few illustrations and started sending them around, posting on the web.”
What Harry Campbell did was to create a clean, organized style of drawing that suited the information age. Subtle stylistic inventions of shifted color lines and unique croppings made this style unique and soon many art directors and designers sought out his work. Assignments where many specific items are listed or covered do not scare Campbell. He can bring together all these elements and the simplicity of clean, organized line without a value structure means more information can be conveyed more clearly. It is also true that in a digital age, these intricate, fine lined illustrations translate perfectly to the smartphone and tablet screen.
It is not only his style that sets his work apart; it began to be his problem solving that has become a calling card. As Campbell puts it, “I think the real start of developing a way of problem solving and honesty in the work came early on when I got a call from the New York Times op-ed page. For the first time I found myself face to face with some really great writing, strong emotional or political content. I really loved the challenge, it felt right.”
Ideas are the currency these days for illustrators, and it appears that both style and substance are mixed perfectly in Harry’s work. One sees hints of the clean problem solving of David Suter and Guy Billout in his work, but when filtered through Harry’s technique it becomes all his own.
Harry Campbell’s work has been seen in most major illustration competitions and exhibitions for the past decade. His career seems to be one in full bloom, so it was most impressive to see his work reach further this past year. Can a style of objects and precision cut to the heart? I wouldn’t think so, but following the shootings in Newtown Connecticut, Campbell said, “the Monday after the Newtown shootings I was to take my son to the bus, but I couldn't. That was the first image I thought of, the black bus, a hearse. I just imagined a bus in Newtown with no children to pick up. I posted that piece on Facebook and it was quickly picked up by the New York Times Letters page. I felt so strongly about this tragedy and the underlying gun issue that I decided I would continue the series, and every day I did a new piece.” This burst of inspiration continued and branched off into new areas and issues.
“I learned from these images that I could be very connected to my art, more than I knew, I found a place to express true emotion and conviction.” It’s not easy to communicate heartfelt emotion in a vector drawing. Just the mere sentence seems to highlight how difficult such a proposal can be. With Campbell, it’s not so much how it’s done now, it’s why.
Some artists hone in on their styles in college and enter the illustration market fully evolved, but most don’t. I would think that many young illustrators could take solace in the fact that success is not something that happens right away, that working hard and paying the bills is honorable and is its own form of success. Once earning a living is somewhat settled, an artist can then reach, search and try for the next challenge. The road to success is often a long one, full of detours and pitfalls, false starts and lessons learned. In the end this journey is our story, one we recount with pride. An artist arrives at where they are supposed to be eventually, and finding the sweet spot in one’s career is a fortunate thing. For Harry, it came after miles and miles on the road. We are glad he arrived. 

Show at the SPUR Gallery
I am very excited to have an upcoming show at the SPUR Gallery here in Baltimore. I approached Dave about doing a show a few months back and he graciously agreed. Some of you have been to the space for the Hundred Heads for Haiti exhibit and benefit. My opening is November 9th, a Saturday that falls at the end of Illustration Week in NY. 
There will be numerous framed prints as well as matted Giclees. I will also be hand printing a couple screen printed posters, including this show announcement. The Posters will be 19 x 25.
Getting back into screen printing or anything hand done has been on my mind for quite some time, so I'm really excited to get down to it. We have a place here called Baltimore Print Studios where I've played around a bit, they're fully equipped.
New Yorker
This piece recently ran in the New Yorker, a full page illustration to accompany an article by Atul Gawande. I tend to have a hard time illustrating these new Yorker articles, solutions can be ellusive, the pieces are often long and touch on many ideas. this piece was on how some ideas are slow to catch on, but when they catch they spread quickly, such as the use of anasthesia and antiseptics in medicine. The most recent example has to do with pre natal care in India, women givingbirth in clinics as opposed to at home and how infant mortality drops and the mothers health is spared.
I quickly fixated on the idea of using an infant and some sort of elaborate Indian fabric pattern, possibly a baby wrapped in the fabric, suspended, a very subtle concept of something tenuous.
Working the way I do with vector line I am still discovering how to work with more natural forms, like babies, plants, natural elements as opposed to architectural right angled imagery. I'm still working on it.
So I did several roughs of the baby. I kind of liked the idea of the baby being sort af tattoed, painted.
The first roughs were all rejected and I was asked to explore some new directions. So I kind of went with tried and true, illustrating the ideas of anathesia and antiseptic. These were kind of catch all illustrations but I sort of liked them.
In the end, which happens pretty often, the client came back to the first round of roughs.
These were alternate roughs in the first round. The idea of an Indian woman waiting to be taken to the hospital/clinic.
This is the first time I've had the pleasure to submit to Jim Burke's Frog Calendar. I would wait a bit longer as the calendar is just about to be released, but the image has already been in a show, shown on Facebook etc. Jim gave me his blessing. I ran into Jim at ICON in Providence, in the bar, where art directors and illustrators should meet. He asked me then if I would like to contribute, I had seen great work done in years past by many of my friends and so of course I would like to be a part.
This year, or I should say the past ten to twelve months have been I think more about personal work, pro bono work. I have commercial work, and I enjoy it, but personal work has been more a laboratory of sorts, a place to try new things.
With the frog piece I went to a process that I had played with a bit but wanted to do more of, actual hand drawing as opposed to my direct vector approach. All of my illustrations are drawn directly on screen, no sketch, I just start to connect dots. But what I've found is that for the more organic shapes I need to go back to hand drawing, more fluid, working out problems, then using that sketch as a base.
So I simply drew a few frogs (that looked more like toads) directly on tracing paper, picked the one I liked and scanned it. As you can see from the sketch there is a lot more detail in the final. The sketch was basically just to get the frog shape down. I still like winging details straight in vector.
Once scanned I can begin to draw in vector, but at some point I just hide the sketch and begin going about what I usually do, direct line, no guide.
I was happy that the piece was selected for best of show at the Illustrator's Club of D.C. And many thanks to Jim for inviting me to participate.
I added these two other pieces that I did for SooJin at Plan Sponsor because they kind of demonstrate a similar approach, more organic, that color masking on black, etc. Thanks to SooJin for letting me play, I always come away with something new to take forward.
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