Development of skyscapes with Allen Harrison

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Allen Harrison, Untitled, Oil on panel, 48 x 48 in. (Courtesy of Allen Harrison).

Allen Harrison is an accomplished painter known for his striking skyscapes and a career spanning several decades. His work has been shown in more than 30 solo exhibitions.

Harrison’s work is constantly evolving, his current process is in a sense a study of Tibetan thangka imagery. Starting with a blank canvas, Harrison begins by carefully tracing thangka drawings on acetate, cutting up the designs, and collaging them on canvas. Harrison never ceases to honor the original work, using the Tibetan works as a guide. The photos of the sky taken from the roof of his studio determine the colors with which he reinterprets the sky in the last piece.


What: Allen Harrison: Beauty, Inspiration, Abstraction

When: January 15 – March 12, 2022

Where: Lois Lambert Gallery, 2525 Michigan Avenue, Building E3, Santa Monica, CA 90405


The thangka images remain a swirling blueprint beneath the cloudscapes of the artist’s photography, layer by layer on the canvas. The end product is multidimensional and rich.

The artist told us this about his process: “These are very stylized images of people that don’t look realistic. I project the landscape and clouds and such over these collage pieces. You run through one color, then into another shade. I cover the entire painting.”

Allen Harrisom, Winslow, Oil on panel, 75 x 42 in. (Courtesy of Allen Harrison).

For example, take Harrison’s painting “Strand.It consists of a photo of the sky reflected on a Thangkok style drawing by the artist. Again, symmetry is achieved that creates dimension and depth. “Winslow” is another example of the artist’s meticulous process – Harrison typically takes about three months (sometimes longer) from start to finish. According to him, “It ultimately comes down to abstraction: when I’m looking at the picture, I’m looking for little areas that seem to have composition.” , but sometimes that happens.”

A friend once told Harrison that a good artists always draw you into their work but never try to tell you what to think, and he’s been aware of it ever since. The California-born artist and teacher works from his home studio in Burbank, just steps from his childhood home. He started with abstract art and found that he didn’t like what other artists were doing at the time. After discovering the work that photographer Alfred Stieglitz took towards the end of his life, he was drawn to cloud images. “I love this idea that you can’t physically touch clouds; shape them however you want. So I started looking for ways to recreate these clouds in my work.”

Allen Harrison has received many awards throughout his long career. His work is included in the permanent collections of the Portland Museum, San Francisco MoMA, the Byer Museum of Art, and prominent private and public collections. Harrison has also taught at the University of California Berkeley and Pasadena City College.

Elizabeth Danger

Elizabeth Hazard is a writer, producer and photo editor based in New York City. Her work has appeared in various publications and she writes regularly on art, culture, fashion and history.

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