Maria Harding Art: Contemporary paintings of animals and humans with a tiny sprinkling of magic and whimsy
Hi, I’m Maria, but most people call me Maz. I’m an artist based in the Blue Mountains, NSW, and I paint animals and humans in a contemporary style combining realism with abstraction and a splash of colour.
- That we are all creative and just express it in different ways
- That art is for everyone
- Animals are living beings that deserve as much love, care and respect as human beings.
- All beings deserve freedom.
- There is a certain magic in the process of creating which can’t be fully explained. When I am ‘in the flow’ I loose track of time and just paint. This is explained beautifully by Elizabeth Gilbert in her book Big Magic:
“I believe that our planet is inhabited not only by animals and plants and bacteria and viruses, but also by ideas. Ideas are a disembodied, energetic life-form. They are completely separate from us, but capable of interacting with us—albeit strangely. Ideas have no material body, but they do have consciousness, and they most certainly have will. Ideas are driven by a single impulse: to be made manifest. And the only way an idea can be made manifest in our world is through collaboration with a human partner. It is only through a human’s efforts that an idea can be escorted out of the ether and into the realm of the actual.”
― Elizabeth Gilbert, Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear
It was April 3, 2000. I was on a plane, leaving my life in London and flying across the world to a new beginning in Australia. All my belongings were packed into a single bag, and there was no going back. I didn’t know it then, but my whole world as I knew it was about to change forever.
Australia was meant to be just a year of travelling and adventure, but it turned out to be my new home and a place of deep healing. The sunshine warmed my body, and the bright, intense colours of the landscape opened my eyes to a new way of seeing the world.
I come from a large family and the eldest of six kids, we had very little money and so quickly learnt to get very creative in making things from scratch or used/recycled objects. Sadly, my dad had mental health issues and was abusive so from an early age I escaped into an imaginary world where life was a much more colourful place and there were friendly mythical creatures to play with, including flying ones – and I loved flying on their backs!
I would spend most of my free time drawing these imaginary scenes of magical worlds with delicious fruits and lollies growing on the trees and rainbows to slide down, the sun was always shining and we always had a wonderful time. I shared these drawings and stories with my brothers and sisters and we would play games where we were in those worlds, I think that this helped us a lot – it was a wonderful escapism from reality.
As I reached my early twenties I was diagnosed with endometriosis, a debilitating disease affecting 1 in 10 women in the world. I was in a lot of pain, and again, how I coped was to retreat into my imaginative worlds (there were quite a few of them now, including a wonderful underwater world).
I realised later that what I was doing was meditative visualisations. When I was in so much pain that I couldn’t move, I still somehow had the strength of mind to instantly take myself to another place, and in doing so stop myself from panicking.
These painful experiences have taught me to be strong, resilient, compassionate and above all creative, I can’t imagine life without making art. And this is my reason for painting. Creating art is my life source.
My goal in all my paintings is to somehow paint what I see in my imagination; a joyful, colourful place where we are all equal and free. I especially like to paint birds and flying, because to me they symbolise freedom which is something I believe all living beings have a right to have.
The Official bit:
I was born in Oxford, UK and moved to Australia in 2000.
I have an honors degree in Fine Art from Liverpool University (1997), UK, specialising in painting figurative work.
I’ve been a professional graphic designer/art director for the past twenty years and an artist my whole life. I’ve had the pleasure to work with a wide variety of companies, a few being The BBC, Hotel Chocolat, Fairfax, Weldon Owen kids' books, Cambridge University, Laureate University and some amazing musicians and artists along the way.
From 2011-16, I ran a successful business painting custom stencil portraits, and was thrilled to be selected as a finalist for The Stencil Art Prize in 2013 and 2015. Since then I have moved on from stencil portrait commissions to concentrate on honing my skills as a portrait artist using a more free flowing technique with watercolours and oil paints.
Video by Two Story Tellers