The Vault App sits down with Robert Harkness (former Art Director of Playboy) to discuss The Vault Collection, a nationwide art campaign that connects U.S Military Veterans and a variety of programs aimed at the opioid crisis and those suffering with PTSD.
Q: Robert, please tell us a bit about yourself. Where did you grow up?
I grew up in Olympia, Washington and am the youngest of three brothers. As a kid I spent a lot of time on my grandma’s farm, I was involved in sports, art, music, and boy scouts. I was fortunate to explore a lot of different activities early on in life.
Q: How did you decide to become an artist and what inspired you to do this full time?
I never really decided to become an artist. It seemed to innately happen. I’ve made art for as long as I can remember. I had my own art business when I was 13 and would display and sell my work in stores around my hometown. It gave me a strong sense of identity at an early age, and that is something I’ve never forgotten.
Q; When The Vault App approached you to collaborate what sparked your interest to say yes to the project?
The Vault Collection approached me at a crossroads in my life and career. I had just left my job as an Art Director in Los Angeles and moved to Santa Fe, NM. I wanted to find some separation from the noise and see what I’d make if I had a bit of solitude. I’ve known the guys at The Vault App since my college years and when they approached me it was the right opportunity at the right time. It was also a great way to give back and help veterans battle trauma they go through everyday. It was such a great project, I had to say yes.
Q: What do you hope to achieve with your collaboration with The Vault App?
Communicating what makes our country unique is an interesting artistic challenge. I think today we need to be reminded of how beautiful America is. I’m having fun when I make these pieces so I hope that comes across.
I also hope this campaign makes an impact with vets who are suffering and that we can help those individuals find piece. The national organizations that are helping Vets should be applauded and we hope to contribute in the fight against opiod addiction.
Q: Where do you get your inspiration(s)?
I draw inspiration from my life experiences, nature, and music.
Q: Why do you think it is important to bridge the gap between technology and art?
I don’t really see a gap. To me art is our deepest expression. Technology is just an outlet for that. I use technology to create and share my work so there’s kind of a seamless relationship there.
Q: What is the overall message you want people to get when looking at your pieces?
I’d like to depict reality as a kind of dream, tap into the viewers imagination, and highlight the unique qualities of our country.
Q: Tell us some past projects you have done and what inspired those pieces.
My life is kind of like one big art project. I’ve collaborated with people in the past and had some opportunities to do some pretty interesting work, but I find that my ongoing process and daily expressions paint a more complete picture of my life as I’m living it. Design and art help me make sense of the world and are my natural response to my experience in it. The inspiration is always changing and moving in new directions. I just try to change and move with it.
Q: How do you navigate the art world?
The first step is always to create something. I tend to believe that everything else will fall into its proper place if I can just focus on doing that. And its always in that act that I find the greatest fulfillment. In a practical sense, I utilized social media, my website, and my network to communicate my work. As a creative person I am always looking for new perspectives. I hope my work conveys that in some way.
Q: What would you consider your best assets or contributions for the art world?
I haven’t come close to a real contribution yet. I still have so much to learn. But I’m starting to ask questions and see what’s possible. Hopefully it produces something good.
Q: What major artists do you look up to and why?
Bob Ross. I watched a lot of Bob Ross when recovering from a broken ankle. He got me through a rough patch.
Q: What’s the greatest art tip you’ve ever received?
Q: What advice do you give aspiring artists who want to get into this industry?
To me art isn’t an industry, it reaches beyond the commercial world. Start exploring that space, keep creating, and let it happen naturally.
Q: In 5 years, how do you think your art will evolve?
Art is unpredictable. The past year has been a whirlwind of life experience and creativity for me. In the next 5 years I’d like to become more proficient in design, drawing, painting, and collage.
Q: What is the main thing you wish to achieve within the art community?
I just want to find contentment in my work and inspiration in my community and life. To me that is success.
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The Vault Collection will be exclusively available on www.thevaultapp.com