Fruit Punch - an interview with Harris Keenan

We knew when releasing our latest Fruit Punch seasonal blend that it's a little different to your everyday coffee blend. It catches you off guard, takes your taste buds for a ride and, most importantly, pushes boundaries in terms of what coffee can be.

For every iteration of our Fruit Punch series, we work closely with an artist to create a vibrant visual for our packaging. The brief is always very loose: create, in your own style, a punchy artwork for a fruity espresso blend. Then the floor is theirs: no medium is out of bound, and we’re happy with wherever inspiration takes them.

This year, we reached out to Harris Keenan, a talented up-and-coming and multi-hyphenate artist with whom we share a bit of a connection. Harris visits our Kingsland roastery almost daily to fuel up his day (oat flat white is his regular), and we’ve worked with him on the design of some of our footpath signs.

We’ve always been big fans of his work – colourful, playful, intricate. From his festival maps to large scale murals, front-shop lettering work and light installations, his touch is instantly recognizable, and we knew it’d be a perfect fit for this new iteration of Fruit Punch.

We caught up with him to chat about his work, where he finds inspiration and who he looks up to in the art scene.

How long have you been working as an illustrator, and how did you come about working in this field?

Four, five years? I haven’t been doing it for full time for that amount of time but started maybe a year out of university and started by working on events for a light artist, Angus Muir – he is a legend.

With event work, you’re doing so many jobs a week, always working on different projects and meeting different people, so it was the best networking place. And as a newcomer, making money and working as an artist – that was a perfect opportunity.

Did you study anything at university that has to do with what you do now?

I studied spatial design – it’s kind of like architecture and I guess my style – axonometric drawing – draws from that. One of our papers was a drawing class and I really loved drawing in three dimensions. It felt like building a little world, but you could move through it with your eyes. It really fascinated me, and I continued drawing in that sort of way for the rest of the degree, wherever I could.

I guess I kind of put my own turn on it, in the sense that it’s not really technical ruled drawing – there is no ruler, it’s all hand drawn.. People ask if I grid it up, but if you look closely, it’s actually not perfect, maybe it’s slightly tilted, etc. But I liked to draw in that perspective. And it was a cool way to express a world or an idea – like a mind map, but art. A combo of information and visual – that’s what informed my style.

Would you say that’s your core style, or have you added a few more elements since being out of university?

I feel like I have a mix of styles: there’s definitely that figure-based one, which is that square-headed character that’s on the Fruit Punch packaging. For a while, that was quite separate from the axonometric drawing, and I felt caught in a split personality situation. But I did a painting not that long ago where I combined the two, and realised that they can fit together. The Fruit Punch packaging was only the second time joining these two styles together, and it works great.

 Do you think your style will keep evolving?

Yep, definitely. I think it will constantly keep evolving, I don’t think I can stick to that axonometric style. I thought I was going to for a while, but I got really bored. I need to do heaps of different things.

 Does that translate into the different mediums you use?

Yeah for sure – I’ve started doing collages, experimenting with digital drawing, hand drawing, scanning, pasting etc. I’m always experimenting with textures as well. And then there’s the visual painting that I do at the studio I work out of with musicians, The Winch. When they’re making music, I’m painting, and this is more free-flowing, no restriction other than the canvas and the tools I’m using. Just soaking up the vibe. The music has helped me become more free. I just want to keep going with that.

How do you find inspiration? Are there elements that trigger things, help you?

I always start with scribbling in my sketchbook. And writing - I’ve been trying to write a bit more, rather than going straight to visuals. Like bullet points, or stream of consciousness.

I’ll leave the house, get out in nature, ideally out of the city, with music playing, completely alone. And then dive deep within my own self.

I’m currently working out of The Winch, a hub for music with lots of people jamming. But I can’t really stay in one spot and am constantly jumping around.

Harris Keenan in front of his mural for Nanny's Eatery in Kingsland

Is there a work of yours that’s your favourite?

The mural up the road probably. It was quite fun. I was sitting at Nanny's Eatery, the restaurant, drawing a little dude, that DJ character, while I was eating. And the restaurant owner, JP, asked if I was an artist and if I did murals, and then pointed out two walls and asked if I could do something on them. I was like, ‘what do you want, what’s the brief?’ and he just said ‘I saw what you were doing, just do your thing’. I ended up painting on his wall exactly what I’d been doodling in my notebook – no back and forth, just straight up.

I also just finished the design of a vinyl record for the band No Cigar – I did the whole design of the back and front covers and there’s an insert with all the sketches for those, as well as a lyric sheet, etc. It’s not often that you put out a product that shows the process. I painted the cover while they were recording the album, with headphones on. That’s quite special, bringing music into it.

Any people or project that you’d be keen to work with / explore?

Do a mural for Atomic? Haha. I remember thinking about that when I was walking past years ago…

Otherwise, I’d love to work with some more international clients. I’d love to go overseas, hopefully in a year or two.

And then keep working with these musicians who don’t have any art out yet, help them get recognised. It’s not paid work, it’s passion & free creation. That’s the main focus at the moment.

Which artists do you look up to?

First one that comes to mind is Angus Muir, for sure. The musicians at the Winch studio, all of them. Oh and then Gina Kiel, she’s a Kiwi girl who does big murals and is part of a small collective of women artists who do collaborative artworks and murals around the country. I really like their style.

 Keen to try our Fruit Punch blend? Grab yourself a bag here

Older Post