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Bayou Artist | Haven Harrod

By Nathan Coker
In Bayou Artist
Jan 31st, 2024

article by Starla Gatson
photography by Kelly Moore Clark

Like her artwork, Haven Harrod has a calming energy. Her voice is quiet and soft as she answers questions between sips of iced coffee, mirroring the less intense colors — sage green, slate gray, and white, for example — that often show up in her paintings. But don’t mistake her quietness for uncertainty. There’s confidence in the things she tells BayouLife, and that comes through in her artwork.

Harrod may be young, but the 19-year-old Louisiana State University sophomore is certain she is meant to be an artist — “I found my calling, I guess you would say.” However, she hasn’t always felt that way.

As a child growing up in Arkansas, Harrod spent much of her time drawing and coloring. However, she didn’t begin to take art seriously until she and her family moved to Monroe during her sophomore year of high school. In fact, she admits, “I didn’t know fine art or mixed media art or anything like that was a thing until I moved here. I definitely didn’t see myself in this world at all.”

Harrod credits Robin Hamaker, a local interior designer and artist, with ushering her into painting and the North Louisiana art scene. Now, thanks to Hamaker’s guidance and encouragement, “working artist” is a title Harrod can claim.

She’s settling into the professional art world quite nicely, having had her pieces included in the 13th and final Tish Miller Design Studio Sweep art sale in November, 2023, and available for purchase at The Trove on Tower Drive and Woodstock Monroe in the Garden District. Harrod also has expansion on the brain, and she’s currently making plans to get her work into more shops in Monroe and beyond. 

Harrod says the success she’s experienced so far has been rewarding overall. But the journey doesn’t come without obstacles, and one she often finds herself having to overcome is self-doubt. 

“Sometimes, I think I’m not good enough to be compared to all of these amazing artists that have years and years of experience,” she says. “But over the past few months, I’ve had a lot of reassurance that my art is good.”

That reassurance, much of which has come from Hamaker — “She has helped me in so many ways, more than she knows,” Harrod shares, — helps motivate her to push through the self-doubt and intimidation. But even without it, Harrod would probably find a way to put herself out there anyway. 

“What’s going to happen,” she muses, “they tell me my art’s bad? Everybody has an opinion.” 

Claiming her space among more experienced artists, some of whom have been making and selling artwork since before Harrod was born, is scary. But it has to be done, or no one will know her work. And that, she declares, is the ultimate goal: “I want people to know me and my art.”

How exactly people will know her art is still unclear. Harrod is still ironing out the more immediate steps of her journey, let alone the long-term goals. She tells us that right now, she’s pondering things like whether she’ll transfer to another university and change her major from interior design to art and when she will begin hosting her own Painting with a Twist-style class in the area. For now, though, she remains open to opportunities as they come, hoping they’ll result in a wider reach and a larger audience.

“I strive to be somewhere other than Monroe,” she shares. “I want to spread [my art] elsewhere and have my art in different locations across the U.S I’m grateful for the opportuniy my community has given me, but my dream is to have my collection all over the country.”

The art Harrod creates and one day hopes to share with patrons across the nation mostly consists of mixed media on canvas. Occasionally, the artist likes to switch things up and experiment with painting on other surfaces, like wood, candles, or paper, but she says she mostly sticks to working on a canvas — “It’s what I was introduced to first, and it’s what I’m comfortable doing.” Regardless of what she’s painting on, Harrod wants the finished product to achieve a certain goal, and that is to create a sense of peace and calm for anyone who sees it.

An advocate for mental health, Harrod knows that a person’s physical space can affect their mind more than they realize. So, keeping that in mind, Harrod sets out to create pieces that can add a sense of calm to a room. That’s why she sticks to such a light color palette, she says, adding with a laugh, “Intense colors scare me.”

Harrod hopes that when people see one of her paintings hanging in a room, it feels peaceful, like a breath of fresh air. After all, she adds, a person’s home is their resting place and safe space; if they choose to decorate it with her artwork, she wants it to add to the calm energy, not fight against it.

“I want someone to look at my art and be able to take a deep breath and be relaxed by it,” she says. 

That’s how Harrod feels as she’s creating the work — calm and relaxed. The 2022 Neville High School graduate says painting is a peaceful escape from reality, adding, “I’ll sit in my studio for hours on end and not even realize.”

No matter how peaceful she feels after a few hours-long painting session or how relaxed the final product makes someone else feel, Harrod says there’s more to her artwork than just a soothing color palette and a series of masterful brushstrokes.