Brad Harris’ illustrations capture the innocence of everyday childhood

South African artist Brad Harris draws from childhood experience to create stories and illustrations that capture child-like innocence.

From the Series

As a child, writer and illustrator Brad Harris remembers listening to his father’s “fantastic” tales while cruising on a Cape Town highway. Although his father never wrote anything down, what stuck with Harris was the powerful impact storytelling had on his imagination. Now, Harris illustrates and writes children books while using his skills to mentor young minds. Through his creations, Harris imparts some of the whimsy that shaped his childhood.

“I try to imagine what I used to see the world like as a child - drawing on that innocence to depict the imaginary in everyday life,” he says.

After graduating with a BA in English and Classics, Harris found that storytelling did not have to be confined to written word. “In fact, my love of illustration began to feed my writing and vice versa,” he says. “I illustrate for the same reason that I write now, and that is to tell a specific story of specific intention.”

His latest work, an anthology of seven illustrated short stories, entitled Seven, was released in May. “Five of these stories explore loss and fatherhood while the final two try to understand the process of writing itself,” he explains.

Harris is also involved in a mentorship initiative called Sk8 for Gr8. The project pairs local artists with at-risk children in Cape Town. Founded by his wife, Alison Parker, the program creates its products by educating the next generation in design thinking through art and Cape Town’s skate culture. They have just completed their third round of workshops, entitled Back to Front.

“We started our first workshop with Harris explaining the importance of story, as he drew from his knowledge of being a creative writer and illustrator”, explains Parker.

“Design and creativity are often boxed into an end product, when in fact it is a way of thinking,” she adds. “Once we realise this, we start to realise a world of opportunities.”

The skateboard decks Harris and other mentors have created alongside their mentees will be on display at Sk8 for Gr8’s exhibition and auction, which will take place on 19 May at the Woodstock Man Cave in the suburb of Woodstock, Cape Town.