Philip Harris


Written by James Read
10 Monday 10th December 2012

Full of character and exquisitely detailed, Philip Harris’s illustrations feature a wonderful mix of anthropomorphised animals in Victorian garb and a distinctly tattoo-like style. His work’s been snapped up by everyone from clothing lines to bands, so we jumped at the chance to probe him on where his unusual ideas come from.

'A World Run by Animals' is fantastic. Could you explain it a bit more?

Thank you so much! I produced the illustrations while at university in Plymouth. There were some great old haunts around the city and a lot of the characters were a great inspiration.

The idea came from the way that some people's mannerisms, or personality, can remind you of that of an animal. I wanted to expand this to create images where animal personalities were given their own environment and reacted to each other.


You've got a pretty broad portfolio - comics, album covers, t-shirts. Do you prefer any particular medium?

I really love working in all those mediums, but I think t-shirt design is my favourite. Printing onto fabric, as opposed to paper, adds another dimension to my work which has the potential to reach a larger audience.

What's your workspace like?

It's pretty cluttered. I work on an old writing bureau and collect all sorts of strange things picked up from my travels: stuffed animals - an alligator head and a finch, a portrait of George V, masks from Venice and Thailand, old-fashioned pocket watches, a locust in resin, smoking pipes and lead soldiers. I think they’re interesting and might be fun to draw at some stage.

I also have books that I use for reference - one on a series of old cigarette cards and another on eras in history, they are particularly good.

Inside my desk I keep my pens, the compartments are filled with different types of old dip pen nibs, fine liners and inks. I could do with a bigger desk really! 

What's the story behind Sharkhead Man and his all-seeing eye tattoo?

I’ve always been fascinated with the occult and the strange, especially from the Victorian era. I like to combine symbols with characters - such as the all-seeing eye with Sharkhead Man - in the hope that people can derive their own narrative from the piece. I love to hear the different interpretations.  

What would your ideal brief be?

That's a tough one! I really love to work with historical themes, but re-interpreted them in a different way. Perhaps illustrating a book whose characters live in the past would be an ideal brief, but designing t-shirts and album covers is pretty perfect - quite often I have the freedom for the illustrations to be completely in my own style.

So - the Pigs of Today are the Hams of tomorrow. What're you doing for Christmas?

The pigs of today are the pigs in blankets of tomorrow. I will probably spend Christmas with my girlfriend, family and friends, with lots of food, a few ales and an open fire.


See more photos and read more about the project at or

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