ST. ALBANS — Born in New York City in 1948, Melvin Harris joined the Navy during the Vietnam War and spent his twenties as a private investigator before moving out to California to become an illustrator.
He spent the next 30 years learning the field of digital art, improving his skillset in time with technological advancements, as programs switched from floppy disks to the cloud.
Now, retired with his wife in St. Albans, Harris is in the process of writing his second book on the significance of tarot card reading. He prefers digital art as a means of self-expression to more traditional mediums because the options are limitless and there is always Control-Z.
Growing up in Harlem post World War II, Harris said he had “pretty humble beginnings.” They were poor; his father worked in a textile factory and his mother was a secretary.
Segregation was “still the law of the land,” he said. “Things like Brown versus Board of Education hadn’t even been in the Supreme Court yet.”
There were certain neighborhoods that Harris wasn’t allowed access to at night because of curfews. “So what that does is it makes a community, people that really stick together and look out for one another and almost a group family dynamic,” Harris said.
Harlem was “special,” he said, due to this lack of cross-pollination.
Harris spent his youth playing instruments, visiting the Museum of Modern Art and passing the hours away in the local library. “I was always interested in a lot of things early on, but art was just something that came naturally,” he said.
Harris said he could always be found with a sketchbook, doodling away. But a career in art didn’t come until later in life.
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