Born in 1951 outside of Detroit Michigan, Harlan grew up not far from Cranbrook Art Academy. Blessed with parents who loved art and encouraged artists, Harlan's early years were spent in the frequent company of artists. Her father shared his deep love and respect for Nature during frequent long walks, bicycle rides, gardening and making wine.
Harlan's artistic talents were encouraged from childhood. Every year included some form of art instruction covering a vast array of media: ceramics, encaustic painting, collage, graphics, acrylic painting, weaving, watercolors, basket weaving, and metal smithing. She excelled easily in whatever media she chose to use. While having enjoy formal art training, Harlan is a self-taught oil painter. Oil painting is her preferred medium: "its like an extension of my mind". She devoted a great deal of time to learning the science behind the medium to understand how and why oil paintings are constructed as they are. Her paintings are not only beautiful but are painted with integrity.
Harlan has several one woman shows in the greater Detroit area during the early and mid 1980s. Her pen and ink drawing of a fish was the cover for the Great Detroit Aquarium Society's magazine for many years. She served as Vice-president for one year and President for three years for the Fenton Artist Guild. It was necessary for the guild to alter the by-laws to allow her to remain president for the third year.
In 1986 Harlan married and became less artistically active after the birth of her son in 1990, turning her creativity to smaller projects that would easily conform to the demands of raising a toddler. Since 1995 she has returned to her easel with a renewed energy and purpose.
"Art patrons deserve to have a work of art that will last far longer than they will. I consider it almost contemptuous of some modern artists who give no real consideration to the durability of their work."
Nature has always been a reoccurring theme throughout Harlan's professional career which has included portraits, abstracts, fantasy and conceptual work. As a strong believer that a painting must speak for itself without an explanation from the artist, Harlan now devotes her talents to large "portraits" of small landscapes.
"Humans tend to presume that we all perceive the world in a similar manner. As someone who has been near-sighted nearly all my life I have learned that I see very differently than my far-sighted husband. He can look at a scenic view and take it all in at once while my eye tends to focus on details within the whole. Our perception of the world around us varies so greatly. As an artist I have the opportunity to share my view, to draw attention to the amazing beauties of the natural world which are all too often just overlooked for sake of the big picture."
Harlan's paintings beckon us into that miniature world to share a delight for color, light and shadow and marvel at the beauty of Nature. Her paintings are life like without resorting to photorealism. "I prefer to think of my work as ‘Focused Impressionism'. I'm not just copying a photo on a grand scale, not that doing so isn't quite an artistic endeavor, it just isn't my particular purpose. There is a lot of "me" in every painting. I may exaggerate a color to share the emotional impact that color had on me. I may remove elements in the real scene, in the photograph that distract from the composition. I work from photos because it is simply impractical for me to try and do my work ‘plein air'. I'm fortunate to be able to "freeze" my subject with the use of a camera."
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