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Harlan

Artist's Interview

How long have you been creating?
A whole life time and then some. I can't remember "not creating" but I was very blessed to have parents who loved and supported the arts. Creativity was encouraged in our home, in all the ways that it might exhibit itself. I was artistically creative at an early age. Art was a regular part of schools way back then so I had classes in art from day one and my folks saw to it that I got extra classes outside of formal school. Certainly that helped but growing up in a home where even the dishes we ate off of were hand made and anything that could be made by an artist was, that really influences your perspective on the value of art and creativity.
What is your medium of choice?
Oil paints are my love! I have worked with just about every medium, acrylics, watercolor, encaustics, ceramics, weaving, paper making, basket weaving, pen and ink .... Really, I've worked with so many different mediums but oil paint is my "home", the tool that really allows me to communicate as an artist, allows me to most completely say what I want to say with my work.
What are your motivations for creating?
What are my motivations? Why do I breathe? I create because I must. I cannot imagine not creating, it is such a fundamental need in my being. Creating is a means of understanding and communicating. The discipline I have had to learn, the time that I devote, the gifts that I bring to my work these are all things that help me better understand this life and share that with others.
What other artists and movements inform your work?
That's no simple question. (laugh) I can name many artists and art works and movements that I adore or hate that had/have an influence of one sort of another upon me as a person and upon me as an artist: the power and pathos of Michelangelo, the precision of Durer, the perceptual play of Escher, the beauty of Monet, the skill of the Pre-Raphaelites, the curiosity and insight of the Impressionists, the grace of Hokusai, the Book of Kells, the graffiti on the sign under the train overpass, the list is endless and always will be endless and growing. What most informs my work is how I see. There is sort of presumption that we all see the same. Yes, we know some people are nearsighted, like me, and others are farsighted and some have perfect vision but that somehow we see the same and, in reality, we do not. I often talk to my husband, who is farsighted, about the differences in the way we see. The differences are really quite profound. Because of my vision, I focus on small subjects in detail. When I'm looking across a vast landscape, my eyes and focus are darting from one small area to another. I have a sense of the whole, I can see the whole but I'm focused on something within that whole. I can never look at the whole thing at once; my vision just doesn't work that way. I believe, as a result of this, I see things in the world around us that others often overlook and my work is an attempt to bring their attention to the amazing beauty that's all around us.
What do you find stimulating right now? How does this influence your creative process?
Its fall here and the leaves are changing colors! That by itself is enough to overwhelm me in a very wonderful way. Have you ever sat down with a pile of red maple leaves and started looking at them individually? I love the woods and wild areas. I love them most when the sunlight is strong and works its magic in light and shade. The sun can take a drab brown oak leaf and illuminate its soul and dazzle you with colors that you didn't even know were there. The magic of sunlight captivates me!
Read anything good lately?
Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince, I love the Potter books. I love to read and I usually have several books going at once of an informative nature. Currently I'm reading The Dog Listener and Donna Kato's Art of Polymer Clay as well as The Artists Guide to New Markets. These are books that I'm reading to learn something specific but when I latch onto a good novel everything else gets put aside. I go through spurts with reading. When I'm really into it, I can read four or five books a week. I tend to get into genres, such as mysteries or science fiction or fantasy, find an author that I like, read every book they ever wrote and then look for the next author to tickle my interest. There just isn't enough time for them all!
I see that you took a hiatus from your large scale work after becoming a mother in 1990. Any tips for the newish mother (or father) getting back into work mode? And how, if at all, has your work changed since becoming a mother?
Just do it! Do something creative, however small, but do it! I had to put aside oil painting when my son was born because that isn't a medium that you can drop at a moments notice and then come back an hour later and pick up where you left off. So while my son was very young I found other creative outlets that I could put aside at a moments notice and return to when time allowed. I did a lot of craft work. I had a lovely time trying new things and techniques such as my Christmas ornaments. This allowed me to use the skills I struggled to gain and all of it was perfectly applicable to oil painting when at last I was able to haul out the canvases and brushes. Prior to my son being born my work was good but I still hadn't found my focus. I did a lot of different things. I studied, I experimented, I painted and knit and carved and embroidered and made a lot of very interesting work. After my son was born everything I ever did all seemed to come together. I'd found my focus. That's a rather ironic turn of phrase given that my work is very detailed, "focused" as it were but I'm not doing photo realism. I suppose I could but I don't want to go that far. I need to leave something of "me" in my paintings, changes in color, changes to the lights and shadows, elements that are uniquely "me". I jokingly refer to my genre as "Extremely Sharp Edged Impressionism".
What would you like your fellow EBSQ artists and collectors to know about you and or your work?
I'm really rather hoping that they don't need me to explain my work. My paintings have to speak for themselves. I believe that is fundamental to art, it must speak for itself. If you have to have a long explanation as to the meaning and significance, the work itself is powerless. My paintings speak for themselves. I would like my work to give others pleasure and enjoyment but most of all I want it to make them look at the world around them differently and to appreciate the incredible beauty of Nature.

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