Thursday, April 12, 2018

DPW Spotlight Interview: Nelia Harper

Each week we will spotlight a different DPW artist who will give away one of their best paintings. To enter to win Nelia's painting, "Across the Pond" go to Daily Paintworks and click on the link at the top of the page announcing their interview.

From Nelia's DPW Gallery:

Nelia Harper is a landscape painter who seeks to capture the aesthetic beauty of nature, and create an intimate connection between the viewer and the natural world.

A life-long creator, Nelia has engaged in artistic expression through photography, collage, and paper and fiber arts, before committing to painting with formal training. Her education began with college level drawing courses and continued under the instruction of Janeen Schissler, at the Schissler Academy of Fine Arts in Loveland, Colorado, where she worked primarily in pastel.

Intrigued by the properties of pure pigment and the historical use in the Renaissance style of painting, she then studied the technique of egg tempera under Koo Schadler at the Sedona Arts Center. (click to read more)

Tell us a bit about how you first started painting.


Well, like a lot of people I know, I loved to draw and paint when I was a kid.  I remember my mom subscribed to a magazine that had pictures of paintings – I think it was called Victorian.  Anyway, I would look at paintings by Monet and The Impressionists. I remember thinking, “I want to be like that when I grow up.”  I thought it was so adventurous and romantic.

But, like many artists I know, I dropped the idea of art and painting.  I went to college and then found a 'real job' that would 'pay off'. 

Then, while I was on vacation in Paris, I remember standing in front of a painting in the Musee D’Orsay thinking, “How do they do that? I need to learn how that do that.”  The feeling was overwhelming.  I remember looking at the dabs of color on the canvas and stepping back to see a complete image.  How did they make it looks so real?  I wanted to step into those paintings.  I knew there had to be a way to learn, and even if I wasn’t any good at painting, I could still have fun learning.

So, I took a six week acrylic painting course, and I was hooked.  From there, I decided to take a drawing course at our local community college.  After that, I kept taking classes and workshops.  I joined a plein air group and worked on my own too.  It was almost exactly six years ago that I took that first painting class, and my interest in painting and art has only grown since then.

Across the Pond
(click to view)

Enter to win by clicking on the link at the top of the DPW home page announcing Nelia's interview.

Did you have any stops and starts in your painting career? 

Well, I’ve really just gotten started in my painting career, and I hope to keep going. 


What mediums and genres have you experimented with?

I’ve worked in a variety of mediums: oil, pastel, egg tempera, gouache, watercolor, graphite, charcoal, acrylic, ink, markers… I’ve done a little experimenting with abstract painting and illustration.


Which ones have "stuck" and which ones have fallen away?

Oil has definitely stuck.  It’s easy to use, transportable, and versatile.  I paint regularly in pastel, sometimes using a watercolor or oil underpainting, and egg tempera.  Watercolor is mainly reserved for travel journals and painting with my nieces and nephews.  It sounds strange to say when the other mediums take more time, but I just don’t seem to have the patience for watercolor.

In Your Embrace
(click to view)


Which ones are you looking forward to exploring?

As I get better at color mixing and drawing, I hope to paint in egg tempera more frequently. Even though it’s incredibly time consuming, it is such a luminous medium, and I enjoy making my own supports and building up layer after layer. 

Who or what inspires you most?

I would have to say nature inspires me the most.  It’s so easy to take nature for granted.  Looking at a sunset, the shapes of clouds, the incredible colors in a bird’s feather, the variety of trees, flowers, landforms, and of course people.  Everything comes from nature.  We forget that we are part of nature and the endless creation of life. When I think about what it takes to create and support life on this planet, I’m endlessly amazed and intrigued by the diversity that nature provides.

Snow Day
(click to view)

What does procrastination look like for you?

That’s easy (laughs).  Being busy!  I joke that my favorite form of procrastination is “productive procrastination”.  I can always find a project in the garden or around the house that needs to be done.  And, I’m forever organizing my studio to make room for my next project. 

I converted a small basement bedroom into a studio.  There’s just enough room for me, a canvas, painting supplies, a table, and some tools.  It feels like I’m constantly putting things away to make room for the next painting project. 

If that fails, there’s always a good book to read, an art show, a plein air paintout, a new technique to read about or watch on YouTube, or supplies to research and buy, not to mention looking at artwork on Instagram.


What techniques work to ensure that you make time for your art?

My favorite technique is agreeing to participate in a show with fellow artists.  That seems to get the fire going more than anything.  We have a strong art community in our area.  So, typically we have to reserve space for a show at least a year in advance. 

Because I am showing my artwork along with artist friends, we are always working to improve our skills and show off for each other.  And, we all paint en plein air together.  Every Friday, our plein air group paints together at a set location.  Sometimes we’ll paint together on other days too.  Getting outside with friends is always a good motivator to paint.

I also like to submit my work to juried shows at least 2-3 times a year.  Knowing that I have a show to prepare for keeps me busy in the studio.  Having friends to paint with keeps me painting outside and motivated for the next show.

And, I have a couple of music playlists on Spotify (music app) that help get my mind in the groove too.

Aspen Meadow
(click to view)

How do you generally arrive at ideas for your paintings?

Ideas for painting typically form while I’m hiking, painting en plein air, traveling, or daydreaming.  I’m usually inspired by shape and color.  I often feel a small wave of excitement.  Usually that feeling will last, nagging me to paint it.  Sometimes it’s a really bad snapshot with the cell phone, but I’ll see the idea fully formed in my mind.  When it stays in my mind’s eye and it feels good, I know it’s worth painting.


How do you keep art "fresh?" What techniques have helped you avoid burnout and keep your work vibrant and engaging?

Luckily I’m still new to painting so I haven’t had a feeling of burnout.  As I look back, I realize that I am good at challenging myself with small risks that have potentially large rewards.  For example, I joined the Steamboat Art Musem’s Plein Air Event last fall.  For a $50 entry fee, I was able to experience a week-long plein air paintout, art show and competition.  Attending with several friends kept the cost down, and I sold a painting at the show.  I learned so much about plein air events, framing from the car, and traveling to paint.

Mostly, I find ways to challenge myself with small risks: paint larger, paint smaller, paint more realistically, more loosely, things like that. Right now, I’m learning portraiture and figure (back to the community college).  I also want to paint more complex scenes, buildings, flowers…there are so many challenges yet to paint.  The ideas keep me going.

Spring Blossoms
(click to view)


What do you feel you are learning about right now as an artist?

Hmmm… this is a tough question.  From a technical standpoint, I would say that I’m learning about light.  How it affects color and form, especially on the human body.  From a philosophical perspective, I’m learning about the value of beauty and living a joyful life.  For so long, I pushed myself in a career, I focused on society’s idea of success (the accumulation of things and prestige) and I lost my way.  Now, I think about what really matters: the human experience and how I want to enjoy living.


What makes you happiest about your art?

Art really is about the journey: painting with friends, braving the elements, figuring out how to make something look real, solving problems, seeing the joy in another person’s eyes when they look at my work, hearing the stories of collectors…

Once a piece leaves the studio, the influence of that artwork is often unknown.

For example, a few years ago, during our holiday art show, an elderly gentleman bought a print I had on display.  It was a print of an egg tempera painting, depicting a scene in Italy – a small courtyard with flowers.

He asked me questions about the location, and we chatted for a bit about our travels.  He used to travel for work and lived all over the world.  I shared with him the story of the hilltop town and the process of creating the painting. He dug into his pocket for some cash, and bought the print.  I signed it for him, and after a few more minutes, we wished each other a ‘happy holiday’ and parted.

The following year, as I set up for our annual holiday show a fellow artist came over and asked me, “Do you remember Harry, that older gentleman that bought a print from you last year?”  Of course I remembered him.  We had a really nice talk, and he was so excited about that print.

She told me he kept that print right next to his bed.  He looked at it every day.  It reminded him of the places he had lived and he kept it close to him.  A few months after we met, he died. 

Even though it’s a sad story, it’s filled with happiness.  We never know the impact that our work will have on other people.  I like to think that print brought him happiness and comfort in his final days.  As Claude Monet says, “Everyone discusses my art and pretends to understand, as if it were necessary to understand, when it is simply necessary to love.”

Thanks, Nelia!

© 2018 Sophie Marine

Thursday, April 5, 2018

DPW Spotlight Interview: Deborah Savo

Each week we will spotlight a different DPW artist who will give away one of their best paintings. To enter to win Deborah's painting, "A Little Bit of Spring" go to Daily Paintworks and click on the link at the top of the page announcing their interview.

From Deborah's DPW Gallery:

Graduated from Moore College of Art in Philadelphia majoring in Illustration with a minor in painting. After 28 years of working as an art director I wanted to explore my love of oil painting. I love to paint people and animals and I'd love to start doing some plein air work and continue to explore light, color and composition.

Tell us a bit about how you first started painting. 

I had a love of art from a small age. My mother was very creative and encouraged my creativity by buying me different art supplies. I remember spending many lazy summer afternoons playing with my watercolor set. In college, I majored in illustration and minored in painting. After graduation, I worked doing graphic arts and illustration but remember knowing that I’d return to my love of oil painting. A few years ago when I retired, I pulled out my paints and started to play around.

Did you have any stops and starts in your painting career? 

I painted in college, and other than my illustrations, I didn’t paint for many years. Unless you count the many school play sets I painted when my kids were in school. I always felt like I didn’t have the time to devote to painting. After working in graphics for thirty years I wanted to go back to developing my oil painting. At first I played around with the skills I had and did some pet portraits, they are still a love of mine. During my internet researching I came across Carol Marine’s name and daily painting. This spurred my interest in daily painting. I loved her little paintings; they are so fresh and full of life.

A Little Bit of Spring
(click to view)

Enter to win by clicking on the link at the top of the DPW home page announcing Deborah's interview.

What mediums and genres have you experimented with?

My first illustrations were done in watercolor and colored pencils.

Many years ago I worked in an in house corporate art department. While I designed booklets and brochures, I also did some illustrating. These were mostly technical product renderings. But my favorite thing I did were these caricatures of people who were retiring or receiving awards. I continued to do these for about twenty years. Painted only a handful a year but enjoyed the opportunity to paint because, during this time, most of my designing and illustrations were created on the computer.

My current paintings are oils. I have a great love of animals and do pet portraits by commission. Other genres are still lifes and some florals. Attending a class at a local art center spurred my interest of alla prima and plein air painting.

Which ones have "stuck" and which ones have fallen away? 

I’ve always loved painting oil. I haven’t painted in watercolor in years but still love the luminousity that the media has.


Big and Little Pears
(click to view)

Which ones are you looking forward to exploring? 

Right now most of my paintings are alla prima still lifes but I’d like to further my skills in plein air painting.

Who or what inspires you most? 

My favorite artist of the past is John Singer Sargent. There are too many artists of today that I aspire to. I’m drawn to the impressionistic and figurative painters. The looseness of their brush strokes and use of color amazes me as it is something that I struggle with.


Shandy & DeeDee
(click to view)

What does procrastination look like for you? 

Procrastination is a big thing that I struggle with. I can waste a lot of time browsing the internet looking for inspiration and get caught up in looking at other artists. While I think it is important to look and learn other artists, I spend too much time looking and not getting to work on my own paintings.

What techniques work to ensure that you make time for your art? 

I’ve participated in a couple thirty day challenges and they’re really helpful keeping me on a schedule.

A Cozy Spot
(click to view)

How do you generally arrive at ideas for your paintings? 

Sometimes I go to the store and buy a bunch of pretty fruits and vegetables and they inspire me to paint them. I also have a cabinet of things I’ve collected that I thought would make a great painting. I love to grab my camera and ride my bike around town looking for interesting places to paint. I find myself taking mental notes as I’m driving…great skies, colors in the shadows, an interesting tree, an old barn. Mostly it’s the lighting that grabs my attention. I often have to remind myself to pay attention to driving. I try to only do this when I’m the passenger!

How do you keep art "fresh?" What techniques have helped you avoid burnout and keep your work vibrant and engaging? 

Looking at other artists past and present. I’ll pull out a book or search an artist I’ve heard about. I also listen to art podcasts. Listening to other artist talk about their struggles and inspirations helps me with mine.

Johnny Cat
(click to view)

What do you feel you are learning about right now as an artist? 

Right now I feel like a baby artist. Sometimes it overwhelms me how much there is to know. My use of color and brushwork is my main focus. As an illustrator everything was very tight and I have to constantly remind myself to be looser and not to get caught up in the details. I love being an artist and it is a constantly evolving journey.

What makes you happiest about your art?

When I hear from a viewer that it made them smile or evoked an emotion.

Thanks, Deborah!

© 2018 Sophie Marine