The Law of Love: Interview With Artist GW Harper

The Law of Love

Interview by Charlie McAfee, @th3randomblogger

The Law of Love, the Law of Happiness, the Law of Giving and the one we may all hear the most, the Law of Attraction. GW Harper, an Atlanta born Artist, who even though she has had many setbacks and discouragement throughout her life, is still optimistic and fervent to attract good to be greater for her artistry and wellbeing.

Coming from a family that reams of longevity in age and creativity, a long journey of trials and successes in artwork won't be something abnormal but expected. She possesses a contagious and favorable persona, that spills over into her art and a determination towards her goals that only she can break. In this importance, she is attracting new heights, and reaching new levels, while inspiring many along the way.         

Give us some knowledge on who you are and how you started doing art.   

I have been a creative mind my entire life. My mom was a creative but because she was born in 1943 that wasn't really applicable for her time. She wanted to grow up and be an interior designer but they said "you're going to go to school to be a teacher" and that's what she became. By the time that I came around, my mother knew I was a creative but she said "I am going to send you to school for one thing and one thing only and that's a nurse, anything else you want to do, you can finance yourself, being an artist is a hobby and you should look at it as such. You need to go to school to get a degree and a real job." She said "Little black girls don't become artists, that's not for us--you need a real job to support yourself."   

Granted, I am happy that I had a job that I could support myself and make my own decisions but she told me I needed to put childish things away, so I pretty much forgot my artistic background---my whole life basically. My best year of school was with my third grade teacher, she introduced me to art and to this day I remember the project she had us do of an Egyptian Hieroglyphs on actual papyrus paper. That has stuck with me all these years, she stood out.   

Fast forward to three years ago, of course my husband knows I am creative, he surprisingly buys me a starter art kit, takes me to a hotel without my daughters, and says "For the whole weekend just paint your heart away" and I have been painting ever since. The only painting I had ever done in my life before that I think it was back in 2005 I bought a house and at that time I couldn't afford the real artwork so I remember sitting on my foyer floor with puppy pads to catch the paint of a couple abstract and those two paintings hung there for 12 years until I sold my house.   

I posted stuff and people started clamoring to get it, asking me "do you have anymore artwork" or "are you painting anything else?" Like 'you all would actually buy my work?' So that's what kind of started it and it wasn't until my husband bought me an easel, I had never owned one because you know how we always make excuses like "well I have to have this before I start, I have to wait" I had to stop myself and start where I am, and that's when I started painting in my kitchen, when our daughters went to sleep, my husband would cook and I would paint, that became our night ritual for a long time       

Is your use of bright and vibrant colors intentional?   

Initially, it was the colors I gravitated towards because I started off with abstract art. I never considered myself a person that could really draw or a portrait artist. When I tried to get my work into different galleries and exhibits they would always tell me "we can't accept your art it's too bright, you need to mute your colors a little bit, our clientele don't like all those bright colors" and at that moment I remember being in one gallery and saying to myself "you will not mute me as a black woman, you will not mute my color, you will not mute my usage of color, cause you have muted us as a color." Using brights is not a trend for me, it's a lifestyle. I'm not gonna go with what is trending now because colors may be big next year, so why would I change the way I do things? It's been a process. I have grown as a person, individual, as a mother, as a wife and as just a spiritual being because of my art. Same practices I use in my art, I use now in my life.       

   You will no longer mute me, my color has been muted for far too long 

- GW Harper       

What is your life philosophy?   

My life philosophy has evolved. Three years ago I was in a very different mental space. I used to live life by a checklist and had to learn how to throw that away and allow life's definitive moment's to occur because when we block those things, we block blessings our minds are not capable of understanding in that moment and time. It's like trying to explain physics to a 2 year old, their mind capacity isn't there yet to understand. Just had to allow life to happen. Planned on doing a lot of things differently but this road that happened is a whole lot better than I could of possibly imagined. I keep with that philosophy of letting the world be, and my other philosophy is "inspire, create, and repeat".       

  Inspire, Create, and Repeat - GW Harper       

What tools or media do you use?   

I work in acrylics, mixed media, gouache and watercolor. It just depends on where my mind is at. The one I work in the most and that is my basic style would be my mixed media work that I finish in resin because during that period, pouring the resin I feel is an art in itself and when I say I use mixed media, that's literally different things like wood, paper ct.       

As an RN, how was your experience during the pandemic in 2020? Through all of the chaos were you still able to nurture your art?   

Yes I was. I created a piece named 'Black and Essential', it's a portrait of me while I was at work, it received a lot of attention and I sold it immediately. A lot of things happened during covid, I decided to move to Serenbe. I came out here to see their gallery maybe 2 years ago, they looked at my stuff while I was sitting there and the gallery president started following me on Instagram. I was randomly out here a year later just having breakfast and she randomly pulled up and saw me and was like "I have been meaning to get in contact with you, we want you to be in our gallery". Then covid happened and everything shut down the day after we moved here.       

  That feeling of having gratitude, the universe understands that - GW Harper  

If your art was a song which one would it be?   

Streetcar by Daniel Caesar, basically it says "Seems like street lights glowing happen to be just like moments passing in front of me". I know where I'm going with my artwork, I'm just not there yet, I'm still on my journey but for me I'm learning that the journey is a destination. Because what are you getting to once you've gotten to this checkpoint? You're not gonna stop there.     

  I know where I'm going with my artwork, I'm just not there yet - GW Harper  

Who are your top 3 painters?   

That changes on a daily, right now it is Basquiat. When you see his work you feel the emotion. It's raw, graphic, some of it is violent but you feel his mental illness, you feel where he was in that point in time, when he painted. Almost like his mind was moving soo fast he had to get all of the emotion out and put it somewhere. Alma Thomas is one of my newer ones, she uses acrylic and watercolors and painted these beautiful rainbows, it's like a kid painted them. Lastly Kehinde Wiley. He painted the portrait of President Obama, I like his pieces because they feel a lot like my mixed media pieces.   He paints everyday black people and he adorns them with these beautiful flowers. I have a series called "The Mugshot Martyr" where I take the mugshot of famous individuals' most daunting of times and I envelop them into a bed of flowers. Kind of like you are uplifting them into a deity, sometimes I put a halo on their head and Kehinde's work resonates with me because of that.       

  You have to be resourceful - GW Harper       

What is your biggest challenge in painting?   

Starting a new piece, starting to visualize it. I usually would have dreams and visions of what it would look like, unless I am doing abstract but even then I would have to start with some strokes mentally before I start because it still has to have composition. I like to take on projects that challenge me, where it's like 'how in the world am I going to paint that, I don't even know where to start' (haha)  But taking on new challenges is like checkpoints, I was able to do this successfully on to the next thing. I had to do a live painting on zoom, painted this huge 30 X 40 piece in Somehow in literally two hours of Martin Luther King. On top of that I painted it outside in the cold. I was trying to paint it with a beautiful backdrop of the woods but there is challenges with execution.     

Are you currently working on any new projects?   

On top of nursing and starting two new businesses alongside my art, I teach art every Thursday, for five classes from kids ages 2 to 14. I am on the board of directors for Serenbe Institute and Air Serenbe and they are commissioning me to paint a 40 x 90 mural that will be on the side of a shipping container on the property of Air Serenbe art farm. So because I teach the children, I am probably going to have them help out with painting it. 

This will be my second mural, my first was in downtown Atlanta, somebody reached out to me from Instagram and I said 'I am not a portrait artist and I have never done a mural' and they said "Well if that's your problem then come on join us" and it turned into this whole other type of medium of work that I could not have foreseen. It's something that wasn't in my box because I wasn't comfortable doing it, and it turned into something great.       

Collect GW Harper's abstract pieces exclusively at Kuali Gallery!