Friday, August 9, 2013

Friday Feature: Nancy Rhodes Harper

"Lavender Heels" original work by Nancy Rhodes Harper
Nancy Rhodes Harper grew up in a  small town in the Ozark Mountains surrounded by paint and brushes in her fathers sign shop.  She started painting at a very early age.  Continuing to study in school she received a BA degree in Art Education from the University of Central Arkansas.  After marriage, and completion s of Nancy's husbands Phd in Physics from Auburn graduate school, the couple landed in Huntsville, Alabama.  Nancy continued to paint and grow as an artist while working in interior design, sign painting and freelancing as an artist.  After raising a son with the support of her husband and family Nancy decided to pursue painting full time.  Using bold color, lush descriptive brushstrokes and very often whimsy she sets about doing what she loves painting everyday.   She creates whimsical women in everyday settings with exaggerated features such as elongated hands, arms, unusual faces and long lean bodies with wonderful color.  Her work is collected in many states across America and can be found in the Atelier Gallery, Charleston, SC, Nelson Fine Art Gallery, Wilmington, NC and  in Art in Miniature in Tubac, AZ.

To see more of her work visit her website, blog and facebook page

How did you get your start? What’s your artist journey so far?

My father was a sign painter so I had access to art supplies at a very young age. I started drawing and using pastels around the age of 5. I knew I wanted to pursue art and nothing else from that time on. I drew constantly and had my first art class experience in high school . After that, I went to college and while I only wanted to do studio work in order to continue school I had to get a degree in art education so I could get a student loan. I continued to paint in watercolor doing portraits and fashion illustration with a few shows. Following my husband as he worked on his Phd. there was little opportunity for further study for me as I worked in non art related jobs, with no internet and a small family budget. Raising our son like many other women my art was put aside for many years. Once he was grown I began work as a daily painter just for myself. That is when I started painting in oil exclusively. Taking many workshops with internationally known artists. I focused on plein air but knew that was not my love. My love had always been painting women and putting them in fashion that I liked. I made the decision only 2 years ago to stop painting anything but women, that I call my "ladies".

Where were you born?

I was born in Berryville, Arkansas a very small town in the heart of the Ozark Mountains.

If you could live anywhere where would you live?

I often think of moving and living in other places but I suppose if I had my choice, I would live in Eureka Springs, Ar. that is where I am the happiest and I draw greg energy from being there.

"Traffic Stopper" original work by Nancy Rhodes Harper
What’s your favorite thing to paint and why?

My favorite things to pant are women either portrait type or full figures, To me making up a face, a body position, putting the character in any setting I choose, is complete freedom as a painter. They belong to me they are in my mind.

Could you talk about your painting techniques?

I like to paint large and small. I usually begging with a quick sketch in oil on the canvas or panel. I very rarely do a preliminary sketch. I do use references at times for body positions or what a piece of furniture looks like or search for an usual pattern in a fabric but over all I make the composition up in my head and not from life. Everyone should paint from life at some point but now I find it frustrating as I can paint a person doing exactly what I want without having to pose someone. I often exaggerate things like necks, hands, legs, facial features.

"Purple Poppy" original work by Nancy Rhodes Harper
Do you have go-to paints/colors, what are your favorites?

I tend to gravitate toward very cool colors and rarely will I do a warm color painting, although I am trying to get better at that. I love pinks, lavenders, soft blue greens. I then add touches of yellows and oranges and I am always aware of using complimentary colors for harmony.

Do you have a favorite artist? Who has been your biggest inspiration?

My favorite artist at the moment is Milt Kobayashi and I have been privileged to study

with him and call him a friend. Also when I was younger Andrew Wyeth was a huge inspiration. But now Milt is my favorite by far.
"If The Hat Fits Wear It" original work by Nancy Rhodes Harper
What have been some of your crowning achievements? 

I have won awards and sold paintings but truly not one thing stands out to me other than being accepted in fine art galleries. To me that was a goal I worked hdd to achieve.

What are five things you would like to happen in your life in the next five years? Dream big here:)

In the next five years I would like to go to Paris and Italy continue to study with Milt Kobayshi every year. Hopefully continue to find success in new art galleries and perhaps even make a little more money doing what I love.

"Striped Pajamas" original work by Nancy Rhodes Harper
What is your advice for other artists who are just getting started in their career?

 If I had the opportunities offered today with the internet and the many varied accomplished artists etching through workshops I would skip college and use the money to study with as many as I could afford. I would draw and paint as many hours as I could manage and never stop. I would not let anyone stand in my way with opinions about my work. You have to believe in yourself more than anyone else does and study all of the time. You will never learn all there is to know. Be open to new possibilities. Paint for your joy and love of it.

What is the best advice that you have received as an artist? 

I am a stubborn person, When I was 5 I entered an art contest drawing a picture of Emmet Kelley the clown. My work was refused because they didn't fell I had really done the work myself. That had a huge impact on me and from then on I had something to prove, that I could do the work, I could be noticed and they would not stop me. It turned out that little bit of criticism by a teacher, someone who wasn't even qualified to just an art contest was my best inspiration. So I would say it really wasn't advice it was a personal drive. When I grew older I thrived on my work and loved it so much I didn't care I just wanted to paint for myself. To this day I don't really care for entering art competitions as they are judged by the opinions of others which doesn't really matter to me. It is nice to be recognized and appreciated by wards don't drive me. I drive me and my love of the work.
"Twilight Indeed" original work by Nancy Rhodes Harper

 Chocolate or vanilla? Chocolate

Your dream vacation spot? Big Sur, Ca.

Book or movie?

Favorite author?
I hate to read...eek.

Favorite movie? Being There starring Peter Sellers

Romance or comedy?

Favorite dessert?
Blackberry Cobbler

Night owl or morning person? Morning Person 

Thank you so much Nancy:)


  1. Wow - Nancy has a very individual style with her elongated characters. SO lovely and quirky! :0)

  2. Thanks for sharing Nancy Harpers work with us...
    Beautiful work!!!

  3. Excellent! Twilight Indeed reminds me of a friend!

  4. I love Nancy and loved learning more about her. Thanks so much for this peek into her life!

  5. Thanks for the insight into this great artist, I love her work.