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About the Artist

Over the years, Rob March Harper has worked as an illustrator for magazines, writers, shows and museums. "It's taken me 30 years to get to the gallery in New York. You have to have patience in this business." Harper has been painting since he was a child, when his uncle gave him, a set of paints. It was his "wonderful art teacher" in high school who inspired him to make art his career. so he studied at the San Francisco Art Institute, where he got his BFA, then a master's degree in painting from Washington University in St. Louis Harper, 69, calls his work "miniature paintings" because they're done on wood panels measuring 8 inches high by 6 inches wide. His themes are brightly colored buildings, people, cars, airplanes the stuff of life and history, he says. "My people are 6 to 8 inches high, so they're not in miniature in comparison." He gets ideas from magazines, newspapers, TV shows - anything that showcases people. I'm always, looking for interesting people to paint," he says. He also likes mixing historical periods. In one painting he has Bing Crosby with Sir Francis Drake. In another, John Wayne's head is on Peter Fonda's body, but only he knows that, he says.

California Roots
Harper attributes his success to self-confidence and delight in painting. "I feel good about myself," said the tall, mustached Harper who can trace his family back four generations in the Golden State. The painter was raised in Carmichael and moved to the Bay Area to attend San Francisco Art Institute. He then moved to St. Louis in 1972 to earn an MFA degree at Washington University. As soon as he completed his degree, he and his wife returned to the Bay Area. While finishing his last year at the San Francisco Art Institute, Harper sold his first painting for $75 to Mrs. Walter Haas for the Haas Collection in the city. In 1974 he entered the Mid-America Five show held jointly by the Nelson Gallery of Art in Kansas City, Mo., and the St. Louis Art Museum. His painting "Lots of Board," so named by the artist because it was 14 feet long, received the second highest prize in the competition. Not only was this Harper's first painting ever hung in a museum, it was also purchased by Hallmark Cards Inc. to add to their collection in Kansas City. Before Harper's success with "Snack on the Tarmac," he was the featured station break artist for Channel 9. Many of Harper's paintings feature a common motif - scenes of Bridal Veil Falls and familiar rock formations in Yosemite National Park. The valley inspired Harper when he taught summer classes there in 1984. "I introduced oil and acrylic painting to the park program for the first time," says the artist. "These classes are free to the public and it's so exciting to meet people from all over the ¬world."

Enthusiastic teacher
Harper's long list of stints teaching art includes Kings Canyon National Park and Sequoia National Park. And in the early and mid-70s Harper volunteered in the Oakland schools, teaching art to children from pre-school to junior high age. Through his teaching experiences, he devised a quick, free-flowing approach to painting. "Students can be intimidated when they look at one of my paintings," Harper says. "The content may make them smile, but they see the work involved and think they can't do it. This is especially true of adult students, so I developed a different technique to loosen them up." "They don't have to be (good) painters; but I hope that they can have quick results." In addition to entering competitions, teaching, and tracking family history, Harper has taken on numerous graphic art jobs. He illustrated two travel books, Hidden Mexico and Hidden San Francisco and Northern California. His drawings have appeared in many local magazines. Then there's the article with photos he wrote for the spring issue of The Californians magazine, which recounted the story of his mother's McGee family entering California in 1850 from Texas. Harper also did the opening animation segment for the TV promotion of the 1987 San Jose Film Festival. "This was a totally new endeavor for me," he says. "I had to create 200 drawings for a six second spot." He donated the drawings to the festival to be sold as part of the fund raiser. His own landscapes demonstrate a technique in which he uses finger strokes to define scenes painted in acrylic or oil on watercolor paper. "I don't like depressing things," Harper says. "Painting is almost like a religious experience for me. I'm creating something which I hope will make people feel better about life."

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Email: robmharper@robharperstudio5.com   Telephone: (510) 910-6920
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