|Carrie Harper, whose exhibit at Willow Park South Church opens Thursday, not only paints, but teaches classes as well.|
Harper has a new show that officially opens this week at Willow Park South Church.
She was one of the 10 creative people recently featured at Bo.ttega's 10 10 10 event, where she candidly spoke about the fact she suffers from a condition known as bipolar.
"A lot of us who are creative in the arts suffer from it," she said, noting how the creative brain functions differently.
The important part for Harper, however, is learning to see bipolar simply as a trait, and not a problem - a trait that can sometimes work in her favour. "I've had times where the bipolar has sort of created this perfect storm of extreme creativity," she said.
"And after, I will crash, if I really pour into it."
Harper grew up in Kelowna, moving here in 1973. She was a student at Okanagan Mission Secondary and that's where she fell in love with creating art.
"Ruth Humberstone was the art teacher there and was kind of a mentor to me early on."
Continuing on to study at a formal art school was out of the question after high school due to cost. However, after she moved to Calgary and married, it became an option.
"I got to go to the Alberta School of Art," she said, where she studied for two and a half years, before she began having children.
"I never did get to finish my degree," she said. "It's something I'd love to do, but I'm doing everything I would now if I had a fine arts degree."
The "everything" includes teaching art classes, painting and having her work sold in galleries. She's even held down what she determined to be the typical post graduating art school job: working at Opus after moving back to Kelowna in 2001.
"A lot of people who work at Opus have just graduated with fine arts degrees."
But for Harper, earning an official degree credential really isn't important in relation to her success as an artist.
"It's more in your approach," she said.
And she would know. Her success as an artist continues to blossom as brightly as the poppies that can be found frequently blooming on her canvases.
Dealing with the challenges of bipolar, she's found that her approach to that is equally important as her approach to being an artist.
"I've made huge self-changes to cope with the compromised brain I have," she said. And in turn, that's allowed her to be more consistent in creating her art.
She's also made some huge changes to her diet and found a way to ensure she has a strong, regular sleep cycle.
"I stopped eating carbohydrates completely, except for brown rice and potatoes," she said. "And I don't have any sugar. I haven't had even a scrap of sugar, honey or sweetener of any kind in over three years."
She's also learned to stay away from anything made with flour.
Harper's art is hard to pigeon hole into any one category. She is a vibrant painter, but also likes to incorporate a lot of mixed media into much of her work.
"I do a lot of collage, a lot of acrylic paints, acrylic inks and drawing," she said, adding that she also likes to incorporate digital media.
One of the processes she likes to use includes scanning her drawings and then having parts of them digitally reproduced.
"I've been using this new printing process Opus is doing that's archival up to about 150 years," she said.
After Opus has printed the part she wants onto the canvas, she's then free to paint into it and around it. And because once a certain percentage of the painting has been altered, it becomes classified as an original again. You'll often find a similar face or script writing in her paintings. The effect is, the image can have moods that shift greatly from one painting to the next - kind of like Harper herself.
In addition to creating art, Harper has taught many successful workshops, including several through Opus, and is about to launch her own art school.
"I'm actually really excited, I'm renting the five suites here and turning it into an art school and studios. It's going to be called heArt School. I'll have studios, a bigger space to teach and studios to rent out. We're hoping to renovate, starting in the next couple of weeks."
What she is picturing includes a collaborative space that's inclusive for visual artists, similar to what Tribehouse Collective has done, using the same mandate of faith, arts and social justice.
"It's really exciting," she said.
Harper is happy to welcome customers, clients and the curious into her studio, located on Bernard Avenue above Momo Sushi. She will also be present at the official opening of her exhibit at Willow Park South Church, which takes place Thursday, 6 p.m.-8 p.m.
The exhibit runs into March.
You can learn more about Harper and see more of her work online at thepearworkshop.com.