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From Abstract to Reality

During my time at the Ontario College of Art and Design between 1991-1995,

I explored the experimental painting department and dedicated countless hours to the photography lab. It was in my final year at OCAD that I fully embraced abstract painting. After struggling with realistic painting in a still-life watercolour class, my instructor, Ms. Catherine Beaudette, recognized my frustration and encouraged me to focus on my own artistic vision rather than comparing myself to others. This not only resulted in a breakthrough in my artwork but also influenced my perspective on life.

The guidance Ms. Beaudette gave me that day is reflected in these quick 30 mins watercolour studies from 1995.

After graduating, I entered the art world as an emerging artist and proudly identified myself as an abstract expressionist. My medium of choice was, and still is, acrylic paint. From 1995 to 2005, I was fortunate to have my artwork showcased in various galleries across Toronto and had early success selling paintings online. My first solo exhibition, "Words Without a Song," debuted in 2010 at the Norman Felix Gallery. During these formative years, I focused on refining my skills as an intuitive painter and found inspiration in music, nostalgia, self-discovery, and human emotions. My main objective was to establish a connection and capture an internal dialogue through the use of colour, composition, texture, and light. In addition to the boldness of my work, I hoped audiences would be moved by the psychological tones of each piece. By having the freedom to interpret what they saw, I encouraged viewers to break boundaries and engage with my work on a deeper level.

“The airy, delicate feel of Ms. Harmer's large, abstract painterly pieces is really quite incredible. They communicate a sense of hope, and weightlessness - something like the feeling of lying in a field and looking up at the clouds in summertime.” Review, N. Gaasenbeek, February 9th, 2011.

Present Day

As you can see through the pages of my website, my interests, subject matter and technique have changed significantly over the years. From 2015 to 2019, I had the immense pleasure of teaching a senior's art class. My world had finally come full circle- I was now the instructor! Teaching seniors how to paint was a rewarding experience for me. However, in the beginning, I encountered a challenge when it came to explaining the essence of abstract painting to them. They seemed to have trouble grasping the concept and were more inclined towards learning how to paint landscapes, a subject I had little knowledge about and initially lacked interest in. Despite this, I dedicated myself to teaching them and, surprisingly, found myself growing fond of the process. As I continued to paint with the seniors, I not only enjoyed teaching them but also discovered a hidden talent within myself. Through their guidance and my determination, I gradually learned how to paint realistically! Over time, the entire process allowed me to explore a different side of my creativity- incorporating techniques and concepts I had already mastered along the way. It was a transformative journey that allowed me to transition from being an abstract expressionist to becoming a wholehearted landscape painter.

I find myself captivated by the challenge of capturing the essence of a landscape, from the play of light and shadow to the subtle nuances of color and texture. Landscape painting has allowed me to connect with the environment in a more tangible way. The seniors' passion for landscapes ignited a spark within me, and I'm grateful for the opportunity to have learned and grown alongside them!

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