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Alli Harvey, Artist of the Week

Alli Harvey exhibited her work as an Artist of the Week on June 5, 2020.

Gallery

Interview

Interview Transcript

Emily Longbrake  
Thanks for joining us. I’m here with the wonderful Alli Harvey. I just wanted to let her introduce herself and tell us about her work at the Palmer Museum right now.

Alli Harvey  
Thank you, Emily. My name is Allie Harvey, and I’m an artist, which is something that I’ve had a hard time getting my brain around! I’ve been painting since I was 16. I started painting because I had been drawing a lot growing up. I was, weirdly for anybody who knows me now – it’s kind of an unexpected history for me, but I grew up really asthmatic, so I was kind of trapped in bed. While I was there, I did a lot of drawing magazines and drawing inside of my closet. I outgrew my asthma with the help of several environmental factors, but at some point, when I was 16, a mentor encouraged me: “Okay, you like to draw, try painting.” I did try painting around the same time that I developed a fascination with Alaska and ended up coming out here. So now my work that’s on display at the Palmer Museum right now, remotely from my studio in downtown Palmer, tends to be really colorful and pretty realistic. It’s all acrylic on canvas. But it’s kind of combining my love of the reality of Alaska, what drew me here and kept me here, which is the amazing wild spaces that we have access to, with my love for sharing that. So yeah, I hope you guys are able to follow and check it out. It’s cool that the Palmer Museum is choosing to feature my work this week.

Emily Longbrake  
We’re so excited to have it. Everyone’s been very excited to see your paintings. Can you tell us a little bit more about your subjects, since a lot of us might know some of those places that are featured in your work?

Alli Harvey  
Of course, I’d love to. Recently, I’ve been doing a lot of Palmer focused work. And otherwise, Southcentral Alaska. One of the pieces I know I sent over is of a view of Matanuska Peak up the McRoberts trail, which is at the end of Smith road. You can either go all the way up Matanuska, go up Lazy Mountain, or  go up as far as you can  and then turn around, which is something we do a lot. It’s in the fall and you’re looking out over the tundra and the beautiful reds and the green lichens out there up into a kind of classic moody Palmer sky. That painting in particular is pretty big. It’s giant. It’s a much bigger painting than the ones that I typically go towards and it was really fun to do that. Another one that’s up is of hiking Lazy Mountain, which is kind of a familiar sight to a lot of us. You’re going up Lazy, but not the Lazy Moose Trail. The old Lazy trail is just a classic Valley trail: It’s just straight up and the painting is of that view I like: it’s nice to have a pause when you’re halfway up: you’re like heaving and you stop and you look and you realize that the aspect is like this (steep!). And it’s beautiful when it’s green. We look forward to this time of year because you can just get out there and have that kind of technicolor green when we don’t get to see green for so many months in the winter.

Emily Longbrake  
Yeah, I can totally relate to a pause to breathe and check out the vista. I noticed on your website that you said when you’re out you take pictures: do you do sketchbook drawings when you’re out hiking as well to kind of bring home with you to the studio?

Alli Harvey  
Nope, wish I did: don’t have the patience. I take a ton of pictures. I mean, like, my phone is ridiculous. It’s constantly out of storage. So I take a lot of snapshots. And when I first started painting, I worked from “failed photographs.” I was in school, so I found my first subjects from photos that were in the archive that didn’t quite make it into our school yearbook. But, you know, my teenage self at the time was like, “Such dramatic lighting! This could be made into a painting.” It was kind of a way of focusing somebody’s attention on something that I saw in the quote, failed photograph. That was cool. I’ve moved away from that a little bit, because I think right now my focus with my art is really to just kind of connect people to that sense of awe that we have when we’re outside. For instance, that picture I took of McRoberts wasn’t on the most beautiful bluebird day, so I still like some drama in my paintings. Not to knock on artists who do, but my subject is not the pastoral moose, the grizzly bear in nature: it’s more kind of intimate landscape focused things that we are so lucky to see basically on the daily up here. I do take a slew of photographs when I’m out there, just to have plenty of material to draw from and I still think I gravitate towards some of the more dramatic photos, from that stage of my teenage self.

Emily Longbrake  
That’s great. It sounds like that balance of vastness and intimacy is something that you’ve been working through for many years. Do you think that that’s something you’ll keep working on? I was wondering about your next 10 years as an artist.

Alli Harvey  
Oh my gosh, vastness and intimacy is a really good way to put it. I had never thought about that. So thanks for that. Because it’s true, right? I think there’s so much out there to explore. As Alaskans, we understand that. There’s so much of our state that even if we were to explore it every day of our lives, we wouldn’t get to see it all. We get to have such immediate experiences of those places, which I definitely try to bring through in my painting. So thanks for articulating that. Emily. That’s cool. I think for the next 10 years, I’ve been really wanting to build up my art business side, meaning that I love painting, and I love getting to connect with all sorts of people over that shared experience, so I’ve wanted to continue making that more of kind of a cornerstone of how I get my income so that I can support myself. If you would have talked to me three months ago pre-COVID it would have been, “In the next 10 years, here’s where I’m gonna go!” Right now, honestly, I am pretty socially distant because I have an underlying condition which prevents me from being out and about: I’m just pretty risk averse with it right now. So I have not been spending that much time at all in my studio. That said, this is a finite time in the scope of life, so we’ll see what the next year brings. I’ve been experimenting with watercolors because they’re a little bit more mobile, and I can work with them at my home, but boy, props to anybody who is actually using watercolors because they’re also very, very finicky. I miss my acrylics. All that to say, I’ll definitely keep on painting. I’ve also been focusing on, in addition to the watercolors, experimenting with what I can do with writing, which is another form of expression. But I look forward to getting back to the acrylics.

Emily Longbrake  
It’s great to hear that you’re experimenting. I know that that helps people keep their practice fresh. Just a couple more questions for you: do you have any studio tips for people that might be also working at home over the summer, and for who knows how long, and continuing their art practice?

Alli Harvey  
This is kind of a bummer piece of advice for folks, so sit down, but somebody gave me this advice and it was really good, which is this: you can be really talented and have that talent exist only in your basement and only in your mind. I think the most important part of continuing to work on art, especially through a time like this, is really about setting aside time for it and having the discipline to fulfill that time with the steps that you’ve outlined for yourself. For instance, saying I’m going to paint for an hour a week, or whatever feels achievable to folks. I think in this moment carving out space for mental health and just freaking out ~because the world~ is important: totally get it, but really try to have time on your calendar and sharp elbows to really guard that time from other folks but also from yourself. I’m guilty of it: the hour creeps up and I’m like, “Can I stay on TikTok for another hour?” No: actually focus on the thing, and then it acts as a springboard, right? If you actually do the hour, it’s motivating because then you have finished that hour or whatever it is: that’s achievable work. That sets you up well to do another hour if you want to do more. That’s my kind of Debbie Downer advice: set an achievable goal and be disciplined about achieving it.

Emily Longbrake  
I appreciate that: thank you!Where can we go to find out more about your work and purchase items from you?

Alli Harvey  
You can visit my website, alliharveyart.com, and you can also follow me on Facebook or Instagram at @aharvart. My studio will be open at some point, but not yet. So I’ll keep folks posted on what that’s looking like.

Emily Longbrake  
Excellent. Well, we will look forward to being able to see each other in person one of these days, but otherwise, we’ll have pictures of your work on Facebook for people that follow the Palmer Museum. Hopefully we can share more that way and look forward to more to come. Awesome.