February 25th, 2018
By Eileen Treasure, Fine Art Consultant
Matt and Cristall Harper brought home an 8 week old yellow lab in 2005, and Buttercup soon became the subject of dozens of paintings. Harper wouldn’t declare herself a full-time artist for another 3 years, but she loved painting Buttercup. “There’s a lot of stress and sadness in the world, and dogs are 110-percent joy.” When Buttercup died in 2016, it took a while before she could paint another dog; but the love returned, and Buttercup, as well as hundreds of other dogs, have been immortalized by Cristall Harper.
Visitors to Gallery MAR connect immediately with Harper’s work. They point, smile and sigh and often share their own stories of their precious dog looking like the one in the painting. Especially popular are the dogs swimming.
Growing up in Missouri, Harper’s family spent Spring Break with cousins on the Mississippi Gulf coast. The love of a place permeates the soul of an artist, and she loves to paint sparkling, blue water. “When I paint water and swimming dogs, it’s a freeing process involving many acrylic layers followed by oil paint. Acrylic paint dries quickly. I can map out dark and light/warm and cool areas and do lots of tweaks without muddying a wet surface. Random textures happen in this watery application that make the finished surface fresh and full of life. I do my best work when I seek to control very little, letting the paint find its own way.”
Cristall and Matt (a General Contractor) are now finishing their dream home in Utah Valley, just 35 miles from Park City. The Harpers share a love of early American architecture and it shows in the proportions and details of their home. They want it to look like it’s been there for years. Her studio and Matt’s workroom (he builds her panels as well as panels for artists all over the country) are part of a large structure already on the property — and only a short walk from the back door.
Harper paints on panels because it’s rigid and “takes brushwork action well.” Part of her branding is painting the back of each panel in Venetian Red. “Each piece of my art is hand-crafted with love, front to back, start to finish. Every piece has a life force I am aware of as I work. I feel my greatest joy is when a collector connects with my work and gives the painting a new life, hanging on the walls of their home.”