Variety is a constant for Annapolis artist

Lithography and guitar, painting and drawing among man's passions


June 24, 1999|By TaNoah Morgan

Welcome to "The Pro File," a new, occasional feature in which Anne Arundel Live will introduce you to a professional entertainer, artist, musician or dancer who is doing something noteworthy in the area. Today's pro is Annapolis native Neil Harpe, who leads a double life.

The pro

Neil Harpe just can't choose: art or music? So he does both, swinging between gigs and scenes in a funky purple 1966 Volvo station wagon.

For Harpe, life is a mixture of irony and passion. He doesn't like boating, but many know him for his maritime artwork. He doesn't like the beach, but his latest painting is of Rehoboth in the morning. Although he's packed with nervous energy, the only music he'll listen to is the slow, steady moan of the blues.

Harpe doesn't like to be pigeonholed. Call him a bay artist and he'll give you a series of sketches and watercolor paintings on blues musicians. Call him a painter and he'll strum you a folk number on his 12-string guitar. Call him an arts type and he'll proclaim himself a grease monkey, and show off his vintage 1967 Volvo P1800 sports car to prove it.

He doesn't stick to one medium, either: He regularly switches among acrylics, oils, watercolor, graphite, lithography and etchings.

You can see his work at galleries in Maryland, Washington, Virginia, Pennsylvania and Delaware. In Anne Arundel, his work can be seen at Main Street Gallery in Annapolis and at the Bendann Art Gallery in Towson. His prints range from $65 to $400; his originals range from $250 for a 4-by-5-inch painting to $7,000 for the big stuff.

As for his music, he performs locally about once a month at folk festivals and museums.

Harpe says art is in the making, not in the product: "It's the process as you see the image unfold. It's being involved with creating. It's very, very exciting."

The file

Age: 53, born in Annapolis in 1946.

Education: Annapolis Senior High School (1964), Corcoran School of Art in Washington (1969), Maryland Institute, College of Art (bachelor of fine arts, 1972), George Washington University (master of fine arts, 1975).

Home: Murray Hill, Annapolis.

Personal: divorced, two daughters, Brighid, 24, and Erin, 28, both musicians and artists.

Favorite medium: Lithography. "It's a draftsman's medium, and I love to draw."

Favorite instrument: Guitar (he owns six). "It's a passion."

Inspired by: Washington realist and printmaker Frank Wright, and Pennsylvania lithographer Mel Hunter.

Quote of the day: "My daughter says, `Daddy, you just play dead-guy music.' "

Check him out: "A Maritime Experience," paintings and etchings by Harpe, will be on display through July 11 at Main Street Gallery, 109 Main St. in Annapolis. It is open 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Sundays, Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, and 10 a.m.-8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays. It is closed Tuesdays. Information: 410-280-2787.

Harpe's next musical performance: Quiet Waters Park, at 6 p.m. Aug. 7.

On the Web: harpe.

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