Valentina Harper‘s art studio is located on the second floor of the beloved and eclectic Arcade in downtown Nashville. She opens her doors on First Saturday Art Crawls for guests to come and see the detailed, colorful works of art she creates. What they often find, though, is an immediate draw to her warm and welcoming spirit.
Born and raised in Venezuela, and now a six-year Nashville resident, Valentina is a ball of energy and a gifted artist. She uses a Rapidograph pen to freehand the tiny little designs and lines and details, and (sometimes) fills them in with bright colors. Now, you can find her designs in 12 different coloring books and on coffee mugs, pillows, leggings and so much more. Meet this fabulous, talented and fun FACE of Nashville, Valentina Harper!
Tell me about your background. What brought you to Nashville?
I was born and raised in Venezuela and moved to the United States in 2003. I lived in Miami for 11 years, and then in 2013, my husband received a job offer from a Nashville-based company. I welcomed the idea to move here. Our daughter was 1 year old, and I thought it would be a great living experience for us. Now, I am grateful and happy to call Nashville our home and to see our little girl growing up surrounded by the Southern hospitality.
You did graphic design for 15 years. What was that like?
I absolutely loved my job as a graphic designer. The idea of working in design — from logos to websites to marketing campaigns — was very appealing. And I truly enjoyed working with so many talented people and the diversity of businesses I had the opportunity to meet.
Tell us about the beautiful artwork you create now and how you got started.
My artwork was my free time, my hobby. I relished in making little art pieces for family and friends but, back then, I never envisioned my art as a full-time career. While living in Miami, I got the opportunity to join small crafts and art shows in my neighborhood, and the answer from the public was very positive. In 2006, I decided to open my Etsy shop, and in 2009, the decision was almost natural — I stopped to work in graphic design and embraced my career as a full-time artist.
Your coloring books are so stunning! How long have you been making those and how did that initiative come about?
Ah, thank you! Truth is that I always had the feeling that my art could be a good match for coloring books, as all my pieces are born in black and white — just paper and ink. When my daughter was born in 2012, I realized immediately that I would not have the flexibility of working at any time and any place, at least not for the first months (or better said: YEARS!). Although my hands were full with a little newborn, my urge to draw was still there, so I decided to create a weekly post on my Facebook page, called “Coloring Monday.” I would post a downloadable coloring page every week. I posted 70 pages with the idea that maybe, at some point, those would be part of my own coloring book.
In 2013, moving to Nashville, I got an email from a publisher that was following my “Coloring Mondays” pages and wanted to make a coloring book with my designs. And here we are a few years later, and I have 12 coloring books! Once in a while, I receive an email from a friend with a picture of one of the books translated in Italian or Japanese or Polish … and I still cannot believe that my Coloring Mondays went from being my artistic outlet during my first years as a mom to something I can share with the entire world!
That really is wild that it’s grown so far! Is there anything else exciting you’re working on now? Something we can look forward to?
A new book is in the process but this time it’s not a coloring book! It will be an inspirational art journal, and I am pretty enthusiastic about it. There is also a retail project ongoing. I hope I can share soon when the store is ready to open.
What do you love most about your career?
I would say that the best part of my job is when I can make a connection with people through my art. The reaction of the public about the coloring books, or how much they enjoy having a piece from my creation, is so fulfilling.
Where do you find inspiration?
I am very grateful for the fact that inspiration can reach me in any place. It could be while walking down the street or finding some beautiful light filtered by a tree … or listening to my daughter’s stories! But I think that my major inspiration comes from nature, which is why I devote a big part of my art to flowers and animals.
What is something someone might be surprised to learn about you?
I think many people will find it surprising that I am a major sports fan, especially football and golf (yes, really!). My favorite season is … football season! Hands down, the best time of the year.
What does an ideal day in Nashville look like for you?
My ideal day in Nashville is when I have my family visiting because it gives me the greatest excuse to go around the town. Visiting The Parthenon, walking Broadway, visiting East Nashville, checking out The Gulch and its murals, enjoying each corner on 12South, trying the breweries and eating BBQ at Martin’s. Yes, it’s a whole touristic experience that I love to repeat again and again!
Tell us about your favorite hidden gem in Nashville.
Well, I don’t think it’s hidden but Hai’s Sushi and Pho is our favorite little gem!
What is the best piece of advice you have ever received and from whom?
I cannot say these are pieces of advice I got, but there are two phrases that are inspiring to me. Once I heard on a TV show (I wish I could remember which), something like, “I hope that just once in my life, I can make a difference like that in someone else’s life.” That struck me, because I believe there is nothing as beautiful as inspiring and making a difference in someone else’s day.
The second one comes from the book Stay Sexy & Don’t Get Murdered and is from one of the authors, Karen Kilgariff: “We barely get any time on the planet. Do not spend it pleasing other people. Live life exactly how you want to live it, so you can love the life you make for yourself.”
That sums it up pretty much … because I want to live my life creating uplifting art.
What are three things you couldn’t live without, aside from faith, family and friends?
Water, my Rapidograph drawing pen, and a good true-crime podcast
Thank you so much for sharing with us today, Valentina — we’re big fans of your artwork! Find more information and see Valentina Harper’s work here. And thank you to Leila Grossman of Grannis Photography for today’s beautiful images.
Dr. David Yi is a self-described life-long learner with an unwavering desire to be the best at everything he does. And at TriStar Southern Hills Medical Center, he’s committed to making a difference in the lives of his patients. Meet this dedicated and passionate FACE of TriStar! Click HERE.