Aspen Forest, 12×12 oil on linen panel now available

Aspen Forest, oil on linen panel, 12×12 © Nelia Harper

In mid July, I was gathering my things for another yurt trip. After a fun adventure in June, I booked a second trip. This time, Andrea Gabel and I were planning a three night getaway to paint in the wilderness of State Forest State Park. We were excited about the trip and ready for some serious painting time.

The night before I was to leave, the phone rang. First of all, I rarely have the ringer volume on. Secondly, the few phone calls I get are usually robo calls. I looked down at the phone. It was my Dad. While my Dad and I get along great. He’s not one to call and ‘shoot the breeze’. Phone calls are generally limited to my birthday and bad news. Needless to say, my first thought was, “what’s wrong?” Please don’t be bad news, please don’t be bad news.

It was bad news. My cousin Jon and his wife Cara had been killed in a car accident. They were only in their late 20s. It was just a normal day. A normal drive. Good weather. A truck crossed the line, and the end was instant. Their little girl survived. Devastating news.

As you can well imagine, I was heartbroken. On the one hand, I felt relieved that my parents were ok, as well as my siblings and their families. On the other hand, I felt devastated for my aunt and uncle and the friends and family of Jon and Cara. The loss welled up and spilled over. Shocked at the news, time crawled to a near standstill.

The next day, I decided to go on our trip anyway. Time in the woods soothes my soul and quiet time felt right. And sure enough, I felt a sense of peace and calm. Especially when we came across a stand of old growth aspens rising up to the sky surrounded by wild columbine, and vistas for miles.

Andrea Gabel painting in the aspen trees.

I sat with a tree trunk, drawing for hours. We returned the next day and I did an oil sketch of the scene. Weeks later, after the Celebration of Life and a return to the every day, I revisited the idea and decided to start a fresh piece. From my studies and memory, the painting Aspen Forest developed. After finishing the painting, I realized the prominence of the small aspen tree growing next to the old, rotted trunk. Death and life. Rebirth.

Now available.

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