Cheese Seller of Giza Painting of Cairo, Egypt

"Cheese Seller of Giza" Pastel, 8x10 © Nelia Harper - Painting of Cairo Egypt
“Cheese Seller of Giza” Pastel, 8×10 © Nelia Harper – Painting of Cairo, Egypt
Painting of Cairo, Egypt the “Cheese Seller of Giza”

Several years ago, after touring the great pyramids just outside of Cairo, I asked my guide to wander through some of the adjacent neighborhood streets. As we walked along the walled pathway, I heard an incredible, high-pitched wailing sound.

My guide didn’t seem to notice, but to my (American) ears, it sounded like a woman in tremendous distress.  Where could it be coming from?  I didn’t see anyone.  There was no commotion in the street.

I asked the guide, “What is that sound?”

“What sound?” he asks.

“That wailing sound.”

He paused for a moment, confused.  Then the voice rose again.  “Oh, that?” he shrugged, “A woman selling cheese. She is letting people in the neighborhood know that she is here, selling her cheese.”

As I rounded the corner, she walked past, carrying her cheese for sale, on her head.

Several years later, looking through my photos, I came upon the photo that was the basis for this painting. What drew me to paint the piece is the contrast of shapes.  The cubist walls, contrasted by just a touch of organic life growing in spite of the dust and concrete, and the sunshine throwing shadows.  All of that contrasts against the black figure of the woman who moves in and out of the shadows in the desert heat.

This painting of Cairo, Egypt is painted in pastel on UArt Archival paper. 8×10


Cheese Seller of Gisa © Nelia Harper
Cheese Seller of Gisa © Nelia Harper


Upcoming Art Show – From Near and Far

Art Show From Near and Far

It’s happening – this December 12th.

I invite you to join me for an Open House and Artist’s reception from 2-6 pm.

A long-time friend, Laura Snodgrass has graciously invited me to display my work at her office for the month of December, and you are invited to join us.  The show will feature work from around the world and in my ‘backyard’ of Colorado and Wyoming.  Focused largely on pastel landscape paintings, there will also be traditional egg tempera paintings on display.  All of the work will be available for sale in both originals and print, and I will have a special, on-line ‘pre-sale’ for those of you who can’t attend in person.

I’m really excited to share my work with you (live!), and I’m grateful for the push it has given me to have my work framed, cataloged, photographed, and prepared for viewing.  This event is pushing me as an artist, and I really appreciate the opportunity to share my work with you.

I hope you can join me.  The details are here.

Wildflowers of Wyoming – Meadow of Gold

Meadow of Gold © Nelia Harper
Meadow of Gold – Pastel, 8×10 © Nelia Harper
The wildflowers of Wyoming are in bloom!

Several weeks ago, I spent a few days hiking and photographing wildflowers in Wyoming.  I couldn’t have picked a better time as the wildflowers were in full bloom.  Field upon field of white, purple, red and gold glowed against the lush green grass.  It was overwhelming.

While the sun didn’t want to cooperate, I was able to return home and paint these luminous red paintbrushes against a field of golden sunflowers.

Everywhere I turned, there were more flowers and breathtaking scenes. I even saw a huge bull moose eating in the bushes not far from the road.

Hiking into the Snowy Range, there were granite peaks still covered with snow reflected in the lakes, and fields of flowers calling me further into the mountains.

I didn’t want to leave.

Learn to sketch – Sketching from Square One to Trafalgar Square – Book Review

Do you want to learn to sketch?  Do you want to develop your artistic skills or better understand what it takes to draw realistic pictures?

I recommend reading “Sketching From Square One to Trafalgar Square” by Richard E. Scott.  Filled with photos, sketches, illustrations, and 10 clear, concise, step-by-step directions and examples of sketching, this book will teach you to sketch while inspiring you to improve as well.

During the  weekend plein air workshop (that I posted about here) with Aaron Schuerr, we began discussing books. This was one that he was currently reading.  He shared the concept of the book, and I found the idea intriguing.  As I travel quite a bit, I don’t always have time to do a full drawing, and if there’s one area I need to work on, it’s drawing.

sketching from square one

In addition to step by step instructions, he uses examples with photos, showing the masses, the comparisons, and his process.  Given my propensity for going to the details too quickly, it was great to see how he deals with all those little details.

Richard Scott also goes into edges, line (creating marks with pencil), tone, contrast, and the all important point – knowing when to stop.  With hundreds of sketches, diagrams, and photographs, it’s clear that plenty of time and thought was taken in writing the book and making an effort to truly explain the process.

I particularly like how he shows the photo with side-by-side sketches and annotations on the drawing. This is how my mind works when I draw, but simplifying the image is my greatest challenge.  I tend to get swept up in the details of people, umbrellas, flowers, and moving parts.


So, grab your sketchbook (or piece of paper) and a pencil, or for the high-tech folks – your tablet :-) and start sketching.

Belle Fourche Reservoir

Belle-Fourche Reservoir © Nelia Harper
Belle Fourche Reservoir © Nelia Harper

I had no idea that Belle Fourche represents that geographical center of the United States.  Last weekend, I drove there for a cousin’s wedding.  I packed my plein air gear in the hopes that I would find some time and inspiration to paint.  I drove through the rolling hills of Wyoming, the Black Hills of South Dakota and the golden fields of sweet clover were a lovely surprise when I arrived.

And then it rained.  It hailed. The wind blew. The morning skies were cloudy, with bits of sun mixed in here and there.  I thought my supplies would sit in the car, but I woke up early and gave it a go.

There’s a large reservoir just outside of Belle Fourche, SD and as soon as I saw the river, I stopped to paint.  I slapped mosquitoes, watch men catch fish nearby, and as soon as I finished for the morning, the skies cleared and the water calmed.

I got some good reference photos for future paintings and went back a second day to see if I could capture the golden fields and rain in the distance.

Reynolds Hill – Vedauwoo, Wyoming

Reynolds Hill © Nelia Harper
Reynolds Hill © Nelia Harper

I had a little time to paint today, and I thought I’d share what I’m working on right now.  It’s in one of my favorite spots (I have many), about an hour and a half from my house, but like many places, it falls into the category of so close and yet so far away, as there just doesn’t seem to be enough time to ‘do it all’.

This particular formation (Reynolds) is usually swarming with rock climbers in the summer. Like many of the formations at Vedauwoo, it’s covered with cracks, balancing boulders and incredible changes in color and texture.

I love the rocks, the reflection in the water, and the light on the trees. I still have some areas to finish, for some reason the mid ground trees are a challenge, and I want more detail and accuracy in the rocks.

Hopefully I’ll be able to visit in person soon and do some plein air painting too.

Spring Storm – Vedauwoo, Wyoming

Spring Storm © Nelia Harper
Spring Storm © Nelia Harper

As it is now mid-June and flowers are bursting, trees glow green and the first of the produce is showing up at the market.  Winter seems so far away.  During an unusually rainy day, I took time to photograph some of my other paintings.

This little 5×7 was painted during that in-between time.  Not quite winter, not quite spring.  During a visit to Vedauwoo, Wyoming, I got caught in a late spring storm.  The clouds were dense and waves of heavy snowflakes covered what had been bare ground.

I love how the rock formations continuously change as the shadows, seasons and weather change.  I always see shapes and images in the rock – animal usually.  What do you see in this painting?

Painting from Collonge la Rouge, France – Doggie in the Window

Doggie in the Window © Nelia Harper
Doggie in the Window © Nelia Harper

In the heart of France, there’s a little village built of red sandstone appropriately named Collonge la Rouge. The sandstone is from a nearby quarry.  The roofs are made of slate tile that quickly weather and become covered with moss and lichen.

The day was perfect.  Brilliant blue skies, warm temperatures, not too many tourists, and a lovely amble through the countryside.

Looking around for a place to eat lunch, I looked up at a nearby building and found this little ‘doggie in the window’.  He so wanted to come out to play.

It was challenging and fun to paint the roof with all of the colors and bits and pieces.  But, I didn’t want to overdue it and distract from the dog.  He was just so excited to be alive.

Aaron Schuerr Plein Air Workshop – Continued

 Day 2 & 3 of the workshop gave us more time to paint and be outside as the weather continued to improve.  I really wished that I didn’t have to drive 1.5 hours home as I would have loved to paint in the magic hour of the evenings.

Here’s my painting from Day 2.  The same rock/setting the Aaron did as a demo the previous day.  My challenge was to get some hard edges.  I like the soft edges, trying to get too much detail too quickly!

Ken Caryl Rock © Nelia Harper
Ken Caryl Rock © Nelia Harper

On Day 3, we met at the park and scouted out a couple of spots to paint.  The rock and hills were still back-lit, making the the values a little challenging.Aaron’s painting from the morning of Day 3

Aaron Schuerr Demonstrating a Backlit Rock
Aaron Schuerr Demonstrating a Backlit Rock

Julie Marr found a great little spot overlooking the scene and we had a great time painting for a couple of hours.  She lent me a piece of pastelmat to try and I have to say, I really liked it!  The tooth is much softer and finer than UArt paper and yet gentler than pastelboard.  I might just have to order a pack or two to try further.

Here’s my version of the same view.  I love how each person sees the same place so differently.  We were up on  a hill, looking down with a rock formation in front, unlike Aaron who was further down the valley looking up at the formation.

Ken Caryl Bluff © Nelia Harper
Ken Caryl Bluff © Nelia Harper

I was struggling to get the right combinations of greens to create the blues of the trees and the yellows of the grass.  (Once I got back to Terry’s studio, I found some perfect greens!)  Unfortunately, we didn’t have time to finish before breaking for lunch.  The light was changing so quickly, that it would have been nice to go back the next morning.

We had a little more time after lunch before we needed to go back to the studio to wrap up.  I was able to do this quick little painting.  It forced me to focus on value and shape, getting in the basic forms quickly – especially as the sweat began to pour down my back!

Ken Caryl Valley
Ken Caryl Valley

I’m excited to get out and do some more plein air work.  Thanks Aaron for the instruction and Julie and the other painters for the inspiration and tips!

Plein Air Workshop with Aaron Schuerr

Last weekend is a blur.  I spent three days in Highlands Ranch (just south of Denver) at a Plein Air workshop taught by Aaron Schuerr.  The workshop was hosted by Terry Ludwig Pastels. Not only did we get a tour of the studio, but I picked up some new greens for these brilliant grasses and landscapes that we did.

Our first day was a bit sketchy as the clouds rolled in and threatened to rain on us.

We started with value studies in charcoal.  Unfortunately, I didn’t have fixative, so my drawing got pretty smudged.  Here’s the demo that Aaron did – a great lesson in value and composition.

Aaron Schuerr - Value Demonstration © Nelia Harper
Aaron Schuerr – Value Demonstration © Nelia Harper

In the afternoon we watched a demo by Aaron.  He walked us through his composition, what to pick, what to leave out, how to create distance, and how to deal with the quickly changing sky.


We finished just before the rain began to pour down.  It’s so unusual for us to have such heavy, humid air in Colorado.  It was nice to see a demonstration for dealing with atmosphere in the sky.

Day two, we painted at South Valley Park near Ken Caryl.  I was excited to paint the red rocks.Aaron demonstrating a backlit rock painting.

Pastel Demo Day 1© Nelia Harper
Pastel Demo Day 1 © Nelia Harper

Again, the clouds rolled in during the afternoon so we headed back to Terry Ludwig’s studio and got a tour of the facility as well as a group discussion and cloud demo.

Terry Ludwig Making Pastels
Terry Ludwig Making Pastels

Terry gave a great tour, explaining the pigments, binder and molding techniques.  What a process!  It was like combining shop, home ec, and chemistry class all together.

Terry Ludwig Pastels
Terry Ludwig Pastels

They are so beautiful.

1 7 8 9 10 11