The Courtyard of Bagnoreggio Italy

"The Courtyard" of Bagnoreggio Italy, Egg Tempera  7 1/8x10 © Nelia Harper
“The Courtyard” of Bagnoreggio Italy, Egg Tempera 7 1/8×10 © Nelia Harper
Behind the Painting of Bagnoreggio Italy

For over 2500 years, the hilltop town of Bagnoreggio, located in the Tuscan region of Italy has served as haven from marauders, pillagers and war.  And, for the past 2500 years (or more) the hill has slowly eroded creating and ‘island in the sky’ that can only be accessed by a footbridge.  Now, rather than warding off invaders, the residents welcome the tourists to what remains of their village as they now fight against time and nature.

The volcanic tuff upon which the village was built tumbles down the hillside and disappears on the wind. Year after year, they rebuild and repair.

And, they tend their gardens and encourage the flowers to bloom. Someday, they too will disappear.

Civita di Bagnoreggio, Italy



Sunday evening, we drove down to the beach.  There are several semi-private, sandy coves along the south side of the island with grape trees, pines and of course palm trees.  (What is it about palm trees, sand beaches and water?)  I painted several studies of the beach, waves, surf and sky.  I finished up as dark was descending, and I could no longer see my pastels or painting.  As I started to walk back to the car, my friend called out, “Look!” pointing to the sky.  The moon was just cresting over the tops of the trees, full, round and golden.  Heaven!   The moon lit the sky, ringing the clouds in silver, and making the water shimmer.

I photographed the scene, and focused on putting the memory in my mind to later recreate it. This small painting is close to what I saw.  Silver blue light, glinting off a few clouds and a twinkling of light in the distance.

Moondance #1 Pastel 9x6 © Nelia Harper 2015
Moondance #1 Pastel 9×6 © Nelia Harper 2015

Last night, we went back for more moon magic.  Again, I painted a couple of studies.  First, I painted the water, focusing on perspective and the surf.  Then, time for the sunset.  Fluffy lavender clouds marched across the sky which turned to light pink.

Then, we waited for the moonrise.  I moved my tripod next to the water (praying it wouldn’t tip being so close to the water’s edge).  The water turned to light pink, aquamarine and lavender.  Delicious.  We waited.  We waited.  I blocked in the shapes.  We waited.  I waded out into the water.  I adjusted the tripod.  We waited.

Easel is set and waiting for the moon to rise. © Nelia
Easel is set and waiting for the moon to rise. © Nelia

Just when we were beginning to wonder if the moon had taken the night off, a slow glow began to form behind the trees.  I felt the excitement building.  What would happen tonight?  The clouds had vacated the sky but a mauve/lavender glow began to form.  Having never painted in the dark, it was quite an experience.  I focused on form and value – there wasn’t much else I could do!  I used my headlamp to light my work, then turned it off to get a look at the values in the landscape.  When I had the essentials  on the paper, I packed up, grabbed a couple of photos (as best I could) and did my best to burn the image in my mind. The light incandescent glow of the moon, the ripples of water, lights blinking/twinkling.  Water lapping at my feet.  Sandals filling with rocks and sand.  A light breeze wafting over the water.  A feeling of peace, contentment and joy filled me from head to toe.

Moondance #2 Pastel 10x12 © Nelia Harper 2015
Moondance #2 Pastel 10×12 © Nelia Harper 2015

Both paintings are for sale.  The small one for $65 and the larger for $95.

They aren’t in my shop yet, so just let me know if you want them.

Happy moondance wherever you are.

A Lesson in Sea Spray

Sea spray through blow holes along Long Beach Walk, Cayman Brac © Nelia Harper 2015
Sea spray through blow holes along Long Beach Walk, Cayman Brac © Nelia Harper 2015

It’s quite obvious. Anyone who has ever lived or spent time living seaside knows that saltwater causes rust.  (Those of you who live and paint near the ocean are saying, “yeah, duh.”)  I should know this too.  I mean, technically, I did know.  But, I didn’t really think about it, and now I really know.

I grew up surrounded by water in the form of lakes, streams, ponds, bogs and puddles.  Water came in all forms; fog, mist, rain, sleet, snow, ice, crystals, you name it.  But the only time it came with salt was during winter, when it was dumped by the truckload onto the roads.  So, it was related to cars and winter in my mind.  Now, living in Colorado, where the snow often melts before the trucks hit the road, salt isn’t much of a concern.  Again, a car wash now and then.

Although I’ve traveled to the ocean several times, even going on many dive trips that require rinsing out our gear in freshwater after every dive, it wasn’t until I loaded up my pack after painting that I noticed.  Little bits of rust were beginning to form on my tripod.  Ack!  On closer look at my gear, I was shocked.  Rust was forming everywhere!  Oh no!

On the clasp of my pastel box.

Rust forming on my pastel box © Nelia Harper 2015
Rust forming on my pastel box © Nelia Harper 2015

Rust has begun to creep into every bit of metal, especially along the hinge.  This wasn’t here a few weeks ago.

Rust forming on my pastel box © Nelia Harper 2015
Rust forming on my pastel box © Nelia Harper 2015

Even on my binder clips.  You can see various degrees of rust beginning to form.

Binder clips in various stages of rusting © Nelia Harper 2015
Binder clips in various stages of rusting © Nelia Harper 2015

After two weeks of being exposed to sea spray and not being wiped off with clean water, rust has begun to take over.  I washed everything today and I will wipe everything down with tap water the next time I’m in the spray.  Plastic clips might be a good idea.  Another lesson learned.

Oh, What a Night!


Friday, December 12th debuted my artwork at the opening of “From Near and Far”, featuring works in pastel and a recently finished egg tempera painting.  The paintings included landscapes from travels to France, Italy, Cayman Islands, Colorado and Wyoming.

A huge thank you to hostess Laura Snodgrass and her gracious staff of EdwardJones who provided the space and delicious food, Alisha Lee Jeffers, friend and fellow artist who provided fun photos of the event, and everyone who took the time to view the work, visit, and those who supported my work with a purchase. Thank you!

For those of you too far away to attend, here is a quick virtual tour for you.

Starting in the office lobby, you can see “The Cheese Seller of Giza” and “Fall Bouquet“.  A guest is looking at one of the prints for sale as well.  Just through the door is “Belle Fourche Reservoir“, a small plein air painting from a summer trip to South Dakota.

GuestsIn the next room, I had a large wall to use.  Since most of my work is small (6×6 to 9×12), this was perfect for a ‘salon’ style display.   ArtSho1214a

Here I am after deciding the layout, hanging all of the pieces and getting the tags just so, I was feeling a bit overwhelmed, but I stopped to get a quick photo.  On the left is the newest piece, an egg tempera painting, “il cortile or The Courtyard” that was finished just in time for the show.  It still needs a final coat of varnish and a photo session, but it made it into the frame and onto the wall.


Wall-2Next to the “il coritle – The Courtyard” is “Four Mile Rock” from nearby Bobcat Ridge, “The Bluff Begins at Dawn” from Cayman Brac, “Doggie in the Window” from France, and “Waiting for Spring” one of the coves at Lory State Park.

The “Doggie in the Window” was a favorite of many visitors, probably because there are so many dog lovers here in Fort Collins. Although my straw poll showed tremendous variety in the tastes and interests. Each one was a favorite for someone.

In the third room were these two pieces from Wyoming.  The “Meadow of Gold” on the left is from the Snowy Range of Wyoming, just west of Laramie and the granite monolith, “Reynold’s Hill” on the right is from Veadauwoo, Wyoming.


One of the guests asked, “How much of that meadow is real?  How much did you make up?”

The meadow is almost 100% true to life.  In fact, there were so many flowers that I had to take some out because the didn’t look ‘real’ in the painting!  It was the paintbrush that initially caught my eye – red against a backdrop of yellow.  A few purple daisies were attempting to get there moment in the sun too.

Nelia-AlishaIt was so fun to see so many friends.  After being holed up in my studio for the past several weeks working on the final details, it was nice to get out and see some friendly faces.  It was also nice to have artist friends see my work, comment on the pieces and share the trials and tribulations of putting a show together.

The final piece, “Mallard’s Playground” was also a favorite.  Several people knew the exact location of that little pond and the ducks and birds that frequent the spot.

pondWhile I’m still working on prints for many of the pieces (they didn’t arrive in time), I do have prints of “Mallard’s Playground“, “Meadow of Gold” , “The Cheese Seller of Giza” and “Four Mile Rock” available in 8×10 prints and in stock for quick shipping.  If you would like a size that isn’t listed, just let me know.  I can have (almost) any size printed.

Thank you to everyone for your kind words and encouragement and your comments and insights.

I wish you all a very happy holiday and a wonderful new year!

PS: If you would like to purchase one of the paintings, you can either purchase it in my shop or give me a call at (970) 692-0059.  If you are a local, just select “local pickup”.  If you want it before Christmas, the last ship date is this Wednesday, December 17th for originals.  Prints are available for pickup or delivery as well.

If you would like a custom painting, I am now taking commissions.  Let me know if you are interested.

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.

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