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.

Playing with Haystacks

Playing with Haystacks © Nelia Harper
Playing with Haystacks © Nelia Harper

Do you remember the joy of discovery as a child?  Do you remember being awed and amazed by the world?  Last summer, I had the privilege of spending some time with my niece, a budding artist.  One morning, we took a walk and discovered this field full of freshly rolled hay bales.  Ava immediately ran into the field.  She wanted to touch them and could hardly contain her excitement.

I caught a quick photo of the moment and turned it into this painting.  I wanted to capture that moment of joy and awe with the red barn sitting in the distance and low, humid clouds along the horizon.  There is a sense of timelessness to the piece.  A little girl in a big world.

Bluff Begins at Dawn

Bluff Begins at Dawn © Nelia Harper
Bluff Begins at Dawn © Nelia Harper

There’s a little island in the Caribbean that rises up from the sea, Cayman Brac.  Landing in a little prop plane, the island seems to slumber as the world spins faster and faster.  I have been lucky to be able to visit this island several times and each time the magic of the morning light, the call of the birds, the crash of the surf and the silence creates a sense of magic and peace.

I had been thinking about painting this spot long before we arrived.  One morning, I woke up in inky darkness, grabbed my pack and a bottle of water, and headed for the southeast end of the island.  Just as I completed my hike along the craggy, limestone karst shore, the sun was beginning to rise out of the sea.

I wanted to capture the light glistening on the rock, the dew on the leaves, and the crash of the surf as the giant rock continues it’s precarious balance.

Bluff Begins at Dawn - Detail
Bluff Begins at Dawn – Detail

Terry Ludwig Intense Darks

I’m working on a piece that requires some really dark values.  Deep, rich, earthy, aged, and vibrant are words that come to mind.  I ordered a complete set of Terry Ludwig Intense Darks after trying out a few during a class.

They arrived yesterday and Intense they are!

Terry Ludwig Pastels - Intense Darks
Terry Ludwig Pastels – Intense Darks

Not only are the intense, but they are dark.  Perfect for deep shadows, layering, blending and developing form in objects and landscape.  I’m not sure how often I’ll use the super bright reds and oranges on the left, but the purples, greens blues and earth tones will be perfect for strong Colorado Landscapes.

They are powdery, yet firm.  Intense and dark and vibrant.  I played with them for a few minutes, mostly gazing at the intensity and looking for the subtle variations in some of the blues and greys.

This is going to be fun.

Mallard’s Playground

Mallard's Playground © Nelia Harper
Mallard’s Playground © Nelia Harper

This little pond is on the way to one of my favorite hiking spots. In the fall, the golden leaves of the trees glow, especially against the backdrop of a crisp, blue sky.  I can almost smell the dirt and water.  Last fall, I planned to create this painting.  I started it several weeks ago and then set it aside while I searched for the right yellow.  I finally picked up some bright yellow, pastel that makes the trees shine.

My goal was to capture the crisp feeling of fall in Colorado as the trees blaze orange and yellow against the bright blue sky.

1 8 9 10 11