Along the Yampa River, Oil on Canvas Panel, 8×10

Along the Yampa, 8x10, oil on canvas panel
Along the Yampa River, 8×10, oil on canvas panel

Each painting brings back memories.  This painting “Along the Yampa River” is no exception.

Last fall, I participated in the Steamboat Plein Air Event, a week-long plein air event that supports the Steamboat Art Museum.  At the same time, I was painting daily as part of the Strada Easel 30 Day Challenge to paint from life every day in September.

That day, I drove up to Steamboat and found the town blanketed in fog and rain. Anxious to get out and explore, I quickly checked in with my roommates, and ventured out in search of painting locations.

Within minutes, I found the Yampa river and a pedestrian bridge with a perfect view of the Yampa River and a foggy mountain in the distance.  Crouched under my umbrella, I painted as quickly as I could. The rain came in waves, dripping from me and the umbrella. Once the palette filled with water and my gloves were soaked, it was time to go and warm up.

Needless to say, it was an adventurous day of painting!  You can see my other paintings from the 2017 SAM Plein Air Event, here.

Now available at auction.

Cheryl Portrait Study 16×12 oil on linen panel

"Cheryl", 16x12, oil on linen
“Cheryl”, 16×12, oil on linen

An alla prima oil painting of Cheryl from our bi-monthly portrait painting session.

We are lucky to have so many professional and amateur models willing to sit for us. Each session is 3 hours, with 10 minute breaks every 20 minutes.

This is on Claessens Belgian linen (13DP), a fine surface that wipes back to the canvas.

As I was painting today, I thought of this as my ‘before’ painting as I’m about to spend four days at a Michelle Dunaway portrait workshop. I can hardly stand the wait.

I’m excited to see how it impacts my painting and deepens my work. Looking forward to the ‘after’.

“On the Cob”, 6×8, oil on canvas auction

Now available at auction.

"On the Cob", 6x8, oil on canvas panel, © Nelia Harper
“On the Cob”, 6×8, oil on canvas panel, © Nelia Harper

​”On the Cob” was such a fun painting to make. It reminded me of childhood summers and working in the garden with my Dad.

For as long as I can remember, my father planted a large garden. And, he still does. I loved to help him. As I placed corn kernels, hunks of potato, and tiny onions in the ground, a feeling of hope and promise filled me. I marveled at the straight rows, and the little seeds that grew into giants. Planting miniature versions of vegetables felt like a million little possibilities.

In August, we could start to pick the corn. Pulling away the husk, was like unwrapping a present. Under the papery wrapper, rows and rows of sweet kernels waited for a slather of butter and salt. We devoured those ears of corn on the cob. Fresh green beans, cucumber salad, and baby potatoes completed any meal.

Even though I don’t have a large garden, I still love to plant seeds, and see those little seeds reach for the sun.I especially love it when I can step outside to ‘pick dinner.Although I didn’t pick this ear of corn from my garden, I still delight in knowing that a seed created this ear of corn. And, there’s nothing like the taste of fresh corn on the cob, slathered in butter and salt!

You can now add this little gem to your art collection.  See auction details and bid here.

In Your Embrace

In Your Embrace, 36x48, oil on canvas
In Your Embrace, 36×48, oil on canvas

This morning is cool and overcast, much like the day we went down to the river to paint.

From that plein air, this painting was inspired for the Colorado Capitol exhibition that will take place this summer.

The day was foggy and a light snow fell as we painted. The river was full and quiet, creating a mirror reflection.

As I painted this piece, I thought about the strength of river, the tree and the power of love.

Self-Portrait – Pastel on Canson

Where you lucky enough to take art classes in middle or high school?  Do remember drawing a self-portrait?

I remember drawing a self-portrait on two occasions; once in elementary school and once in middle school. I remember that the drawings all had almond-shaped eyes, round heads and a front view.

As a kid, I don’t remember giving much thought to how the self-portrait looked in elementary school.  We knew our features.  I had brown hair, blue eyes, red lips and whatever color shirt I had on.  Done!

In middle school, I dreaded that assignment. The extent of our instruction was various face shapes: round, oval, heart, and square. There was no consideration to bone structure, muscles, turning form or the effects of light.  (Of course, there’s a good chance we wouldn’t have paid much attention anyway.)  At the time, I felt foolish looking into a mirror and analyzing my face and features in front of other students.  As if middle school wasn’t challenging enough, now we had to parade our insecurities in front of the class!  I still had brown hair and blue eyes, but how do I make it look like me?  Needless to say, that drawing didn’t make it to the refrigerator.

Fast forward a couple of decades and dial-up the notch of desire to learn.  Suddenly, a little instruction, a few years of practice and deeper knowledge made a difference in the outcome.

As many of you know, I’ve been taking figure drawing at the community college this semester.  Our assignment this past week was to complete a self-portrait in pastel.  Oh, the students moaned and groaned.  I could feel the anxiety as our instructor shared the assignment.  I simply smiled to myself and thought, “This is going to be fun”.

This time, drawing a self-portrait was more fun and insightful than the second attempt (or third, fourth or fifth time for that matter).  No longer did I critique the shape of my nose, the asymmetry of my eyes, or the countless sunspots.  Instead, I found myself seeing shape, form, the way light travels across the forehead, through the eyes, and around the nose.  I saw how the light bounced off the cheekbone and curved over the chin. I saw the softness of the cheek, the fullness of the lip, the angle of the ear, the way the head connects to the neck.

Oh sure, I see where I can improve the drawing.  This or that could line up better.  That could angle more, this could soften here.  Thankfully, as artists, we know there is always room for improvement.  Learning to see what we want is the first step to creating.


Rembrandt pastels (black and white), grey Canson Mi-Tientes paper (smooth side), fixative (this will darken everything), tortillion and Faber-Castell pastel pencils (black and white).


31 Paintings in 31 Days – paint or draw from life every day

The new year started off with a challenge to paint or draw from life every day for the month of January. One of my “New Year’s Resolutions” is to draw and paint from life more often. What better way to start than by drawing or painting every day?

The goal was to deepen my understanding of turning form in space and make it appear dimensional on a flat surface while understanding the complexity of color in that process.

Here is the result from January.

Of course, finding the time isn’t always easy.  Many paintings ‘failed’.  More than once, I resorted to drawing.  Some days the weather cooperated for some wintry scenes.  Some subjects proved far more difficult than I imagined.

I also experimented with a new Belgian linen (that I love), an alkyd linen that is highly absorbent (useful in certain situations), a Stillman-Birn sketching journal (Zeta Series – love it!), and prepared for an upcoming semester of figure drawing.

The power of practice can never be underestimated.  Thank you to Strada Easel for encouraging us to take on the challenge.

Happy New Year!

You are Invited – 5th Annual Chasing Light Art Show in Fort Collins

Chasing Light

5th Annual Invitational of 

Northern Colorado Plein Air Artists

Featuring Plein Air, Landscapes, Flora & Wildlife Paintings by Local Artists

Marilynn Bradenburger, Jenifer Cline, Ann Delzell, Nelia Harper,

Patty Hughes, Margueritte Meier, Barb Smith, Ron Sutton, Susan Taylor,

Christine M. Torrez, Laura G. Young, and Sue Yuma

"Aspen Meadow", 11x15, Pastel, © Nelia Harper
“Aspen Meadow”, 11×15, Pastel, © Nelia Harper

Location: The Carnegie Building, 200 Matthews Street, Fort Collins, CO

Opening Reception: Friday, December 1, 2017 6-9 pm

Show Dates: November 29- December 9

Gallery Hours: 12:00-6:00 pm on Wednesday-Saturday

I hope to see you at the opening reception or during the regular gallery hours.

Final Painting for the Strada Easel Challenge

30 Paintings in 30 Days – All From Life for the Strada Easel Challenge

It’s really fun to see all of the paintings together.  I look at this montage and I think of the frustration, joy, weather, adventures, hopes and goals of the past month.  While they didn’t all ‘turn out’ and some of them aren’t finished, each one presented a learning opportunity.

There were several days when I didn’t want to paint, usually because I was tired and I did it anyway.  In doing that, I found that one must “paint like you mean it”.  There is no point in pushing paint around, going through the motions or daydreaming.  It’s a complete waste of time and resources.

Day 30 – Monochromatic Tree Study
"Monochromatic Tree Study #1" 7x5, oil on linen, © Nelia Harper
“Monochromatic Tree Study #1” 7×5, oil on linen, © Nelia Harper

For the final day, I was on the road, returning home from Steamboat Springs.  I wasn’t sure I would have time to paint, so I did some quick watercolor sketches at a coffee shop in Walden.  Thankfully, I arrived home safely, unpacked and still had time for a monochromatic tree study for the “Drawing and Painting Trees Class” that I am currently taking with Deborah Paris.

While I will continue to paint (almost) every day, I don’t feel compelled to show the world everything I paint.  So, it will quiet down a bit on the blog and social media.  I’m also finding that after the pace of September, I’m ready to slow down, take my time, observe, listen and more deeply experience nature and painting it.

Days 23-29 Steamboat Plein Air Event and Strada Easel Challenge

The Steamboat Plein Air Event brought fog, snow, rain, sun, fun and thankfully very little wind.  Thinking back, I realized I have not been to Steamboat in over 15 years!  I made a trip up there when I first moved to Colorado.  At the time, everything was grandiose, spectacular and breathtaking.  And, if I remember correctly, the return trip was seven hours, mostly stuck in traffic on I-70.  Since moving to Fort Collins, the trip takes about 3.5 hours even though it covers only 165 miles.

The trip began with a drive through the fog, up the Poudre Canyon.  As I crested Cameron Pass, the sky opened into bright blue and puffy clouds.  Crossing over to Walden and North Park, the air was brisk, the skies blue and bright and the foliage in peak color.  Looking ahead, Rabbit Ears pass was clear and there was a painting at every turn of my head.

Coming over the pass, the sky filled with leaden clouds and rain began to fall.  And so the stage was set for the coming week.  Several mornings we woke to ice on the windshields, bear pooh on the driveway, fog covering the Yampa River Valley and other days brilliant sunshine lighting up the fall foliage.

Day 23 – Rainy Day on the Yampa
Rainy Day on the Yampa, 8x10 oil on linen, © Nelia Harper
“Rainy Day on the Yampa”, 8×10 oil on linen, © Nelia Harper
Day 24 – Schoolhouse – Uphill Both Ways – Available at Steamboat Art Museum
"Schoolhouse - Uphill Both Ways", 8x16 oil on linen, © Nelia Harper
“Schoolhouse – Uphill Both Ways”, 8×16 oil on linen, © Nelia Harper
Day 25 & 26 – Elk River
"Elk River", 12x16 oil panel, © Nelia Harper
“Elk River”, 12×16 oil panel, © Nelia Harper


Day 27 – Little Bear TH – SOLD
"Little Bear TH", 11x14 oil on linen, © Nelia Harper
“Little Bear TH”, 11×14 oil on linen, © Nelia Harper
Day 28 – Autumn Surge – Available at the Steamboat Art Museum
"Autumn Surge", 11x14, oil on linen, © Nelia Harper
“Autumn Surge”, 11×14, oil on linen, © Nelia Harper
Day 29 – My View
"My View", oil on linen, 7x5, © Nelia Harper
“My View”, oil on linen, 7×5, © Nelia Harper


If you are interested in any of the paintings, please contact the good folks at the Steamboat Art Museum directly for the two.  For any of the others, please contact me.

It was a wonderful, well organized week and I look forward to exploring and painting more of the Yampa Valley in the future.

Day 21 and 22 of the Strada Easel Challenge

Day 21 – Rabbit Bush Study
Study of Rabbit Bush 5x10, oil on linen © Nelia Harper
Study of Rabbit Bush 5×10, oil on linen © Nelia Harper

Today, I was tired.  After an early morning hike and drawing, I was tired and didn’t feel like painting.  Going home, having lunch and taking a shower sounded like a much better idea.  But, I knew I was going to do a painting, so no time like the present.  As Preston and Eustace would say, “It won’t get done, if you don’t get started.” (Mountain Men – I love that show.)

I also had some new alkyd primed linen to test out for an upcoming class on drawing and painting trees.

Initially, I started with a large painting.  In the first go, I realized that I was going through the motions, and I didn’t ‘have it in me’.   What was the point of that?  Instead, I refocused, went smaller and asked myself, what can I learn?  If I’m going to paint, then paint like you mean it.

The new goal was to see how the paint interacted with the linen, trying out various brush strokes, knife work, wiping back, and adding layers.  I’m excited to see how future works go on the linen.  It’s very absorbent.


Day 22 – The Morning Lineup
"The Morning Lineup", 9x12, oil on linen, © Nelia Harper
“The Morning Lineup”, 9×12, oil on linen, © Nelia Harper

Today, I met up with our Fort Collins Plein Air Artists of Colorado group to paint downtown Fort Collins.  While the other artists focused on Lucile’s Creole Cafe, I looked around and saw the fun light and shapes of the post office trucks.  I really liked how the postal carrier trucks were lined up, throwing shadows on each other, and how the mail boxes did the same.

I knew the postal carriers could leave at any time, so I worked as quickly as I could, simplifying the background and doing my best to indicate the shapes.  It was a really fun painting, and required complete focus during the hour plus I had.  Sure enough, they began to load the trucks and drive away.

Next up, Steamboat Art Museum Plein Air Event – a week of painting in Steamboat Springs, CO.

For More Paintings

To see all the paintings for the #stradaeasel challenge, head on over to Instagram or Facebook to see all of my posts together.  And, use the hashtag #stradaeasel to see what others are up to in the Strada Easel Challenge.  You can also click “previous post” to see the earlier paintings from last week.


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