On the Cob – Day 10 Strada Easel Challenge

"On the Cob", 6x8, oil on canvas panel, © Nelia Harper
“On the Cob”, 6×8, oil on canvas panel, © Nelia Harper (Sorry for the glare.)


I love harvest time.  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.  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!

If you want to see all of my pieces created for the challenge (to date), you can head on over to Instagram or Facebook.  And, use the hashtag #stradaeasel to see what others are up to in the Strada Easel Challenge.  Or, you can click “previous post” to see the earlier paintings from last week.  Enjoy!

Day 9 – Gourdness – Strada Easel

My gourdness this was tough!

"Gourdness", 5x7, oil on panel, © Nelia Harper
“Gourdness”, 5×7, oil on panel, © Nelia Harper


Ok, truth be told, painting isn’t easy.  People who say, “Oh, that must be so relaxing…” or “That must be so meditative”, have not done this.  No.  It is not relaxing or meditative.  It’s hard.  Ok.  It’s fun too.  And, very rewarding.   Secretly, I love the challenge of painting something to look realistic.  Also, I love painting outside and really ‘seeing’ the landscape or object.

Last week, I picked up this gourd at the farmer’s market, along with the mini pumpkins.  The challenge here was to get the fans of the gourd to go up, out, back, and down in light and shadow.  What made this painting particularly difficult was the variety of light colors next to dark colors.

Ok.  Now, to go draw some trees.

If you want to see all of my pieces created for the challenge (to date), you can head on over to Instagram or Facebook.  And, use the hashtag #stradaeasel to see what others are up to in the Strada Easel Challenge.  Or, you can click “previous post” to see the earlier paintings from last week.  Enjoy!

Day 8 – Soderberg Trail at Horsetooth

"Tutu Tree" 8x10, oil on canvas panel, © Nelia Harper
“Tutu Tree” 8×10, oil on canvas panel, © Nelia Harper

I’m about to start a four week class on drawing and painting trees. So, why not challenge myself with this funky cedar tree on a day with dilute light? I was intrigued by the shape – it looks like it’s wearing a tutu. And of course the yellow of the rabbitbush is always fun.

Cedar Tree with rabbitbush
Cedar Tree with rabbitbush


The fences made everything a bit confusing, so I tried to simplify it. The light was so diffuse (from the wildfires) that the values of the entire scene were a challenge. Everything look uniformly flat.

I can’t say that it was a successful painting, but it was a great day to be out painting with friends.  A light shower came through tonight, I’m hoping that will help with the air quality.

Day 6 & 7 – Sunflowers and Squash – Strada Easel Challenge

Day 6 – Sunflowers!

Things got a little wild and crazy in the studio today. I made a trip to the farmer’s market, looking for dinner. Instead, I found these golden goodies. How to decide?  Veggies or flowers? I opted for a bit of both.  Who can resist such lovely sunflowers?

"Sunflowers", 9x12, oil on panel, © Nelia Harper
“Sunflowers”, 9×12, oil on panel, © Nelia Harper

I decided to go a little larger (9×12) for the sunflowers and I’m glad I did. I don’t think one bloom would fit a 5×7!

The first day, I blocked in the shapes and developed the vase a bit.  Soon, the light was gone and I was tired.  I decided to do the finishing details on the second day, hoping to come back to the studio refreshed.  Instead, I found the sunflowers had flopped over during the night.  I made some attempts to adjust them.  In the end, I decided it wasn’t worth fighting nature and went to Plan B.


Day 7 – Plan B – Giant Pattypan
"Giant Pattypan" 5x7, oil on panel, © Nelia Harper
“Giant Pattypan” 5×7, oil on panel, © Nelia Harper (cropped)


The sunflower vendor (Tierra Bella Farm) had this huge yellow pattypan.   I decided to keep the dark purple background from yesterday to contrast the yellow.  This was another good challenge in shapes.  Funny how those little bumps can present such a challenge!

Now that I’ve painted it’s portrait, this squash might move to the chopping block for dinner.

Tomorrow, it’s time to get outside.  I plan to join the local PAAC (Plein Air Artists of Colorado) group for some plein air painting.  Hopefully we will have clear skies and good quality air.  I really hope that the NW (Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Montana and California) receive some much-needed help from man and nature in bringing these wildfires to an end.

Oh, If you want to see all of my pieces created for the challenge (to date), you can head on over to Instagram or Facebook.  And, use the hashtag #stradaeasel to see what others are up to in the Strada Easel Challenge.

You can see Days 1-3 here.

Day 4 is here.  And, Day 5 is here.

African Doll – Day 5 Strada Easel Challenge

"African Doll", 8x6, oil on canvas panel, © Nelia Harper
“African Doll”, 8×6, oil on canvas panel, © Nelia Harper

I guess it was the trip down memory lane yesterday, that prompted me to attempt this African doll painting for Day 5 of the Strada Easel Challenge.

I found this doll when I lived in Namibia. (Nambia is located on the bottom of the African continent between South Africa and Angola.)  I’m not sure what the initial attraction was to the doll, perhaps she reminded me of when my mother sewed our clothes.

My sister and I each had a doll that resembled us. My favorite feature was the way their eyes closed when they were lying down. Mom even made matching outfits for our dolls.

Of course, this African doll looks nothing like me!

Unlike the sandstone statues, hand-woven baskets, and various trinkets that felt mass-produced for the tourists, this doll appeared to be made with focus and care. Although the doll doesn’t look very happy, I was quite happy to buy her. I felt that someone put attention and effort into shaping her face, and sewing on the trim. Whoever made her seemed to care about doing good work.

She sits on my shelf, wearing her light pink dress, trimmed with red bric brac and a zigzag of green thread. I also have a clay pot, some woven baskets, wooden bowls, and hand-carved statues that might make future paintings too.

I think my childhood doll is around here too. Hmmm…I just might have to find her. Altough, there’s a good chance she’s missing an eye…

If you want to see all of my pieces created for the challenge (to date), you can head on over to Instagram or Facebook.  And, use the hashtag #stradaeasel to see what others are up to in the Strada Easel Challenge.  You can see Days 1-3 here.  Day 4 is here.


Curiosities – Day 4 Strada Easel Challenge

"Curiosities" 5x7, oil on panel, © Nelia Harper
“Curiosities” 5×7, oil on panel, © Nelia Harper

Are all artists collectors?  Since I was a little girl, I loved to collect things – especially miniature versions of things.  Perhaps that is why I enjoy painting small?  For Day 4 of the Strada Easel Challenge, I chose to paint a vignette from my collection.

Knowing I had a little more time to paint today, I chose to paint this little fella from my collection of curiosities.  I purchased this little sandstone elephant years (ok decades) ago when I lived in Africa.  It seems to me that it was in Zimbabwe…but…well, it was so long ago, I just don’t remember.

And yet, every time I look at him, I remember being there.  I remember the heat, the markets, matatus (local minibus transportation), the smell of the local fermented brew, bodies packed together, and dust.  I remember stepping off the plane onto the tarmac: the red earth contrasted against the endless sky and tufts of grass.  Visions and moments from late nights, long bus rides, friendships, conversation and adventures flicker across my mind.  The memories are endless.

While I’m painting, I can’t think about those things.  Memories must be pushed aside.  Instead, I focus on light and shadow, the transition of planes and edges.  I think about color, perspective, and brush strokes.  But, it’s all there, in the back of my mind, ready to burst into my conscious mind.  Someday, I’ll go back.

If you want to see all of my pieces created for the challenge (to date), you can head on over to Instagram or Facebook.  And, use the hashtag #stradaeasel to see what others are up to in the Strada Easel Challenge.  You can see Days 1-3 here.

Strada Easel Challenge Day1-3

Do you paint daily? Well, the announcement of the Strada Easel Challenge to paint from life for the month of September has spurred me to paint daily for the next 27 days (we are already three days in).  Although I like the idea of blogging every day, I don’t think that will happen too!

My goal for the month is to focus on color in light and shadow.  For some reason, this seems relatively simple outdoors.  When painting en plein air, I can easily see the shadow in leaves or in the forest.  The form and cast shadow of rocks are fairly easy to see too.  But painting those colors when there are so many colors in the object is a challenge.

Most of the month, I will work from still life, simple objects on a simple surface.  And, if the weather cools off a bit, I’ll head outside to paint too.  I’m also off to Steamboat, CO for a plein air festival later this month, so I’ll have a full week of outdoor painting to look forward to.

Day 1 “An Apple a Day”, 5×7, oil on panel.
"An Apple a Day", 5x7, oil on panel, © Nelia Harper
“An Apple a Day”, 5×7, oil on panel, © Nelia Harper

A painting a day.  An apple a day. (Haha)  It’s tempting to paint 30 apples of different varieties, but I need to keep this simple, so I started with what I had on hand, an akame apple from the farmer’s market.

My goal was to paint the apple, using white only in the highlight.  I still have work to do creating plane changes, but I was very happy with the red color and using cool and warm colors.

Day 2 “Cocozelle Zucchini”, 5×7, oil on panel.
"Cocozelle Zucchini", 5x7, oil on panel, © Nelia Harper
“Cocozelle Zucchini”, 5×7, oil on panel, © Nelia Harper

AKA – A study in Green Stripes

This little striped gourd came from the garden.  Freshly picked, I kept the little tendrils on just for fun.  Here the goal was to not only get the color in light and shadow but to also create a sense of foreshortening by having the bottom of the zucchini closer to the viewer.

I still need to work on turning the under planes.  Those areas are bit tricky.

Day 3  “Mini Pumpkin”, 5×7 oil on panel.
"Mini Pumpkin", 5x7, oil on panel, © Nelia Harper
“Mini Pumpkin”, 5×7, oil on panel, © Nelia Harper

AKA a study in orange.

It’s almost that time of year.  Although temperatures soared to a 100 degrees today, cooler weather and the end of summer are near.  A trip to the farmer’s market today resulted in a feast of gourds!  I picked up four lumpy, bumpy gourds and two mini pumpkins.  I was a little tired from the heat and an early morning hike, so I stuck to just one mini pumpkin for an exercise in orange.

Again, getting the pumpkin to ‘turn under’ at the base was a bit of a challenge.  I also wanted to limit the use of white on the pumpkin, using Naples Yellow Light and Cad Yellow to lighten the orange color.  I felt that the shadow got a little ‘dirty’.  So, I’m going to try this again using Burnt Sienna and Burnt Umber and create a larger gradient of warm and cool hues of orange.

Having used the same background for all three has been really fun.  I have found each one a little easier and more enjoyable.  Testing out various brush strokes, using the knife, incorporating texture, and using both opaque and transparent paint has been a real pleasure.  I ‘see’ a little more each time and although the paintings are quick and finished in one sitting, I’m enjoying the process.

I hope you enjoy the paintings too.

Heirloom Tomatoes

Heirloom Beauties was inspired by yet another trip to the Farmer’s Market and a haul of heirloom tomatoes.  The good folks from Honeyacre Farm devote their loves to growing luscious heirloom tomatoes, meaty, flavorful bell peppers, and solid cucumbers the size my arm.

"Heirloom Beauties", 8 1/4 x16, © Nelia Harper
“Heirloom Beauties”, 8 1/4 x16, © Nelia Harper

Because they grow the produce in a greenhouse, they arrive early to market, well-stocked.  While most other vendors ply last year’s potatoes and a few spring greens, these heirloom beauties kick-off the season and one’s taste-buds.

Arriving at the market early in the season makes it easier to chat with the vendors too.  No need to wait in line under the baking sun either.  Peggy from Honeyacre was happy to help me select the tomatoes while she chatted up other customers too.

I added some spring flowers (Stock) to the setup.  (What the name lacks in originality and interest, it makes up for in smell.) The delicate flowers create a lovely perfume and texture.  A couple of small tomatoes finished up the setup.

I designed this still life to create a bold statement.  I wanted to work with bright cadmium paint and explore vibrant color. To do this, I choose a deep red backdrop to complement the tomatoes and stock flowers as delicate texture to contrast  the smooth tomatoes.

Luckily, I was able to enjoy the models for dinner too!

Bobcat Oasis – New Oil Painting

"Bobcat Oasis", Oil on Canvas Panel, 12x16, © Nelia Harper
“Bobcat Oasis”, Oil on Canvas Panel, 12×16, © Nelia Harper

How many times have I pulled on my backpack and headed for a nearby park to hike, think, look and ponder?   Whether I have a lot on my mind, or I just feel the need to get out into nature, Bobcat Ridge Open Space is a ‘go-to’ spot. There, I am free to wander, wonder and ease back into myself.

As I wind through the tall grass, I look for deer, elk, rabbit, turkey vultures, coyotes, and bear.  In the spring, I listen for the early call of the meadowlark.  And, I hope that I might spot an elusive Rocky Mountain Bluebird. As my feet carry me into the foothills, my mind is free to think or not.  Inevitably, I find myself seeking out new compositions, looking for the change of seasons in my favorite spots and planning my return.

This cottonwood has been calling to me since last fall.  Although I missed the color change last year, I knew it would make a great subject this summer.  After waiting through winter and spring, summer finally arrived. I packed up my plein air gear, hiked out along the trail (a good mile or so with 30+lbs) and set up on a lovely summer day.  As the clouds shifted and changed in the sky, I chatted with the tree and those passing by on the trail.  As I painted, I thought about taking a nap or having a picnic under the tree’s canopy.  Then, about 2 hours into the painting, I heard thunder.

Behind me, building up in the west, a series of thunderheads were forming.  It was time to pack up and either take cover or head for the car.  Debating between hunkering down and heading for the car, I gambled on the car.  Sure enough, just as I reached it, the rain began to fall.

Back in the studio, I put on the finishing touches.  While I finished the painting, I reflected on the oasis that Bobcat Ridge has become for me.  I hope you have a place where you can go to seek solace from the everyday worries and connect with nature too.

Exploring the Poudre River Canyon – Tributary

"Tributary", Oil on Canvas Panel, 16x12, © Nelia Harper
“Tributary”, Oil on Canvas Panel, 16×12, © Nelia Harper

This summer, I spent a little time exploring the Poudre River Canyon.  Formally named Cache la Poudre by the french trappers in the 1800s (where they stashed gunpowder in a raging blizzard), the Poudre (poo-der) as locals call it, begins in Rocky Mountain National Park (RMNP) and drops over 7000 feet and flows through Fort Collins before it merges with the South Platte River in Greeley.

The Poudre River is Colorado’s only nationally designated “Wild & Scenic” River, and even with such high status, the Poudre remains a bit of a hidden gem.  Which is fine with me.

Highway 14 follows the river for miles, and much of the land on either side is undeveloped, partly because of the steep canyon walls.  However, there are plenty of campsites, places to fish, whitewater rafting, rock climbing, and hiking along the river.  And, because the road leads to Walden, CO, northern access to RMNP, State Forest State Park and very little human habitation, most of the folks traveling Hwy 14 are there for recreation.

Fellow artist, Andrea Gabel and I spend two days and one night camped out along the river early this summer, exploring, painting and breathing in the fresh air.

I painted this 16×12 oil painting along a hidden tributary.  I have driven by this area countless times and never knew what  was hidden away.  We started the day at the break of dawn, drove a short distance from our campsite, and hiked out to see what we could see.

The sun was just coming up over the cliffs and began to filter through the trees.  Both Andrea and I fell in love with this picturesque spot.  We listened to the hum and throb of the water, watched the light shift and change, followed what we later learned were skunk tracks, and reveled in the beauty of the day.

Now available. $375 framed. Please contact me if you have any questions or would like to ad this to your collection.

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 11