Soapstone Prairie Open Space Plein Air Painting

"Bison Overlook" at Soapstone Prairie Open Space 6x8 Pastel © Nelia Harper
“Bison Overlook” at Soapstone Prairie Open Space 6×8 Pastel © Nelia Harper

Can you feel the wind blowing across the prairie?  It was a cold, blustery day for sure!

Each Friday, the Plein Air Artists of Colorado Fort Collins group meets at a designated location to paint “en plein air” (outside).  This past Friday, we met at the Soapstone Prairie Open Space Park located along the Colorado-Wyoming border.  As I drove north, I left the houses and traffic behind and slowly began to imagine the scene as it was a hundred or even thousands of years ago.  The grasses swept across the vista in undulating shades of ochre and soapstone and sandstone ridges rose in the distance.  Two thoughts entered my mind: #1 It’s going to be cold and #2 This looks like snake country.

I was running late that morning.  By the time I arrived, everyone was set up under a ‘shelter’, painting the broad expanse.  Looking to the west, snow capped mountains peeked out from the clouds.  To the south, waves of clouds and virga (moisture that falls from clouds but evaporates before reaching the ground) pulsed through the sky.

Sure enough, walking along the trail to the group, I heard the buzz of a rattlesnake.  Now, I have to say, that in 15 years living and hiking in Colorado, I’ve never seen a rattlesnake.  I’ve seen bull snakes and garter snakes.  And, more than once, I’ve been startled by a snake basking in the sun on a hiking trail, but this was my first rattlesnake sighting.  Thankfully, it was very cold and the snake was moving slowly.  From a safe distance, I watched it unfurl and move into its den.  It was really cool to see.

Actually, it was cold!  My car said it was 37 degrees in the parking lot, but the windchill quickly moved the temperature below freezing.  We were quick with our brushes and pigments as the cold seeped up from the ground and the wind blew through the shelter opening.  (I guess it’s designed for sun and rain – ha!)  Even with hand warmers, our fingers quickly went numb!

Under the 'shelter' - the Fort Collins Plein Air Artists of Colorado
Under the ‘shelter’ – the Fort Collins Plein Air Artists of Colorado

While it wasn’t the best painting, or the best weather for painting, the day was great fun!  I tested my ‘quick draw’ skills, painting this 6×8 in less than an hour.  And, several folks came by as they looked for the recently released herd of bison.  One visitor told us that the spot we had chosen was once an overlook for the local Indians.  Pretty cool to image this scene only a 150+ years ago, long before Fort Collins ever existed.

And, our group was filled with laughter and joy – the most important element of all!

Photo by Patty Hughes: Left to Right Marguerite Meier, Nelia Harper, Alisha Lee Jeffers, Andrea Gabel, Ken Knox, Laura Young and Christine Torrez
Photo by Patty Hughes: (Left to Right) Margueritte Meier, Nelia Harper, Alisha Lee Jeffers, Andrea Gabel, Ken Knox, Laura Young and Christine Torrez

If you are in the Fort Collins area, come join us at our next paint-out.  Be sure to dress in layers and prepare for the elements!

Click here to bid on this piece.

Autumn Leaves, 8×10 Pastel Painting – SOLD

"Autumn Leaves" 8x10 Pastel on Warm Belgian Mist Kitty Wallis Paper © Nelia Harper
“Autumn Leaves” 8×10 Pastel on Warm Belgian Mist Kitty Wallis Paper © Nelia Harper – SOLD

Fall is my favorite season.  The transition from the heat of summer and the blanket of green to the crisp mornings and bursts of yellow, gold, burgundy, purple, and and orange against the bright blue Colorado sky invigorates and inspires me.

This October has been unseasonably warm (thanks to El Niño or global warming?) and I’ve been lucky to take advantage of it.  Everywhere I turn, there is the possibility of a new painting.  I’ve watched my aspen tree turn from green to gold, the birds gathering the last of the seeds from the neighbors tree, and the cries of the blue jays wake me in the morning.

Close up of a leaf in progress. "Autumn Leaves" 8x10 Pastel on Warm Belgian Mist Kitty Wallis Paper © Nelia Harper
Close up of a leaf in progress. “Autumn Leaves” 8×10 Pastel on Warm Belgian Mist Kitty Wallis Paper © Nelia Harper

I’ve always felt a connection to nature, especially when I was growing up in the woods of Minnesota, but as a painter of nature, I feel an even deeper connection.  Each day, I watch the trees and notice changes, I watch the flowers unfold, the bees collecting nectar, and I watch how the light changes with each season.

In this painting, I looked at the minute details of the leaves, the slight changes in color, the tips of the stems, the curvature as the leaf dried, the spots and flecks, lines and curves.  Each leaf its own portrait.

It’s difficult to describe the wonder and amazement that I feel when I look at our natural world.  The trees, birds, deer, and plants feel like friends.  I hope you have had the opportunity to enjoy time outside too.

Happy Autumn!


Loveland Feed and Grain

"Loveland Feed and Grain" - Pastel - 12x16 © Nelia Harper
“Loveland Feed and Grain” – Pastel – 12×16 © Nelia Harper

The day was perfect, sunny with a light cloud forming in the sky.  The light was bright but not glaring.  The morning was hot, but there was plenty of shade.  I walked around the scene for a bit, chatting with the other painters.  Perspective was going to be a challenge.  Should I zoom in on one spot?  Choose an alternate viewpoint?  I decided to ‘go for it’ and paint the scene.  It would be a good challenge.

I focused on the drawing, using a stick for comparison of angles and lines.  Most of the time was spent correcting and adjusting the lines.  Then, I massed in the shapes and adjusted the values.  About half-way through, a train came roaring by, carrying windmill blades.  Then, an hour later, another train passed through the scene.  It was pretty exciting!

Now available at auction. Click here to bid.

Pastel on archival Pastelmat paper.  Approximately 12×16 inches.

“Into the Fog” Egg Tempera Painting

"Into the Fog" - Egg Tempera Painting - 12x9 © Nelia Harper
“Into the Fog” – Egg Tempera Painting – 12×9 © Nelia Harper

This egg tempera painting was inspired by the feeling and sights of mid-winter in the Colorado Rockies.

I woke before dawn and stepped out into the crisp air.  There was a fresh layer of snow dusting the grass and trees.  I sought refuge, visiting ‘old friends’ that I have come to know, traveling this well-worn path.

The sun rose slowly over the eastern plains.  The angle low on the horizon, the light weak.  Clothed in a blanket of fog, the city had disappeared.   Gentle and illusive, a warm glow of winter sun filtered through the churning fog.  Long past it’s prime, the tree stood in a shimmering coat.  Proud, strong and beautiful.

Lake Marie – Painting of Wyoming’s Snowy Range

Lake Marie - Pastel - 18x24 © Nelia Harper
Lake Marie – Pastel – 18×24 © Nelia Harper

This painting was in my mind long before it made it to the easel.

Each summer, traveling to this spectacular mountain range is a highlight.  Mountains and tundra, covered in snow and ice from October to May, are revealed each spring as the sun warms the snow, creating streams and waterfalls. Lake Marie, formed at the base of the Snowy Range, near Centennial, Wyoming, catches the water and releases the overflow through a tumble of rock and debris.

The highest point is over 13,000 feet and a web of streams course through the landscape carrying the runoff that collects in high mountain lakes.  Thousands of visitors flock to the Snowy Range to fish, hike, rock climb, camp, snow mobile, picnic, and enjoy the serenity of the clear mountain air.

I’ve had several images in my mind of the painting I wanted to create, including a view of the mountain range, Lake Marie, the runoff, and of course the incredible tumult of rock, trees, wildflowers, and the endless sky.

Now available and on display at the AANC August Heat show August 5-8 at the Carnegie Building (200 Mathews Street).

Snowies in Summer – Painting of the Snowy Range

Snowies in Summer, Painting of the Snowy Range, Wyoming - Pastel - 18x24 © Nelia Harper
Snowies in Summer, Painting of the Snowy Range, Wyoming – Pastel – 18×24 © Nelia Harper

I’m thrilled to announce that the pastel painting, “Snowies in Summer” (18×24) has been accepted into the Colorado Pastel Society summer art show that will be held at the Denver Public Library this July 12th  – September 25th.  The opening reception will be held Sunday, July 12th from 1:30-4:30 pm.

Each summer, I spend several days exploring the mountains and fields of the Snowy Range in Med Bow Mountain National Forest on the southern border of Wyoming, near Laramie and Centennial. The mountain peak is over 13,000 feet and to circle the range is over 13 miles.  On this particular day, I hiked from Lake Marie (the far distant lake) along the ridge and finally found this spot to look out over the range and the lakes.  This particular view faces south, looking out to the Colorado mountains.  I’m always amazed by the number of wildflowers that come into bloom for such a short period of time each summer.

This particular painting of the snowy range is much larger in size than I typically paint.  It felt so freeing to work on a larger board.

“Refreshed” -7×5 Pastel – Now Available

Refreshed - Pastel on Pastelboard 7x5 © Nelia Harper
Refreshed – Pastel on Pastelboard 7×5 © Nelia Harper

I happened upon this little courtyard while exploring the Tuscan region of Italy one fall. I was intrigued by the doors, windows, and flower pots all arranged at various heights. There had been a light rain that washed through the alley just before I arrived, creating an interesting pattern.  From this pastel, I later created the egg tempera painting, “The Courtyard” which you can read about here.

This small painting is now available at auction with a starting bid of $25.00.  Shipping within the US is only $5.00 and if you are local, I’m happy to deliver to you.

Click here to bid

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If you are new to collecting original artwork, there is no need to worry about making a purchase that you regret. If you don’t love your piece, just send it back in the original packaging within 30 Days for a refund or exchange. I love painting and I want to share my joy of our beautiful world with you. Love it, or return it.

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National Greeley Art Exhibition & Sale

logoNGAE2014 copy

You are Invited to the

National Greeley Art Exhibition & Sale
May 1-3, 2015
Union Colony Civic Center Lobby
701 10th Avenue, Greeley CO 80631

Opening Reception, Friday, May 1, 5:00-8:00pm

Awards Presentation begins at 6:30pm

Open Saturday May 2, 10:00am-5:00pm

Open Sunday May 3, 11:00am-4:00pm


Sculpture, Paintings, Photography

Plus Silent Auction Miniatures

Art Entries came from Colorado, California, Nebraska, Louisiana, Virginia, New Mexico,

New York, New Hampshire, Montana, Minnesota, Arkansas, Nevada, Wyoming, and Washington

4 paintings by Juror, Gary Huber, of Buffalo, Wyoming will be featured.

Fellowship and Scholarship Award Winners will be announced at Reception.

There is no charge to see this wonderful exhibit of art!

 More Info:

Honored to Receive an Honorable Mention

I am absolutely honored to have received an honorable mention award from the Artist Association of Northern Colorado “Spring Forward” art show for “Doggie in the Window”.


I spoke with the juror at the show and asked him what it was about the painting that he saw.  He said, “At first I thought it was a photo.  When I looked closer, I realized it was a pastel.”

He went on to say that he “liked the use of shape in the painting, how the squares are repeated but offset and how the vertical line goes across the painting and the shape of the roof is also repeated in the triangles.”  He also mentioned the depth in the windows and the surprise of the dog in the window.

It was great feedback and exactly what I was going for with this piece – structure, solid shapes with the organic and excited nature of the dog.

Artists Association of Northern Colorado - "Spring Forward" Show
Artists Association of Northern Colorado – “Spring Forward” Show

The show was very well attended and the opening reception was great fun.  What a turnout!

A Full House at the Artists Association of Northern Colorado - "Spring Forward" Show
A Full House at the Artists Association of Northern Colorado – “Spring Forward”

Next weekend is the National Greeley Art Exhibition where I will have two paintings in the show and a miniature in the silent auction.  More details on that soon.

In honor of receiving and award, all prints and canvas wraps are 20% off through April 30th. Woohoo!!!  Just use the code Honor20 at checkout.

New Painting – The Hibiscus in Egg Tempera

The Hibiscus ~ Egg Tempera 6x6 © Nelia Harper
The Hibiscus ~ Egg Tempera 6×6 © Nelia Harper

Fresh off the Easel – The Hibiscus (In Shades of Pink)

In the Victorian era, the hibiscus flower represented delicate beauty.  In Hawaii, the hibiscus is often worn behind the ear as a sign of a woman’s marital status and as a symbol of hospitality.  In Egypt, the flower was used as a medicinal calming tea.  As I painted this flower over four months, I was reminded of Buddha’s Flower Sermon in which words are not required to understand its meaning.

Have you heard the story of Buddha and the Flower Sermon?

The story goes, that Buddha had gathered his students for the daily teaching.  On this particular day, rather than speaking, he held out a white lotus flower for each of his disciples and said nothing.  Each of the followers seemed a bit confused, except for one – he saw the flower and smiled a wide smile – understanding what Buddha was saying, without words.

For me, the story represents that the world and all of beauty exists in the one flower.  The flower represents all flowers and that nothing is permanent.  And, that painting this flower contains all the lessons of painting within this one painting.

I happy to announce that The Hibiscus has been chosen for the Spring Forward  art show, sponsored by the Artists Association of Northern Colorado.  The painting will be on display April 1-April 11 and available for purchase.

See upcoming events for more details.

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