"Rabbitbush" pastel, 16x20, © Nelia Harper

While doing some plein air painting on a brisk January day, I came across this gigantic rabbitbush.   It still had several of its colorful blooms. Startled by the sheer size of the bush and enthralled by the sky and frozen pond, I knew this would be my next painting.

I hoped to convey the drama of Colorado’s winter sky.  Will the storm blow in or move on?  I also wanted to create a sense of texture and the feeling of windswept space.  By creating such a large bush, I hoped to instill a feeling of the size and magnitude.  How old is this bush?  What has it seen?  How long will it remain?

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"Summer Sweetness", 11x15, Pastel © Nelia Harper
Summer Sweetness

Can you feel the fuzz?  Do you smell that sweet syrup of a ripe summer peach? Each summer, I look forward to peach season and picking up fresh peaches from the farmer’s market.  After they grow and ripen in the heat of the Western Slope, they arrive at the market ready to eat.  There’s nothing as delicious as a sweet summer peach on a hot day, especially when the juice drips down your hand…

Pastel, 11×15

Still Life

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"Peach Study" 5x5, Pastel, © Nelia Harper
Peach Study in Pastel

I’ve been looking forward to summer and doing a peach study in pastel for a larger painting.  Each year, Morton’s Organic Orchards sets up their fruit stand at the nearby farmer’s market. They begin with cherries that are so deep and dark in color, flavor and sugar that I feel ‘drunk’ after just a few morsels.

Following on the heels of the cherries, the peaches arrive. Clingstone peaches appear first – small and sweet. Then, giant freestone peaches arrive by the truckload, covered in peach fuzz. They line up, ready to be turned into pies and jams and in my case, ice cream and smoothies.

These little orbs of sweetness are surprisingly solid. I wanted the viewer to feel as though they could be picked up and held, as well as eaten.

pastel, still life, 5×5

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"Fall at Bobcat Ridge" Pastel, 12x16 © Nelia Harper
Bobcat Autumn

Walk through the foothills of Colorado in the fall and the world alights in yellow, orange and gold.  This pastel painting was inspired by a walk through Bobcat Ridge Natural Area.  Located in the foothills of Fort Collins, I return again and again for inspiration and the display of fall color as the leaves turn from green to orange, yellow and gold.

Pastel, 12×16

Winner of the Guerilla Painter Award – 2016 Pastel Society of Colorado Mile High National Show

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You Sing to My Spirit, Pastel, 18x24 © Nelia Harper
You Sing to My Spirit

Just as the sky began to lighten, I wound my way up the Thompson Canyon, and bounced over the well worn highway to the Wild Basin turnoff in Rocky Mountain National Park.  Meeting other painters, we started up the trail with our 30 pound packs.  About a mile in, the trail became steep and covered in snow.  We carried on, and the reward was well worth the effort when we reached the tumbling Cascade Waterfalls.

pastel, 18×24

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Burning Bush, Pastel 11x15 © Nelia Harper
Burning Bush

The South Platte River in eastern Colorado fills with duck, geese and turkey.  In the fall, colors burn bright orange, gold and pale blue green as the sky changes from bright blue to soft fall skies.

pastel, 12×15

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"Allure" Pastel 11x15 © Nelia Harper

An intuitive landscape inspired by Red Rocks in Nevada, granite and natural landscapes of Colorado, this scene incorporates real and imagined elements of nature. The allure of rock, adventure and scaling new peaks.

pastel, 11×15

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Golden Owls 14x11 Pastel © Nelia Harper
Golden Owls

The “Twin Owls” rock formation is located in the heart of the MacGregor Ranch in Estes Park, Colorado.  As part of a larger formation known as Lumpy Ridge, the Twin Owls can be seen from across the valley.  Perched in their granite nest, the rocks harbor raptors and rock climbers.  On a picture perfect fall day, the aspens have reached the height of their gold color.  Each tree and leaf sparkles in the sun

pastel, 11×14

en plein air

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"Loveland Feed and Grain" - Pastel - 12x16 © Nelia Harper
Next Stop: Feed and Grain – Loveland, CO

It was hot!  At 9 am, the ambient temperature was already reaching 90+ degrees.   I searched for a spot in the shade, where I could focus and not fry my skin.  Spying a level, shady spot next to the train tracks, I setup and began to outline the lines and angles of the old building.  Not long into the painting, a train roared past, carrying shiny new windmill blades.  Where once we were fed by the trains that carried grain, now the trains carry windmills to feed our hunger for energy.  Although abandoned, the building will soon undergo a renovation and be transformed into a home for artists and galleries.

pastel, 12×16

en plein air

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"Old Friend" Pastel 12x15 © Nelia Harper
Old Friend

Along my favorite hiking trails, I look forward to seeing particular trees.  I’m drawn to their shapes, the curvature of their limbs, the shade they offer, or the feeling they invoke.   Over time, I feel like I know them, and that they know me.  I’ve had my eye on this particular bend in the trail.  I like the way the tree leans over, toward the bridge and the rock, greeting those that pass.  Just as people are unique in their character, so are trees.  As I painted this tree’s portrait, I felt like I was painting an ‘Old Friend’.

pastel, 12×15

en plein air


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"Cliffs of the Poudre" Pastel 12x15 © Nelia Harper
Lazy Day at the Poudre

Not far from the city, along the Cache la Poudre River, there’s a fishing hole that’s popular with anglers seeking trout.  Originating in the northern range of Rocky Mountain National Park, the ice cold water quenches the thirst of the residents along its path before joining the South Platte and traveling to the Gulf of Mexico.  The water gurgled past, the trees were just beginning to turn, and I wished I’d worn my bathing suit for a quick dip in the river.

pastel, 12×15

en plein air

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Fall Along the River 6x8 Pastel © Nelia Harper
Fall Along the River

Watching fall arrive along the South Platte River in Colorado is a special treat. The water drifts past, placid and gentle.  The cottonwoods shift from green to shades of orange and bright yellows.  The grasses glow, almost iridescent in the sunshine.  Yet, in the shade, the air is cool and refreshing.  While sitting on a log, painting this scene, I watched flock of wild turkeys fly across the river, minutes later, a pair of doves drifted past.  And, while I didn’t see them, I know that deer, beaver and muskrat are nearby, busily preparing for winter.

pastel, 6×8

en plein air

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"Riverbend Crossing" 11x14 Pastel © Nelia Harper
Riverbend Crossing

Looking for a place to set-up, I spotted a doe and young buck in the underbrush across the river. Along with the chickadees and juvenile bald eagles, they kept me company.  The doe bounded through the long grass and foraged through the scraggly brush.  Either she didn’t notice me, or she knew she was safe.

pastel, 15 3/4 x 11 3/4

en plein air

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"Cusp of Spring" 8.75x8.75 Pastel © Nelia Harper
Cusp of Spring

The allure of Colorado is the warm spring days interspersed between cold and snow.  The ice and snow melt, the geese swim through for a visit, children run and play and the moisture begins to work its way up the willows, promising summer days and sunshine.

pastel, 8.75×8.75

en plein air


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A-Maze-Ing - Pastel - 5x7 on UArt Paper © Nelia Harper

Rocks pile and tumble against the alpine blue sky of Wyoming.  From a distance, the rocks appear to be building blocks for a giant toddler.  Here they sit, forgotten in the eons of time.  Contrasted to the hard, sharp rock, aspens dance in the breeze, their golden fall colors warm and bright.

pastel, 5×7

en plein air


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Lake Marie - Pastel - 18x24 © Nelia Harper
Lake Marie

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.

pastel, 18×24

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Snowies in Summer 18x24 Pastel © Nelia Harper
Snowies in Summer

Each summer, I spend several days exploring this mountain range.  On this particular day, I hiked from Lake Marie (the far distant lake) to the top of this 13,000 foot ridge where I 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.

pastel, 18×24

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Doggie in the Window 10x8 Pastel © Nelia Harper
Doggie in the Window

Located in the heart of France, there is a village built of red sandstone with roofs of slate, covered in lichen and moss. As I strolled through the village on a crisp fall day, I spotted this little “Doggie in the Window”. He was so excited and happy. He clearly wanted to come out to play.

Collonges la Rouge, France

pastel, 10×8

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Fall Bouquet © Nelia Harper
Fall Bouquet

Autumn brings splendor to the mountains of Colorado. The mount mahogany shifts to deep purple, the cottonwoods burst forth in gold and orange. The grasses pulse in waves of color. Set against the red sandstone hogback, fall creates a bouquet of color.

pastel, 12×9

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Reynolds Hill 12x9 Pastel © Nelia Harper
Reynold’s Hill

A popular climbing area in Vedauwoo, Wyoming, Reynold’s Hill, a monolith of 1.4 billion year old granite, stands proud and strong.   Surrounded by its court of lush aspen trees and meadows of willows, it reflects on its image in the still pool.

Vedauwoo, Wyoming

pastel, 12×9

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Cheese Seller of Giza - 8x10 - Pastel © Nelia Harper
Cheese Seller of Giza

Overwhelmed by the massive pyramids of Giza, the world quickly diminished as I wandered the ancient alleyways of the nearby village. A high –pitched wail stunned me as it ricocheted off the high walls. “What is that sound?” I asked my guide. “Oh, that? A woman is letting people know that she is here selling her cheese.” She rounded the corner, draped in black, balancing her wares on her head.

pastel, 10×8

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Meadow of Gold © Nelia Harper
Meadow of Gold

In the fleeting warmth of the high country, summer bursts forth in a profusion of flowers. Each bud explodes in color. The red paintbrush seeks its moment of glory in the carpet of gold.

Snowy Range, Wyoming

pastel,  8×10 

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