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Classical Realism in the Mountains

Article Published: Aug. 12, 2010 | Modified: Sep. 7, 2011
Classical Realism in the Mountains

In addition to the mountain landscapes, the new exhibit will feature Nelson's works painted in the south of France, on Pawley's Island and in Israel.

Discerning art lovers can tell the difference between a piece of artwork that was drawn or painted from a photograph and one that was drawn or painted from life.

While a landscape or a portrait that was first captured by a camera might have realistic dimensions and color, it fails to compare with an image that comes through a true artist's eyes, brain and hands.

That's one of the primary philosophies of Blowing Rock artist Roger Nelson, and that is why you might see him painting or drawing on the Moses Cone Estate or on top of Grandfather Mountain. He is capturing a moment in time that will be given eternal life through his considerable artistic talents.

A collection of Roger Allen Nelson's paintings and drawings will soon be on exhibit at Blowing Rock Frameworks and Gallery, located in the Food Lion shopping center off U.S. 321. The work will be on display Aug. 16-30, with an artist's reception to be held on Saturday, Aug. 21, from 5 to 8 p.m.

Nelson is well known in the High Country and beyond for his fresco work-first with mentor Ben Long and for the past six years on his own. While those fresco works are literally cemented to their surroundings, Nelson's paintings and drawings are more mobile and have found homes in galleries and private collections all over the country.

Nelson's latest series of paintings, and the core of the new exhibit at Blowing Rock Frameworks and Gallery, has been inspired by the breathtaking mountain landscapes of western North Carolina. Among the newer pieces are several painted on the Cone Estate, including one that utilizes Nelson's adept knowledge of classical figure arrangement on the porch of the Cone Manor.

In addition to the mountain landscapes, the new exhibit will feature Nelson's works painted in the south of France, on Pawley's Island and in Israel. He will also present a couple of framed fresco works so visitors to the exhibit can see for themselves the difference between frescoes and paintings. Nelson's artwork and career have been shaped by his training in classical realism.

After earning a degree in fine arts and art history at the University of Minnesota, he continued his studies at Atelier School of Fine Arts in Minneapolis. Later he was commissioned by the city of Minneapolis to design and paint murals.

After moving to the North Carolina mountains, Nelson turned his skill toward carpentry and renovation. He drew plans for local architects, leading to an invitation to provide set designs for the movie, Winter People, based on a book by Asheville's John Ehle and filmed at various locations in Avery County.

In 1989, Nelson met world-renowned fresco master Ben Long. Work was under way on a fresco at St. Peter's Catholic Church when Nelson signed on as a volunteer. He was ultimately named Long's chief associate artist, working with his mentor on frescoes in France and all over western North Carolina.

In 2000, Nelson began accepting solo commissions and soon after created his first solo fresco at St. Paul's Episcopal Church in Winston-Salem.

Long and Nelson continue to work together as instructors at the Fine Arts League of Asheville. Nelson teaches artistic anatomy and life/figure drawing, and the duo is teaching its first fresco class this year.

Recently, Nelson has been working on more and more commissioned works, both frescoes in homes and businesses, and paintings.

"I want to generate more commissioned work," Nelson said. "I like being given a theme and a wall or a space to work with. It's something I'm really good at, and I like working with people to create something personal for them."

One of his recent commissioned works shows a couple at the base of a giant tree. As you follow the tree upwards into its branches and leaves, you see images of people and places that are important to the couple.

Nelson has recently converted an old house into artist's studio.

"It sat unused for 20 years," he said. "I'm really pleased with how it has been transformed into a studio."

Inside the studio are dozens of Nelson's recent works, including new portraits and a series of sketches leading up to new installation pieces of Daniel Boone and a pioneer woman. Some of these sketches will also be featured in the new exhibit at Blowing Rock Frameworks and Gallery.

Blowing Rock Frameworks and Gallery is located at 7539 Valley Blvd. in Blowing Rock. For more information, call (828) 295-0041 or visit

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