Nancy Lee Moran

Romantic Realist

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News Archives

Here are the months and topics of my journal blog.

Click each month to see news of that month.

Each small image will enlarge if you click on it.

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February 2008 My Studio in Winter My Crocheted Wedding Dress
April 2008 How is a Dance like a Painting? Books by Alexander McCall Smith
June 2008 What is a Hand-Colored Photo? Might you like to make one?


June 2007 About Spring Art In Art, What Is a Life Study?
July 2007 About my Grandfather Stormy Weather by Julette Jiles
August 2007 Squirrels and Squirrel Spaniels Papillons; A Momentous Birthday
December 2007 A Solo Art Show at the Lyceum Historical Brownville in Nebraska

2009 to 2011 Web Pages

See April 2009 Art Newsletter
See April 2010 Art Newsletter
See June 2010 Art Newsletter
See August 2009 Art Newsletter
See August 2010 Art Newsletter
See October 2010 Art Newsletter
See November 2010 Art Newsletter
See December 2010 Art Newsletter

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Latasha Vere is a pastel painting by Nancy Lee Moran, of a girl petting her cat, 20x14 painted in 1997 from the artist's own 1997 reference photos taken in Auburn, Nebraska, in colors of red, rose, magenta, violet, gray, brown and green
"Her Gentle Touch, Latasha Vere" pastel 1997
Click art to enlarge it.

February 2008
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My Studio in Winter

I hope my website will be a warm, cozy place for you to visit.
I appreciate the warmth and comfort of my studio during winter. It has neutral colors and natural light. I keep photographs of my family nearby. I have some realistic dolls of young children, which help me keep in mind the proportions of childhood while painting children. I used to be able to study my own children, but now even my youngest has become more of a man than a child. I will write about my favorite doll artists soon.
In the studio are my wonderful art books, most of them like wise friends, waiting on the shelf to help and inspire me.
One of my favorite inspirations in the studio is my fabric and linen collection. As a young woman, I enjoyed sewing. I have romantic toddler dresses by April Cornell that are sometimes used for portrait sittings and ideas, in blush pink and ecru, also a handmade dress in blue toile. I keep samples of Victorian ribbon-embroidery, laces, crocheted doilies and tatting. For two recent portraits, I designed the dresses to paint. Elegant embroidery on pillowcases and runners charms me, as I imagine the skill and patience of hands creating it years ago. My grandmother passed on to me a pillow sham and a baptismal gown over a hundred years old.
When I was a young woman, I enjoyed crocheting toys and sweaters for my children. You may be surprised to learn that I crocheted my wedding dress, too, of finely spun pearl yarn, which took me three hundred hours to finish. It had about a hundred crocheted rosettes on the sleeves and floor-length skirt. I crocheted the front of the dress during the autumn and spring college terms. I crocheted the back during summer, college break. Then I noticed a peculiar thing. The back of the dress was about eight inches longer than the front. Oh, dear! I checked the pattern again. What had happened? Finally I realized that since I had felt more tense during the college years, juggling classes and work at a restaurant, I had pulled the yarn tighter. Front and back of the dress had the same number of rows, but all the stitches were tighter in the front part. So I improvised by pulling up the back part with columns of cotton perling thread. The effect was pretty and added interest to the design! The motto is: We all need more summer relaxation, in every season of the year.
1982-1983, Nancy Lee Moran sewed a silk christening gown, smocking, French seams, seda, sedero, soie, di seta, first worn by son Brian Patrick in 1983
I sewed a silk christening gown with smocking for our children, here worn by Gregory Michael in 1992. Credit for the beautiful photo: Barb Gardner
1977-1978, Nancy Lee Moran crocheted her wedding dress, gown, bride, bridal, groom, croche, robe, jeune, mariee, vestido, novia, nupcial, novio, uncinetto, bait, sposa, sposa, sposo
Once upon a time . . .
Nancy's Crocheted Wedding Dress
Photo by David Lee
My knitting attempts were ambitious, too, but less successful. I made a Celtic fisherman sweater of many varied stitches for my betrothed at Christmas. He wore it only once, as it was so stiff it could almost stand up by itself and probably felt like a strait jacket, though he was too kind to say so. We are still married, thankfully. I always liked making things with my hands, which is part of the pleasure of painting. Before my marriage, my mother kindly arranged for china painting lessons for me. It took about seven years for those painting seeds to sprout, which is when I began to take a few art classes at a local college.

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Nancy Lee Moran with the preschool ballet class of 2006, in our recital costumes. The faces of the girls are softened for reasons of privacy. Photo courtesy of Pargetts in Nebraska City NE
Nancy with the preschool ballet class in 2006
The faces of the girls are softened for reasons of privacy. Photo courtesy of Pargetts in Nebraska City NE.
Click image to enlarge it.

April 2008

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How is a Dance like a Painting?

The May dance recital in my town is only one month away. Everyone has been practicing dances since January. It will be my fourth year to help as a volunteer by going onstage with the youngest dancers, ages three to five. I dance with the little ones in order to provide a reassuring presence and to role-model the steps, in case a child forgets. For some it will be their first time to see bright stage lights and the hundreds of eyes in an audience. Even if all the faces in the audience are friendly ones, it can be unnerving.
I hope the recital goes smoothly. In 2005 a child scraped her arm and needed a Band-Aid just as we were lining up to go onstage. She could simply not dance without a Band-Aid, nor without antibiotic ointment on the cut (Can you tell that both of her parents were doctors?). No other mishaps since then.
I like everything about ballet, from the French words (I studied French for four years in high school) to the graceful steps to the beautiful music. Helping the children and teacher brings me happiness. Ballet works like a tonic for my blue moods.

How do dances relate to paintings?

A dance, if well learned, will look deceptively easy. The audience will see onstage smiles and complex steps that are energetic and graceful. In just one four-minute jazz dance there may be a thousand steps and motions. Each had to learned, step by step.
It is similar for paintings. One painting may include hundreds of decisions in design, color, brush stroke, edge, and shape. In the end, however, the painting should look as if it were effortless. The artist may feel tired and ragged, like the dancers at the end of an energetic dance, yet only the fresh beauty of the artwork is meant to be seen.
In the book by the Royal Academy of Dancing, Step by Step, Steven Heathcote of the Australian Ballet wrote: There will always be more to discover about the elusive world of dance, and I hope to be able to contribute to it for many years to come. I like how elusive Fine Art is. I hope to keep contributing to it.

A book you may like:

When painting, I am fond of audiobooks by Alexander McCall Smith about the No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency. His stories remind me of the worthy goals of combining compassion and goodness with courage. The author was born in Zimbabwe and taught law at the University of Botswanan. Botswanan then became the setting for the adventures of detective Mma Ramotswe and her loved ones. She mulls over her mysterious cases while sipping bush tea, which sounds quite tasty. HBO filmed some episodes of the series.

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Detail of a 8x10 sepia photograph, taken by the artist, handcolored with oil glazes, new original hand-colored sepia photo (photograph) of tulips, tulip row, photo taken in Omaha Nebraska, photograph painted by artist Nancy Lee Moran with glazes of oil paint in colors of yellow, green, red, title Topaz Tulips.
Detail of hand-colored photograph named Topaz Tulips
Click art to enlarge it.

June 2008

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What is a Hand-Colored Photo? Might you like to make one?

Sepia 8x10 photo by Nancy Lee Moran named Topaz Tulips, before the artist added color with oil glazes
Sepia Photograph before it was handcolored with oil glazes
Click photo to enlarge it.

sepia 8x10 photo, by Nancy Lee Moran, title Topaz Tulips, artist added color with oil glazes, original art, handcolored hand-colored photograph, Nebraska artist Nancy Lee Moran, oil glazes, tulips garden, tulip row, red and yellow flower blooms
Handcolored Photograph
Click art to enlarge it.

The top picture shows my sepia photo of a tulip garden before I added color with oil-alkyd glazes. The bottom picture shows the handcolored photograph (with coloring added with oil paints by Nancy) called 'Topaz Tulips.'
Some collectors have asked me to create small original works that would be more affordable than oil paintings. In 2004, therefore, I began to use oil glazes on black and white (and also sepia) photographs, a process that takes less time than a full painting. Suppose I compare making a painting to the baking of a cake from scratch, from selecting the recipe to assembling all the ingredients. In that case, hand-coloring a photo is like putting the icing on a cake that has already been baked. It is the fun, colorful part, made easy because the photo supplies the drawing and values (light and dark areas).
I select a photo that I have taken. First I seal the photo, to protect it from the oil glazes. I then apply from four to twelve glazes of color and add texture by hand.
Below here is a black and white photo taken by my friend, photographer Lynell Morgan, of Lynell's niece and nephew. I handcolored the 11x14 photo for her.

Photo by Lynell Morgan, handcolored by Nebraska artist Nancy Lee Moran, oil glazes, girl and boy, children on steps, playing dressup
Photo by Lynell Morgan, handcolored by Nancy Lee
Click art to enlarge it.

I learned some of my methods from several articles I had kept from Artist's magazine and from a video I purchased in 2004, Handcoloring Photographs by James A. McKinnis (video copyrighted in 1989).

About YOU, dear reader: If you find it difficult to draw accurately, but like to explore colors, hand-tinting photos may be an art form you would enjoy. You can have fun with your colors, making them far different from the ones seen in nature. My friend Lynell Morgan enjoys PhotoShop and other computer programs for altering her photographs. I like to work by hand instead. You may like to do BOTH!
Text and art here has been copyrighted by Nancy Lee Moran, with one artwork also copyrighted by Lynell Morgan.
There are MORE SAMPLES of handcolored photos on my website.

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Lyndi is an pastel commission of Lyndi by Nancy Lee Moran, 24 x 20 pastel painted in 1998 from a photo taken by Nancy Lee Moran, with colored glass fruit in a basket, in colors of rose, magenta, violet, gray and green
"Lyndi" pastel painting
Click art to enlarge it.

December 2007

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Art Show in Brownville, Nebraska

My show at the Brownville Lyceum will remained up during January. There were fourteen new oil paintings in an art size of about 5x7, all framed. The theme of the show was Beauty in my Home Town, with images from the 2007 Auburn Garden Tour and animals from the Nemaha County Fair. I also showed two large oils and three giclee(on canvas) prints. I borrowed two of my commissioned portraits to show. The Opening Reception was on Sunday, December 2nd, from 4:00 to 6:00 in the afternoon, with cheesecakes, French-pressed coffees, and friendship.

December 2nd would have been the 76th birthday of my father, who passed away in 2003. I was thinking about him, about how capable he was at planning big events. In his university career and later work for opera and theatre companies, he orchestrated many galas and public performances. I hope he would think I did okay in planning this small event.

Brownville is about sixty miles from Omaha and Lincoln and is the home of the Brownville Concert Series.
Click here to see the Brownville Lyceum website, which will open in a new window. The website has photos of the Lyceum and directions to it, including a map.

I have enclosed below excerpts from an article written about the Lyceum by the Lincoln Journal Star.

Brownville's Book Town Brings about a Rebirth

Lincoln Journal Star article by Kendra Waltke (Sunday issue of January 22, 2006)
In December 2005, Brownville took a leap forward with the opening of The Lyceum, a used bookstore and restaurant. The sunny business, spread over three 1870s brick buildings on Main Street, can serve as a home base for bookworms and tourists bound for the town’s museums and theaters. Also on Main Street, George Neubert, former director of the Sheldon Art Gallery, has begun work on a church that will soon house a folk art gallery.

With her husband Randel, Jane Smith runs the Spirit of Brownville, an excursion boat that hosts tours and dinner cruises on the Missouri in warmer months. Over the years, the 67-year-old woman with the bright blue eyes and perfect posture has done a lot to boost the town. But she never thought about opening a restaurant or bookstore until four years ago. Smith read an article about the Book Town movement, an effort to stimulate rural economies with used bookstores.

With no real intent, Smith fired off an e-mail about Brownville to “Book King” Richard Booth of Hay-on-Wye, Wales, a remote village that now has 38 bookstores. “I never expected him to write me back,” Smith said, “but he did.” In 2003, the self-crowned Book King raised his scepter and decreed Brownville a Book Town. Smith’s plan also received a $102,700 grant from the Nebraska Department of Economic Development because it would create jobs. “Then the die was cast,” she said.

The sprawling store is inviting with blooming geraniums and cozy places to curl up and read the six tons of books that arrived last fall. Books sell for under $10 and children’s books are even cheaper. Nearly all the books are shipped from Wales, so inventory runs to English tastes. One rack was filled with books on British royals, with old copies of the London tabloid “OK!” and pictures of Lady Di. People have been carrying out books by the armloads, Smith said.“The philosophy is not that you come in here looking for a specific book,” she said.“Our idea is that the book finds you.”

The Lyceum takes its name from the town’s long-gone Literary Library Lyceum, started in 1857 to debate such controversial topics as women’s rights and water laws. - Lincoln Journal Star article by Kendra Waltke

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Red Petals is an oil painting of geraniums by Nancy Lee Moran, 14 x 10 painted in 2007 from the artist's own 2007 reference photo taken in Auburn, Nebraska, in colors of red, rose, magenta, violet, gray, brown and green
"Red Petals" oil painting
Click art to see its web page.

August 2007

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As summer continues . . .
I admire the artistry of gardeners.
In my yard is a long row of evergreens, arbor vitae that my husband Bill and I planted when our children were toddlers. Tall and graceful trees, their lacy foliage is a bird refuge. This summer my husband pruned the boughs to create space underneath the arbor vitae. He turned the soil over and over to mix it with peat moss, then planted ferns, azaleas and hosta. Though we live in Nebraska prairie farmland hills, he made a woodland effect. Cool, shady, moist, with the sound of air in evergreen lace, it reminds me of a mountain path.
Squirrels amuse me with their funny antics. I put out sunflower seeds and peanuts for them, with a dish of water. This summer they have been eating the half-ripened tomatoes in my garden. An article in the Omaha World Herald newspaper revealed the squirrels have been extra hungry this year. A late, prolonged freeze in spring led the maple trees to produce few seeds. You may recall the helicopter-blade seeds that whirl and spin off branches. You may have chased after them as a child, just for fun. Maple seeds are a staple food of squirrels, something I never knew until the newspaper article. In Omaha, hungry squirrels have even been stripping bark off trees.
Our two papillon dogs like to rush out the door to chase squirrels out of the fenced yard. I give the squirrels a warning by clacking the door, so papillons and squirrels never meet up. The papillons are only a few pounds heavier than the squirrels. In Belgium, papillons (which means butterflies in French) were called Squirrel Spaniels, perhaps since they chased squirrels from brush piles for hunters. Another source for the name may have been the comparison of the papillon tail as curling over its back like a squirrel tail.
One more papillon story: Our two dogs chased a rabbit back and forth along the fence in June, totally ignoring me as I tried to catch and stop them. Finally, the rabbit and dogs all stopped, all hearts racing, all exhausted. As I came near, I was surprised to see one of the dogs was licking the rabbit's eye. The other dog patted the rabbit's tail with a paw and yapped, hoping to get the chasing-game started again. By then I had sneaked up, praying the rabbit would stay put while I snatched two dog tails. I felt grateful our dogs had only the chase instinct, but apparently not the bite and kill ones.

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A photo of Nancy Lee at age four, during the summer of 1961, taken by Nancy's father Robert.  Nancy is running along a road between the Iowa farm homes of her grandmother Gertrude and her great-grandmother, with a card in hand for her fourth birthday.  Nancy Lee Moran hand-colored (handcolored) the black and white photograph with glazes of oil paint
In August of 1961 Nancy ran along a road between the Iowa farm homes of her grandmother Gertrude and her great-grandmother Della, with a card in hand for her 4th birthday. In 2004 Nancy hand-colored the black and white photo with glazes of oil paint.
Click art to enlarge it.

Little Nancy, age four in 1961

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A 50th Birthday . . .
I had my 50th birthday in 2007; my husband, a year earlier. We just commemorated our 29th anniversary. Yes, we married as new college graduates. I was going to keep my age a secret, but a recent newsletter for artists (and for art collectors) wrote: Get over it, people like to know how old an artist is. I, kind readers, have reached the mid-century mark.

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Rooster Weather Vane by Nancy Lee Moran, 24 x 30 oil painted in 2007 from the artist's own reference photo, tall grasses, tree trunk with unique bark, in colors of red, rose, magenta, violet, gray, dark brown and green
"Rooster Vane" oil painting
Click art to see its web page.

July 2007

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A Book and a Grandpa

A BOOK you may enjoy is Stormy Weather by Julette Jiles, set in Texas during the Great Depression (1930s).

       Jile's characters have spunk and gritty humor. While reading the book, I thought about my grandmothers, who were young women during the time period of the book. My daily work seems easy compared to the toil of earlier people. In Texas they faced dust storms and the hardships of cleaning, of winters with only a wood stove, of privations and risks during farm and oil-field work. One summer during the Midwest Dust Bowl, my grandmother soaked sheets in water and pinned them over windows, trying to keep blowing soil from racing through cracks in wood window frames. Where she farmed with her husband along the Missouri River, the soil was sandy and loose, easily fluffed by the wind. How she kept three young sons safe while living within a quarter mile of the mighty river will remain a mystery to me.
       My grandfather Arnold had his 95th birthday in June. While reading Stormy Weather, I realized how Grandpa had become stoic, having had his boyhood during the Great Depression. A couple years before the Stock Market Crash of 1929, Grandpa was a youth working as a bicycle messenger for Western Union.
       When I was young, I watched Grandpa's hobby of being a Rock Hound, searching for his favorites, Montana agates. To have had his love during my life has been such a blessing. He once made a doll-sized apartment building (with twenty rooms!) for my sister and me, when we were in grade school.
       Thank you, Grandpa. My other grandparents and my father have passed away. How lucky I am to have to have my grandfather in my life.

Addition of July 2008:
I was away from home for almost two weeks to help with my grandfather’s home hospice care and funeral. This fine gentleman passed away at age 96, preceded in death by his wife of sixty-three years, my grandmother Dolores. His Norwegian eyes were pale blue like melted ice in mountain brook. Always I will miss him and my dear grandmothers.

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Fragrant Grace by Nancy Lee Moran, White Iris 10 x 6 oil painting with a dark brown background, painted from life
"Fragrant Grace" oil painting
Click art to see more art of spring flowers.

June 2007

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As for commissions, I finished painting Evie, the fourth of four grandchildren that I have painted for one family. For my own ideas, I finished a new devotional oil painting of Mary and baby Jesus. Though a cold spell in April harmed my iris bed, I found several white and yellow iris blooms to use for painting life studies. I have also been glazing oil paint on sepia photographs of a tulip garden. I will take some paintings to Lewis Art Gallery in Omaha, Nebraska.

This is the first month in which I began to offer miniature paintings, prints and handcolored photos on eBay, where my user name is nancyleemoran.

In Art, What is a Life Study?

"Fragrant Grace," the white iris painted in oil above this entry, is an example of a life study.

Many artists use photos as references for their artworks. To paint from life, without photos, has benefits for the artist, since the human eye sees differently than does a camera - in its perception of edges, colors, and values (light and dark). For an artist, painting from life is similar to a pianist practicing piano scales. Life studies are often painted on a small canvas, like an 8x10 or 6x8, small enough for the artist to finish in one or two days.

Since it is too difficult for children to "sit" (to hold still to pose for a portrait painting), I usually take some photos for my portrait work.
Flowers, however, like to "sit" still (though petals often unfurl and curl gradually). For my life studies, I bring flowers into my studio. Other times I go to the country to paint small scenes. For myself and for other artists, such practice brings fresh sensitivity and insights, which enhances art later created from photos.
Each miniature life study is authentic and one-of-a-kind. Each has a charm of its own, reflecting as it does the artists response to the beauty of nature. In my floral logo on my About Me, I painted each of the nature items from life, each on a different day, making a spring wreathe in watercolor.

Please send your questions and requests to Nancy
by email:
or phone: 402-274-3040