Nelson Boren

On the small  screen of a computer  (or the  scaled down screen of a phone) it’s hard to get a sense of how big and impressive these paintings actually are. Nelson’s paintings are stunning in scale, but it’s not merely the size that appeals to us. His paintings appeal to us with their technical wizardry, the stories that they hint at, their composition, and their attention to detail.

Nelson’s paintings are as remarkable for what they don’t say is what they do. Often, the backgrounds are hidden—fields of soft color or blank white—forcing our eye to focus on a single boot, a weathered pair of gloves, the sway of a country skirt. We rarely see a face in one of Nelson’s paintings. Their emotion is in the suggestion of what might be there.

His is an extraordinary talent developed over decades of painstaking work. Collectors across the world—and other big names, such as Star Wars creator George Lucas—seek out his work.

Nelson paints from life: he and his wife live on their own small country farm just outside the scenic mountain town of Sandpoint, Idaho. His studio is stocked with authentic cowboy gear, and his paintings are modeled by live cowboys, or his own children and grandchildren.


Boren’s viewpoint is wholesome and humorous, yet his art is vital. He is one of the best watercolorists in the business. He is in perfect control. His strong, translucent shadows are uncanny in their ability to both absorb and reflect light
(Michael Duty & Suzanne Deats in WESTERN TRADITIONS – Contemporary artists of the American West, 2005)

The medium here is handled so deftly, the illusion of texture and the third dimension so complete, that I’m amazed. Standing back from the painting, I can’t help but smile.  
(Nancy Ellis – South West Art magazine, March 1994)

Nelson Boren has developed a distinctive trademark style. Boren’s watercolors present an intimate, close-up view of the life and trappings of the modern American cowboy. His large-scale compositions give insight into an unfamiliar lifestyle and create a singular mood. ‘I enjoy capturing the weathered look of old leather and rusty spurs’, he says. ‘I see history in these elements of cowboy life.’  
(Donald J. Hagerty, LEADING the WEST, One Hundred Contemporary Painters and Sculptors, 1997)

There’s a story in the sassy stance of the wearer of these outrageous boots… Suddenly I laugh out loud, knowing that I’ve been challenged by Nelson Boren to complete the picture for myself.  
(Nancy Ellis – South West Art magazine, March 1994)

We can practically hear the creaking leather and smell the musty, oily aroma of gloves and gear as the callused hide goes soft in the hands of this industrious cowboy. That Boren manages to imply a story with his faceless cowpuncher is merely a bonus
(U.S. Art magazine, Feb/March 2001)

Yet, with Boren’s bold, layered colors and diligent attention to detail, two pairs of interacting boots evoke the story of the people wearing them.  
(U.S. Art magazine, October 1999)

Nelson tries with these subjects to capture emotions about them, prompting viewers to imagine the rest. 
(Don Hagerty, LEADING the WEST)

Boren’s watercolors feature intricate, close-up details of cowboy boots, spurs, chap-covered legs, or gloved hands holding a rope.   (Donald J. Hagerty, LEADING the WEST)

Boren has a gift for locating the gist of any situation by zeroing in on a seemingly irrelevant vignette. Who else would notice Black-eyed Susans with most of their petals gone, languishing on the ground near a lovesick cowboy? She loves me…she loves me not…she loves me! Good news indeed for a bashful cowboy in need of some courage.  
(Michael Duty & Suzanne Deats, WESTERN TRADITIONS)

Shadows and negative space are the organizing elements in the Boren paintings. He frequently washes away the setting in a dazzling sweep of white that throws the subject into sharp relief. His strong, translucent shadows are uncanny in their ability to both absorb and reflect light.  
(Michael Duty & Suzanne Deats, WESTERN TRADITIONS)


Whitney Gallery of Western Art at the Buffalo Bill Historic Museum – Cody, Wyoming
    Museum of Nebraska Art – Spirit of the Great Plains 1998
    Buffalo Bill Art Show – 1998 – 2014, Cody, Wyoming
    Desert Caballeros Western Museum, Wickenburg, Arizona – Brush With Reality Show 1999
    Art of the Southwest traveling Exhibition – Javitts Center New York & Minneapolis 1989
    Best of Scottsdale – Scottsdale Center for the Arts, Scottsdale, Arizona 1989-90
    1997 Reno Rodeo Poster Artist – Reno, Nevada
Other Side of the West (OSW) National Museum tour 1999-2004 including following venues:
        THE PHIPEN MUSEUM – Prescott, Arizona – 2001
        THE ARKANSAS ART CENTER – Little Rock, Arkansas – 2001
        COLORADO SPRINGS FINE ART CENTER – Colorado Springs, Colorado – 2002
        GRACE MUSEUM – Abilene, Texas – 2002
        MSC FORSYTH CENTER GALLERIES – College Station, Texas – 2002
        MUSEUM OF TEXAS TECH UNIVERSITY – Lubbock, Texas – 2003
        MUSEUM OF THE SOUTHWEST – Midland, Texas – 2004
        PHILIP & MURIEL BERMAN MUSEUM of ART – Collegeville, PA – 2004
        BERGSTROM-MAHLER MUSEUM – Neenah, WI – 2004
        SKY HARBOR AIRPORT – Phoenix, AZ – 2004

    Pearce Museum at Navarro College, Corsicana, Texas
    Western Gallery of Western Art – Buffalo Bill Museum – Cody, Wyoming
    Booth Western Art Museum – Cartersville, Georgia
    Dallas Cowboys NFL football team collection
    Minnesota Vikings NFL football team collection
    Steve Forbes Foundation Art Collection
    Coca Cola Company
    Museum of Nebraska Art
    Beef Growers of America Corporate Art Collection
    Many other corporate and private collections in United States and abroad

    Feature Artist in the book – STAR WARS VISIONS, forward by George Lucas                                                                                                                                                
    Art of the West Magazine – It’s Got to Come From the Soul – July/August 2011
    Western Art Collector Magazine – Southeastern Cowboy Gathering – March 2010
    Feature Artist in the book – WESTERN TRADITIONS – Michael Duty & Suzanne Deats – 2005
    American Artist Magazine – Nelson Boren:  A Signature Style – Watercolor Issue – Spring 2008
    Contemporary Western Art – Cowboys & Indians Magazine – January 2003
    Feature Artist in the book – LEADING THE WEST – by Donald J. Hagerty
    Painting the Human Form – American Artist Magazine – Watercolor Winter 1996
    Below the Belt – Southwest Art Magazine – March 1994
    The Detail Man – Art of the West – September 1993
    New West Artists Use Symbols of West – Art Talk – December 1994
    Nelson Boren Artist – The Santa Fean magazine – July 1993
    The New West – Southwest Art Magazine – May 2000
    Home on the Range – Scottsdale Life Magazine – April 2002