Homestead artist wants to return to her roots through painting

September 11, 2018
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Nan Leiter, artist in residence at Homestead National Monument, finishes a painting she started during a rainy day. Leiter was unable to paint during the rain, but managed to make sketches instead.

For Nan Leiter, the current artist in residence at Homestead National Monument, the Great Plains feel like home.

Leiter, who will be Homestead’s artist in residence from Aug. 30 to Sept. 14 will finish out her week finishing up some paintings she was unable to continue due to rain. She hopes to have two larger canvases done as well as three smaller ones.

Leiter said she applied to two different National Parks for an artist in residence position and Homestead accepted her first during a time of year she was wanting to work. Leiter is from Kansas and said that she wanted to be working somewhere in the Great Plains because it was home to her.

“I feel very connected to the land here and so I wanted to do the residency in the Great Plains so that is why I applied here,” Leiter said.

Leiter use to be a teacher in Tacoma, Washington. When she decided to quit teaching, she found that she was able to do more art.

“I loved teaching, but when I quit teaching I went back to my studio,” Leiter said. “I was working all along, but I was not motivated. I was getting a paycheck. I didn’t need the money as much. I was just painting whatever I wanted.”

During a trip in Arizona, Leiter did watercolor paintings of the desert and flowers. She said once she was home she immediately sold three paintings. It was not unusual for her to sell paintings, but Leiter said she typically sold to friends and she would not consider herself a water colorist. After she quickly sold those paintings, she decided to change her perspective.

“When I sold those so quickly I thought, ‘You know what? I need to just go back to my roots and try to go back to understanding what I am seeing,’” Leiter said.

Leiter graduated from Boston University and went to the University of Iowa for graduate school. She said she was trained very traditionally in figurative representational art. According to Leiter figurative representational art is where you paint what you see. Using figurative representational art and plein air painting, or painting outside, she is capturing stills of Homestead.

Leiter said that people are unaware of how difficult it is for artists like her to see something and capture it on a canvas.

“It’s so complicated and to just try and distill that is a really humbling experience and to do that you have to come to it with some kind of emotional response that is exciting to you,” she said.

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