Colorful Landscape Paintings by An Artist With a Scientist’s Mind

Noelle Phares enlists color and her passion for the natural world to create compelling landscapes
Noelle Phares Milk Vetch

The Milk Vetch

A trained scientist, raised in Northern California by parents who worked in medicine, Noelle Phares left her career behind to pursue art. We were excited to see more of her work at the now-postponed Cherry Creek Arts Festival. But here, we share as many of her paintings as we can fit, as well as seven things to know about her life, art and philosophy.

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Portrait by Kiel Rucker

1. SHE GREW UP IN CALIFORNIA, BUT COLORADO STOLE HER HEART. “The natural areas around San Francisco are beautiful but hard to reach. I wanted to dive into landscape art and wanted access to the great outdoors. It helped that my identical twin sister also moved to Colorado and that my fiancé’s company moved part of its operations here. I paint mountains a lot, so being able to be up in them, around them, seeing them is really inspiring.”

2. SCIENCE WAS HER JAM, BUT ART WON HER OVER. “I loved painting in college, but I was on a science track and was a Division 1 track athlete. Some days, when I was done with school, I would sink into these paintings and stay up till 4 in the morning. I loved the tangible process of art. With science, I would get done with a really hard day and think ‘I just cannot see the product of my work.’ So I asked myself that Millennial question: What is my » dream job? The number-one thing that brought me satisfaction was completing a painting. So I decided to make this shift and took a leap.”

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3. COLOR IS THE MUSIC OF HER PAINTINGS. “I love music for the sound of it, sometimes I don’t even know what a song is about. When I think about art, color is the sound of a painting to me; the feeling that I get when I look at a painting comes from color. I generally start with the five main colors that represent the emotion I want for a painting. I add color only where I want to bring attention.”

4. SHE WANTS TO CONNECT US WITH OUR ENVIRONMENT AND WHAT WE’RE DOING TO IT. “The backbone of my work is landscape-based, because landscape is the background of our existence and something everyone can relate to. As a trained scientist who is very passionate about the environment, drawing attention to the natural world is important to me. As we become more industrialized, we are getting further from spending time in nature. Paintings of landscapes keep bringing you back to thinking about the outdoors and protecting it. We humans have the power to influence nature. Some of my work is utopian. Some is more damning—almost warning about the possible destruction caused by our actions.”

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5. SHE TAKES FRAMING SERIOUSLY. “Framing is often overlooked by artists, likely because it is a different skill-set. Half the battle of an art piece looking great, especially for prints, is the frame. Often, I would see a print with a frame I didn’t think worked, so I wanted to change my approach. We build maple frames in my wood shop. Every original painting I sell is framed here in my studio. I don’t ship framed prints, but I do deliver them locally. For pieces I ship, I go out of my way to create work that fits standard 16-by-20- and 11-by-14-inch frames sizes. People don’t enjoy the art until it is framed, so I try to make that easy for the buyers.”

6. SEEING PEOPLE ENJOY HER ART MOTIVATES HER TO PAINT. “What satisfies me as an artist is to see how people engage with the story I am telling and enjoy the aesthetics of the painting. It is a selfsustaining little cycle. The more I discover what people enjoy, the better I am able to produce work that does that.”

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7. HER CALIFORNIA HOMETOWN BURNED TO THE GROUND, BUT HER ART PERSISTED.  “My senior project in high school was a big painting showcasing what was going on in the world at the time, highlighting natural wonders. I grew up in Paradise, California, where the worst fire in the history of California happened in 2018. The whole town burned. I found out months later that one of the few buildings left standing was the high-school building that held my big painting. It became a symbol for me. It was one of the few things that survived.”

See more of Phares’ work at

Categories: Stylemakers