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Western art: Wyoming artist draws inspiration from the West

by Wyoming Livestock Roundup

Unlike artists who found their calling during childhood, Torrington Artist Julie Nighswonger didn’t begin painting until her forties when she took a community watercolor painting class with a friend.

            “Taking that class hooked me forever,” Julie says. “I began with watercolor and entered a small show in Torrington. The judge told me if I wanted to continue painting I should learn to draw and get into oil painting.” 

            “Prior to art, I worked at a flower shop for a few years and then opened my own embroidery shop and did silk screening,” she says. “I created my own embroidery designs and sold them out of a catalogue. I guess I have always been creative.” 

            Julie notes she even sewed her own wedding dress and has made a number of bridesmaid dresses. 

            Julie displays her art at a fine art gallery in Cheyenne and her paintings can also be purchased on her website. She also travels to a number of shows across the country.


            Julie notes she grew up on a farm in Minnesota surrounded by animals. 

            “We had a cousin who lived in Wyoming and we would always visit when I was young,” she explains. “At a young age, Wyoming just stuck with me and I’ve always loved the mountains. The mountains and the sky are so big, clear and crisp and they touched my soul.”

            “The summer of 1981 found me back in Wyoming working on a ranch in Jackson Hole,” she says. “I still reside in Wyoming with my husband Steve. We live in the small town of Torrington in the southeastern part of the state. Our three children have grown into wonderful adults and have started lives of their own.” 

            “I grew up in a rural setting surrounded by my pets, our livestock, wildlife and the people that surround me. This connection continues to be alive with the scenery, livestock and cowboy lifestyle inspiring me daily,” she says. “I think that is what really inspires me. I love the West, I love the cowboy lifestyle and I love everything about living in Wyoming.”

She continues, “I have lots of friends in my paintings and I travel a lot. I really love doing horses, I will be having a solo show in December that will be all horse paintings.” 

            “I love animals and I feel like I understand them and see personality in each one,” she says. “When I go out to a field to take pictures, I usually know which ones I am going to paint by the emotions they emit.” 

            In the case of the cover photo, titled Endearment, Julie notes the scene caught her eye as she was out in the field taking photos to paint. 

            “Painting is a language,” she notes in her biography. “My creative energies bring this language alive. My hope is to share the emotional response I have to my surroundings on canvas.” 

            She continues, “I speak the language of painting every day.”

            For more information or to purchase paintings, visit

            Callie Hanson is the managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to

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