Madeline Kreider Carlson

The art of riding: spotlight on member Nard Claar

Nard Claar tour portrait websize

Last week I caught up with painter, cyclist, world traveler and Bicycle Colorado member Nard Claar just before he boarded a plane en route to Europe for a few months of travel and an artist residency in Ireland.

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Nard Claar - Mohawk Lake websize
Mohawk Lake, painting by Nard Claar

I was curious how bicycling and art came to be so intertwined in Claar’s life. “How I became a cyclist parallels how I became an artist,” Claar reflects. Both passions were childhood hobbies. Claar studied art in college and knew that he wanted to teach, too.

On a tight student budget, riding his bicycle “was a godsend.” What began as cost-effective transportation became a way to improve his quality of life: “I learned that when I start and end my day by riding my bike instead of waiting in traffic, I’m much less stressed.”

Inspiration for an artistic vision

Claar explained that cycling allows a mindset of reflection, observation and exploration that’s conducive to creating art. Claar, a resident of Colorado Springs, loves living in Colorado because, as both a cyclist and an artist, “inspiration is all around. There’s such a variety of terrain and landscapes—from plains to alpine peaks and glaciers, from hills to desert to sandstone and granite cliffs.”

Claar describes his painting as impressionistic, with a love of color. His work channels the energy and emotional character of a landscape or an activity.

“Bicycles gave me the world”Nard Claar touring bike websize

While Claar used to race mountain bikes and still commutes by bicycle, his passion is now cycle touring. He has traveled by bicycle extensively through the western U.S., Europe, South America, Australia and New Zealand.

“Bicycles gave me the world as a way to travel, and that joy comes back every time I turn the pedals.”

“Touring is meditative—you let things go by gently as you grind out the miles. One of my favorite tours was from Jasper through Banff down to Missoula. It felt like one ongoing meditation as we climbed up and down through incredible mountain scenery. The beauty took my mind off the pain—it became a sweet pain.”

Palettes in panniers

Claar’s art is always a part of his travels by bicycle: “I bring a small paint palette and watercolor paper. When I finish riding each day, I do sketches and small paintings. Later, these become inspiration for larger paintings,” he explained.

“What I love about touring is that you can take it all in. You’re exposed, so people are more willing to reach out. Strangers will offer you a place to camp or a hot meal. The experience is so rich—that doesn’t happen when you’re isolated in the bubble of a car.”

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Nard Claar - Long Shadow websize
Long Shadow, painting by Nard Claar

Artist and advocate

Claar is also passionate about supporting bike advocacy groups, including Bicycle Colorado.

“We live in a world where as a single citizen, I don’t have the power to influence politicians. That’s why we need advocacy—it is the voice of citizens who care about bicycling.”

You can see more of Nard’s work at his website or at 45 Degree Gallery. Email Nard if you are interested in purchasing one of his paintings. Mention this profile and he will donate 10% of the sale price to Bicycle Colorado!

What’s your story?

This is the first in a series of profiles of Bicycle Colorado members. Do you have a story to tell? Let us know in the comments—we would love to hear from you![/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container]

Madeline Kreider Carlson

About the Author: Madeline Kreider Carlson

COMMENTS (2)

Aaron Rosenthal - Reply

Wonderful profile on Nard. I have know Nard for many years and he is as passionate about cycling as he is about his art. I can’t think of a more deserving member of the cycling community to be the first to be profiled by Madeline. Well done

    Madeline Kreider Carlson - Reply

    Aaron, thanks for your kind words. I really enjoyed getting to know Nard, his artwork and bicycle adventures. Thank you for reading!

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