New firefly painting, step by step

Hi!  I’ve been pretty busy with baby #3, but now that he’s coming out of the newborn phase I’m finding time to paint a little bit.  Here’s a painting I’ve just completed:


Fireflies, 16″ x 20″ acrylic on canvas, copyright © 2015 Kathryn Beals

Here’s a photo of me painting with my little guy from my Instagram:


You can watch a very quick demo of the process below, or click through to read the steps in more detail.


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My Sequoia Backpacking Painting at Pacific Art League

This month, my painting Still is at Pacific Art League gallery in Palo Alto, as part of their Landscapes, Seascapes and Urbanscapes juried show.  We’re busy with the new baby so I wasn’t able to attend the opening reception last night, but I’m hoping to make the next one!

This painting was inspired by a backpacking trip to the Sequoia/Kings Canyon region of the Sierra Nevadas in California.  We camped one night in the Big Five Lakes region of Sequoia National Park:


Still, 24″x 30″ acrylic on canvas, copyright © Kathryn Beals

I took some artistic license with this painting composition, since we didn’t actually camp on this rock (we follow Leave No Trace principles and don’t set up our camp too close to water).  Here’s the reference photo I used to make the painting, later that morning after the sunrise:


You can buy this painting in my Etsy shop as a digital print or canvas print.  The original painting is for sale for $1000 through Pacific Art League.

My Yosemite painting at Pacific Art League

I’ve been busy!  Last week I dropped off my Yosemite snow painting for the Pacific Art League’s Anniversary Exhibit in Palo Alto, with my three day old baby in tow.  We didn’t make it to the reception last Friday night, but the painting will be on display until September 24 and is for sale through the gallery.  Posting here will likely continue to be light as we adjust to the new addition, but I’m still filling orders through my website and Etsy store.

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Left: Outside the Pacific Art League gallery, with my painting in the front window

Right: Wander, 30″ x 40″ acrylic on canvas, copyright © Kathryn Beals

Wander is for sale through the gallery for $1000, and is available as a photo print or canvas print in my Etsy store.

Summer exhibitions at Pacific Art League

This post is long overdue, but here is a photo of my painting Beyond in the Pacific Art League gallery show earlier this summer.  We couldn’t make it to the reception this time, but we stopped by the gallery with the kids.  This is one of my favorite paintings and reminds me of summers on the lake near where I used to live in British Columbia.

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Beyond, 24″ x 30″ acrylic on canvas, copyright © Kathryn Beals

Next month at the gallery’s Anniversary Exhibit, I’ll be showing one of my largest pieces, Wander:


Wander, 30″ x 40″ acrylic on canvas, copyright © Kathryn Beals

This is one of my more surreal ones, and it’s based on a winter camping trip in Yosemite where we snowshoed through a burned forest at midnight.

Beyond and Wander are available as canvas prints in my Etsy store.  The original painting of Wander will be for sale through the Pacific Art League gallery for $1000 starting September 4.  I’ll try to make it to the reception, although I may be busy with a newborn by then!

My rowboat painting in the Pacific Art League gallery

One of my very favorite paintings, Beyond, will be part of the Pacific Art League‘s member exhibition next month, starting July 3.  The opening reception will be from 5:30-8pm in downtown Palo Alto.  This painting is based on a memory of rowing around Echo Lake in British Columbia at nighttime in the summer.  It really looked like this!


Beyond, 24″ x 30″ acrylic on canvas, copyright © Kathryn Beals

The original piece will be for sale through the gallery for $1000, and you can also find this painting in my Etsy shop as a digital print or canvas print.  Here are some closeups of the canvas prints so you can see the detail:

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New Tofino Beach Painting, in Progress

My husband and I took a trip to Tofino, British Columbia this spring, and I’m looking forward to making several paintings from the trip.  We both grew up in different areas of Vancouver island, and I have painted many scenes from this beautiful place.  This trip, we went kayaking around Meares Island, hiked in Pacific Rim National Park, and did a lot of walking around Chesterman Beach.

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I’m starting with this scene of Chesterman Beach, which I have painted before from a different angle.  We stayed at the beautiful Wickanninish Inn, which you can see off in the distance on the right.

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I started with my usual masking tape horizon, and started painting in the wet sand with Micaceous Iron Oxide:

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I decided to enhance all the colors and go for an interesting sky, which I’ll probably still experiment with as the foreground takes shape.  For the sky so far, I used mostly Smalt Hue and a bit of Anthraquinone Blue, mixed with Titanium White and Titan Buff.

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I removed the masking tape and started painting the land on the right:

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Then I painted in the rest of the land, and added the surf area in bright white:

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At this point, the painting is still in progress.  I’m not happy with the colors of the sky and water yet, but the shape is coming together and I’ll add some transparent layers until I get it where I want.


Here it is in gif format:


My Experiment with Wax Painting

As a child and beginner painter, I started out in watercolor, but found my style when I tried acrylic on canvas for the first time.  I’ve tried painting in oil and pastels (and have never been good at drawing) but I always come back to acrylic because I love the way it looks and feels on the canvas.

However, it’s always great to try a new medium.  While visiting my family in Canada this month, I tried creating an image in wax, my mother’s medium of choice, and it was a great experience.  She started me in her chosen method of melting crayon chunks on a canvas with a heat gun, and let me figure it out from there.  I took photos of the process:

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It was great to try a less controlled approach, since I usually struggle against overworking and adding too much detail when I’m painting.  I did miss my brush, but I was able to influence the spread of color by tipping the canvas back and forth as I melted the wax.

I would call this one an abstract, but the general idea was to capture the old growth cedar forests near where I grew up on Vancouver Island in British Columbia.  We just got back from a trip to Vancouver Island, and I’m looking forward to doing some new paintings of these trees in Tofino:


Opening Reception for the Spring art show at Pacific Art League

Last night our whole family went to the opening reception for the Spring exhibition at Pacific Art League gallery in Palo Alto.  Two of my paintings were in this show.  You can read more about them both here.

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There are some really lovely works in this exhibition, and I encourage you to stop by if you’re in downtown Palo Alto.  The show will run until April 23, and both of my pieces are for sale through the gallery.

Regrowth (painting on the left) is available in my Etsy store as a photo print or canvas print. Painting on the right (Glory) is available also as a photo print or canvas print.

Juried Spring Show at Pacific Art League, April 3-23

I’m happy to announce that both of my submissions made it into the upcoming juried exhibition at the Pacific Art League gallery in Palo Alto, California, opening April 3.  I’ve never had two paintings in one show before and I’m excited!  These two pieces will be featured in the Spring exhibition:


Glory, 24″ x 30″ acrylic on canvas, copyright © Kathryn Beals

This one is from memories of camping in the mountains with my husband.  You can find this painting in my Etsy shop as a digital print or canvas print.  I’ve got a cool time lapse video of this one as well.


Regrowth, 24″ x 30″ acrylic on canvas, copyright © Kathryn Beals

Regrowth was inspired by the view from a friend’s cabin in Montana, ten years after a forest fire.  Regrowth is also available in my Etsy store as a photo print or canvas print.  Both original paintings will be for sale through the gallery for $1000, although they will not be available until after the show ends on April 23.

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Migraines and Art: Finding the auras in my paintings

A family member recently sent me an article on art and migraines, and reading it gave me the idea to write about my own migraines and how they became a positive force in my development as an artist.  In my teens and early twenties, I experienced frequent classic migraines, and I never had much success in treating them with medication.  Thankfully, as I got older and had my first child, they improved drastically.  After also finding the right combination of diet and daily exercise, I now get them only a few times a year, and they are not nearly as severe.

Migraines can affect people in many different ways, but mine were the classic form; a short visual aura preceding one-sided pain and nausea that sometimes lasted for days.  About 20 minutes before the pain started, I would see a visual disturbance that looked like a cracked windshield in a c-shaped form, scintillating at the edges and spreading out in a circular pattern.  I painted it once to show my neurologist what I was talking about.  This is how it would look on a black background:

Migraine Aura Painting by Kathryn Beals

Aura, 24″ x 24″ acrylic on canvas, copyright © Kathryn Beals

Reading about migraines and seeing other artists’ depictions, I learned that these c-shaped patterns (called scotomas) are fairly common in migraine auras, due to a pattern of changes that occur in the brain during an attack.  It’s still pretty alarming to watch one unfold.

At the same time as I was struggling with the migraines, I was finding my style as a painter.  Like many developing artists, I started to move away from realism and (without making the connection to my migraine auras) began painting these paintings:

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Top left: Wander, 30″ x 40″ acrylic on canvas, top right: North, 16″ x 20″ acrylic on canvas, bottom: Starry river, 22″ x 28″ acrylic on canvas

Later, these:

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Light in the Desert, 20″ x 24″ acrylic on canvas, Sanctuary, 20″ x 24″ acrylic on canvas

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Haven, 16″ x 20″ acrylic on canvas,  Heartwood, 24″ x 30″ acrylic on canvas

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Solstice, 24″ x 30″ acrylic on canvas, Blessing: 24″ x 30″ acrylic on canvas

The migraines got less frequent, but I felt more and more at home painting these surreal skies with circular patterns.  The images often came to me in dreams.  Now that the migraines are mostly behind me, I remember the pain less and the auras more, and I can look back and see them everywhere in my early work. Though scary, the visual disturbances were often beautiful and almost supernatural.

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Top left: North Star, 24″ x 30″ acrylic on canvas, right: Amazed, 20″ x 24″ acrylic on canvas, bottom: Beyond, 24″ x 30″ acrylic on canvas

I don’t miss the migraines, and I’m thankful to be mostly rid of them. However, they gave me a new way of seeing the world, and now I can look back and see them in some ways as a gift.

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