My first Death Valley National Park painting

I’ve finished the first of several paintings I’ve planned to do of my trip to Death Valley National Park last February.  I ran the Death Valley half marathon in Death Valley National Park just as the wildflower superbloom was starting, and it was a wonderful experience.  Just as the sun was rising and the runners lined up at the start line, the race director lead the crowd in singing “America the Beautiful”.

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Death Valley Superbloom, 20″ x 24″ acrylic on canvas, copyright © 2016 Kathryn Beals

You can click on the images to see detail shots from the finished painting.  I had fun working with yellow on this one:

Here’s a gif of the painting coming together.  You can watch my coffee cup moving around:

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The painting is now live in my Etsy shop as a photo print or canvas print, and up on my website.  The painting is for sale and I will be entering it in several shows this fall.

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:

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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:

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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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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:

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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!

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.

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Here it is in gif format:

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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:

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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.

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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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Goodnight Moon and the North Star Painting

This is the latest in my starry night camping series, just finished today:

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North Star, 24″ x 30″ acrylic on canvas, copyright © 2015 Kathryn Beals

For this painting, I decided to experiment with more of a turquoise blue.  I have always loved the night sky in Clement Hurd’s illustrations on the last page of the classic children’s book Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown, a book I enjoyed when I was little and now read to my children.  The room gets darker and darker on each page until the last page when the lights are out, little bunny is asleep, and the stars are shining through his window:

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“Goodnight stars, goodnight air, goodnight noises everywhere.”(Photo from our copy of Goodnight Moon, 1947 by Margaret Wise Brown, illustrated by Clement Hurd, Harper Collins)

I always liked the way the night sky in those pictures is not black but actually a bright turquoise blue. As an artist, it inspired me to try painting a night sky using little or no black.  I want my night sky paintings to have the same calm, wondrous feel as the sky in Goodnight Moon, even in the very different setting – sleeping on a cold mountaintop, instead of safely tucked into a warm bed.

For this painting, I used my usual combo of Anthraquinone Blue, Paynes Gray and Titanium White, with clear glazes of Quinacridone Magenta, but I also tried adding Turquois (Phthalo) in areas to make it more of a greenish blue like in the Goodnight Moon illustration.

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The tent is something I like to add to bring more emotion and connection to a landscape.  This scene isn’t based on any particular mountain or trip, but it reminds me of the feeling of camping in the high Sierras or the Rockies, above the treeline and under the stars.  I didn’t plan on it being a snow painting, but like many of our camping trips, sometimes it turns out that way.

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This painting is available in my Etsy store as a photo print or canvas print.  The original is for sale through my website.

Pacific Art League Exhibition January 9-29

Happy New Year!

I just dropped off my newest starry sky painting at the Pacific Art League gallery in Palo Alto. Their annual members exhibition will run from January 9-29.  This is my painting of Mather Pass, from the Pacific Crest Trail/John Muir Trail:

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

You can read the original post on this painting, and check out progress photos of the starry sky.  This is from a favorite memory of our highest campsite in the Sierra mountains.

This painting is in my Etsy store as a photo print and canvas print.  The original is for sale through the Pacific Art League gallery for $800.

Acrylic Painting Demo: Blending Colors on your Palette

This is a quick demonstration of my color blending method, for people who are learning to paint.  It seems pretty basic, but as a beginner I had a tendency to overmix my paint, resulting in flat colors. This method will give you a wide variety of closely related shades that will make the objects you paint look more luminous and three-dimensional.

To start, put dabs of paint on your palette a few centimeters apart.  Try to distribute the paint so that the colors you’ll be mixing will be close to each other, but don’t overthink it. Some artists use a circular arrangement of paint on the palette, I tend to just make a few groups of associated colors with some space in between.  For the demo, I’m just using two colors of acrylic paint; yellow and green.

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Begin by adding a little bit of water to your brush and pulling some color out of the side of the paint dab and onto the clean palette area next to it.  Spread the paint around a bit so that you have some room to work. Next, without washing off your brush, do the same to the adjacent color so you have a thin gradient of paint that changes from the first color to the second color.

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Getting Started: Setting up your Painting Space

Welcome to my series for beginners learning to paint, based on my own trial-and-error experiences as a self-taught artist.  

Once you’ve got your paint, brushes, canvases and other supplies, you’ll need a place to set up.

While an easel is great for serious painters, it can take up a significant part of your budget, and you don’t really need one when you’re first starting out.  My recommended canvas size for beginners is something in the 9″x12″ to 16″x20″ range, and this size is manageable for working flat.   If you’re sitting at a desk or the kitchen table, try propping up one end of your canvas on some books (protected with a rag) to see if you prefer working at an angle.  If you do, you might want to invest in a table easel at some point.

Try to keep your most used supplies within easy reach, so you don’t set yourself up for back or shoulder pain.  This is my current setup in my garage where I paint:

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