Dreaming of the north: My finished sunrise painting

New painting finished!  This one is kind of a mix of camping memories from northern Canada and Alaska.  We’ve had so many good camping trips in the north during our marriage; camping in a hailstorm on Denali when I was four months pregnant, fighting off bugs in Peace River, and seeing grizzly bears in Bella Coola.  The sunrises in the north are so beautiful:

Northern Sunrise, 20″ x 24″ acrylic on canvas, copyright © 2017 Kathryn Beals

I’ve been trying to work more with yellow lately.  I find it tricky to use, but it looks so good in landscapes when done properly, so it’s something I’ve been learning through trial and error.  Here are a couple detail shots:

I’ll post the progress pictures soon, but for now check it out as a paper print or canvas print in my Etsy store.

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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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:

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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:

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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.

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!

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.

Mt. Whitney, Yosemite National Park, Finished Painting

This is a painting I did a few years ago of Mt. Whitney in Yosemite National Park, California.  I painted it on a travel easel outdoors, near the wonderful Whitney portal store, as my husband was hiking.  We did a shorter backpacking trip in the Glen Aulin area that summer, and did Whitney as a side trip.   I still had too much altitude sickness that day to attempt the 14,505′ climb, but it was fun to hang out at the base that day and paint.

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Mt Whitney, 16″ x 20″ acrylic on canvas, copyright © Kathryn Beals

The painting took about 45 minutes, which was good since it was very hot and bugs kept flying into my wet paint.  I used reference photos to get the distinctive shape of the peaks right, but I exaggerated the colors of the sky and rock for dramatic effect.

We love the otherworldly feel of the high Sierra mountains, and Whitney is an amazing place to visit.  You can also read about some of our other Sierra backpacking trips, and the paintings that came out of them.

You can buy this image as a photo print or canvas print through my Etsy store.  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.

Dreams and the Pacific Crest Trail, Finished Painting

Nine months pregnant with my first child, I had a vivid dream of climbing up Forester Pass on the Pacific Crest Trail, in the high Sierra mountains of California.  This pass, also part of the John Muir trail, is the highest point on the PCT, which I had hiked several years earlier with my husband.  In my dream, I reached the top of the pass, pregnant and exhausted, where I found my baby safe and brought him home.

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I woke up inspired to paint the place in my dream, secretly hoping that it would somehow bring on labor.  It worked!  Twelve hours after finishing the painting, labor began.  Just like in the dream, I finally met my baby after a difficult journey that took several days.  I like to imagine that this place is where he came from:

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

I decided to keep the surreal, dreamlike aspects of the scene, over preserving the realistic details and colors of the pass.  This is probably my very favorite painting now, although just looking at it made me sick for a few weeks after the birth, since it brought me right back into the dizzying feelings of labor, mixed in with memories of altitude sickness.  I like it when I can harness a powerful memory into a piece of art.

Here’s the southern approach to Forester Pass, the place in the Sierras that the painting is loosely based on.  We spent a day walking towards that pass, wondering how we would possibly climb over it since it looks impossible, but when you get right up close, you can see the steep trail zigzagging up the rock.

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This is me, hiking down the other side of the pass quickly just as a storm rolled in.  You can tell it’s a high pass (13,153 feet) when there’s snow, in California, in July. The high Sierras have such an otherworldly feel, and I find myself coming back to paint them again and again.

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I also filmed video of the painting coming together.  The video quality’s not great since I didn’t have my new camera and tripod then, but I’m glad I filmed it anyways.

This painting is available in my Etsy store as a photo print or canvas print.  The original is not for sale.

Starry Night on the Pacific Crest Trail, Finished Painting

I just finished this one this morning.  This is my painting of the area below Mather Pass, on the Pacific Crest Trail:

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Amazed, 20″ x 24″ acrylic on canvas, copyright © Kathryn Beals

I paint a lot of night scenes, because night skies are one of the most amazing parts of backpacking trips, but the hardest to photograph.

I have an emotional connection to this pass from our experience hiking the high Sierra section of the PCT several years ago.  I’m somewhat prone to altitude sickness, and this spot was our highest campsite on the trail at just over 11,000 feet.

That night however, I slept better than I had in months. In my dream, I found myself going underground, entering a room and finding everything I had ever lost.  I know that many others have drawn strength from this trail, and the feeling lasts long after the exhaustion and bug bites are gone.

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I took progress photos throughout the painting, and I’ll do a technique post soon.  I just added this image to my Etsy store as a photo print and canvas print.  The original is for sale through my website.

Snowshoeing in the Coast Mountains, Finished Painting

This is a painting from a winter camping trip I took in Garabaldi Provincial Park in British Columbia.  My husband and I snowshoed up a steep trail and camped in view of the Coast Mountains.

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Alpine Trail, 16″ x 20″ acrylic on canvas, copyright © Kathryn Beals

This is one of my older paintings, and I was still in a beginner phase where I tried to copy photos too closely without improving the composition.  However, I’m glad I turned up the intensity of the blues to capture the shadows on snow.  This is the original photo that I worked with when I got back:

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This was another one of those trips where, due to bad snow conditions and overly optimistic planning, we arrived long after dark.  We did get to see this amazing sunset over the mountains, and I’m glad we stopped to take photos: Continue reading