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 Bowen Island Painting Finished

I have a new painting finished and up in my Etsy print store:

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First Paddle, 16″ x 20″ acrylic on canvas, copyright © 2016 Kathryn Beals

This is a painting of my little daughter learning to paddle her own kayak in the ocean off of Bowen Island, in the Gulf islands of British Columbia.  We spent a lot of time there last summer swimming in the warm water.

Here are a few progress pics I took along the way.  The color is a little different since I was painting at night under incandescent light.

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Painting in the sky quickly with my big brush.  I used mostly Ultramarine Blue with a bit of Anthraquinone Blue and of course, Titanium White.

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Then I added the beginning of the trees and ocean, again with the big brush to keep me from getting caught up in details.  The paint was drying quickly and I finished this part in about 10 minutes, taking pictures from my Apple watch:

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Here’s one of the little tricks I learned from my portrait painting days. To save time and avoid perspective drawing errors (something I’ve never been great at) I resized my reference photo in a photo editing program, printed it out and taped it to the canvas with graphite paper underneath. Then I traced the general silhouette onto the (dry) canvas underneath as a reference.

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I taped the photo next to my working area and painted in the kayak and girl:img_8629 img_8640

Here are some detail shots from the finished painting, in proper lighting.  Pretty clouds:Version 3

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For the reflections under the kayak, I just added the colors of the kayak and her lifejacket as I was working.

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I find water reflections tricky in general and this was a good opportunity to practice.  In calm water, the reflections are always sharper than I expect them to be.  I used very stark contrast this time and I like how it came out.

The original painting is not for sale, but you can buy paper prints or canvas prints of this one in my Etsy store, which donates partial proceeds to Leave No Trace.

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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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.

Finished painting: Light in the Desert

A few years ago I was asked to create a piece on the Nativity story, so I painted this scene:

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Light in the Desert, 20″x 24″ acrylic on canvas, copyright © Kathryn Beals

I wanted to create something peaceful but mysterious, with a dark sky.  I decided to keep the composition very simple and limit the palette to mostly blues and purples, to make the focal star more striking.

As my style developed as an artist, it kind of split into two styles; abstract/surreal and more realistic landscapes.  The more realistic landscapes tell a story or recall a certain place, the surreal ones are more emotional and abstract.   I love hearing others’ impressions of these pieces, and I’ve found that viewers interpret the surreal landscapes in very different ways.

For me, this painting shows a vast desert – sand dunes in the foreground, the star in the sky – and has a dark but hopeful feeling.  Other people have told me that this painting is the moon over huge ocean waves, and it has kind of a scary but captivating feel.  Others have said it is snow-covered mountains, cold and stark.  I like that these images can be different things to different people.

This painting is available in my Etsy store as a photo print or canvas print.  The original is not for sale.  Happy holidays!  I’ll be back to posting in the New Year.

Montana Valley after a Fire, Finished Painting

This is a painting from a trip I took several years ago to Montana.  We visited a valley ten years after a fire, facing the Beartooth mountain range:

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

My former career is in forestry, so I have particular interest in forest fires and the changes they can make to landscapes and plant communities. This area was so beautiful and vibrant, and the open space supported a huge diversity of  wildflowers and small animals.

I took video of the painting from start to finish.  The quality is not the greatest since it’s my first video, before I got my new camera, but you can still get an idea of the process:

Here are some detail shots, since it’s a big painting:

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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