This is one of my night sky paintings:
Haven, 16″ x 20″ acrylic on canvas, copyright © Kathryn Beals
I like lighthouses, although I wasn’t thinking of any particular place when I painted this. I wanted the painting to be mostly about the beauty of the sky, overwhelming the tiny symbol on the horizon, a theme I’ve been working with in many forms. This painting features a lot of Smalt Hue, one of Golden’s historic colors.
Smalt Hue is a modern synthetic approximation of the blue color that was once made from ground cobalt glass in 16th and 17th century paintings in place of Ultramarine or Cobalt blue, which were made from crushed precious stones and very costly to use. Blue is a rarity in Renaissance paintings due to cost of the pigments. The method of making blue paint from cobalt glass was much less expensive, but the colors faded over time.
Working with modern paints, I don’t have to think much about the relative cost of the colors on my palette (although some still cost more than others) or worry about the lightfastness. I still discovered Smalt Hue as a beginner artist because it was relatively inexpensive (as a Series 1 color, it costs roughly half as much as Cobalt Blue, which is Series 8) and I fell in love with the slightly purplish shade for skies. As you can see from the swatch on the tube, it’s very transparent and easy to layer.
The other main colors are Paynes Gray and Dioxazine Purple, with some Titan Buff in there for the moon:
You can buy this image as a photo print or canvas print through my Etsy store. The original is not for sale.
A few years ago I was asked to create a piece on the Nativity story, so I painted this scene:
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.
I took progress photos of the second half of my Pacific Crest Trail painting, and turned them into a GIF, so you can watch the sky coming together:
After filling in the background colors with a large brush, I started putting in the stars. I had a breakthrough in my starry sky paintings when I stopped using mostly black, and used a mix of blues instead for the background colors. This painting has very little black. The main sky color is Anthraquinone Blue, a strong transparent blue, with some Phthalo Blue and Titanium White.
Another trick I’ve learned: use the handle end of the brush to make the stars. They come out rounder, and you can adjust the pressure to make bigger or smaller dots.
I like to vary the colors of the stars to add depth as well. For some, I used a mix of Titanium White and Phthalo Blue, then added white dots over top after the first dots had dried. For others, I used a bit of Titan Buff instead of white, to make the stars yellower.
After putting in most of the stars and letting them dry, I experimented with the colors in the sky by adding in a bit of Quinacridone Magenta and transparent Zinc White here and there over top of the stars.
I also added a bit of the magenta to the snow on the mountaintops below to tie it together. Here’s the finished painting:
This painting is in my Etsy store as a photo print and canvas print. The original is for sale through my website.
This is another painting from a snowshoe trip in Yosemite a few years ago. We had a long trip in to a stone shelter hut, and due to bad snow conditions it took much longer than we expected.
It was close to midnight when we were still a mile or two from where we needed to be, and we had that exhausted tunnel vision that comes at the end of a long hike at high altitude. Suddenly we looked up from our plodding snowshoes and saw an amazing sight around us – a burned forest covered in snow, silent, under the moon and stars.
Wander, 30″ x 40″ acrylic on canvas, copyright © Kathryn Beals
Sometimes I need these moments to remember why I love the backcountry, and why it is worth it to be out in the cold in these amazing places, and not home in my warm bed. We stopped and looked at the stars for a long time before continuing on.
I just finished this painting yesterday:
Solstice, 24″x 30″ acrylic on canvas, copyright © 2014 Kathryn Beals
This is from memories of winter camping in the Sierra mountains with my husband. I actually started this one a few years ago, got frustrated and put it away. I dug it out yesterday and tried again, and I was much happier with the result this time.
I originally made the tent way too big, so I painted over it with the dark blue/black, let that dry and then painted it in again in a smaller size. This is one of the reasons I love painting in acrylic – it’s easy to fix mistakes. I should have taken progress photos, but this artist has a great tutorial that shows a similar fix.