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_i

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:

IMG_6890.JPG

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

fireflies.gif

Continue reading

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_i

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:

giclees-8 giclees-5

Goodnight Moon and the North Star Painting

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

new_i

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:

goodnightmoon

“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.

anthrabluepaynesgraytitaniumwhitequinmagentaimage_1397589891.jpg

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.

northstar_detail

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

Star painting in progress: Is it finished?

This painting has been hanging on my wall in a half-finished state for quite a while, since I can’t decide what to do with it next, so I’m seeking feedback from you guys.

With most paintings, I have a natural moment where I sense that it is done, and I know I should step back before I overwork it.  It is hard to find the balance between making your work precise and polished, and keeping the life and spontaneity in the brush strokes.  I don’t have that sense with this painting yet, but sometimes it’s helpful to seek ideas from fresh eyes.

IMG_3001

This is the painting hanging on a wall in my back yard, so you can see it in natural light.  Overall I like the look and energy, but I’m wondering if it needs something in the foreground, or if it’s something about the colors that is not quite right.  I wanted to try a painting that mixes my two landscape styles; the more abstract, linear hills with the more realistic starry sky.

What do you think?  Should I stop here, or keep going?  Just for fun I’m trying out the poll feature in WordPress, so you can weigh in:

 

Other artists, how do you know when your painting is finished?

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:

mather_w

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.

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:

Light in the desert

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.

Pacific Crest Trail Painting in Progress: Painting Stars

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:

mather

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.

anthrabluepthalobluegs  titaniumwhite

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.

IMG_2667 IMG_2668

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.

titanbuffquinmagenta

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.

IMG_0438

I also added a bit of the magenta to the snow on the mountaintops below to tie it together. Here’s the finished painting:

mather_w

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

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:

mather_w

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.

IMG_0734 IMG_0549

mather_detail

mather_detail2

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.

Alpine lakes painting in progress

I’ve been working on this painting of an alpine lake scene from the Pacific Crest Trail in the high Sierra mountains of California.  This one is loosely based on the area south of Mather Pass. We encountered it on the PCT, but it is also part of the John Muir Trail.

IMG_0424-g

I need to make adjustments to the composition of the foreground with the lake, but the basic colors of the painting are coming together.  I’m really into starry skies right now and I plan to make a sky similar to this painting. I’ve painted alpine lakes several times and I enjoy the chance to use really intense colors.

This is where my husband and I camped just below Mather Pass, at just over 11,000 feet, our highest campsite on the trail.  This was one of my favorite spots on the trail and I’ve always wanted to paint this amazing place, since the photos really don’t do it justice.

IMG_0549

Winter Night Sky Painting: Wander

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

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.

Continue reading