Earthbound Artist

The Making of 'I Think I Found One'

07 May, 2024 0 comments Leave a comment

If you are familiar with my artwork, you know that my paintings often feature the distinctive rock and stone of the Canadian Shield region. This past winter, I took some time to delve into this subject in a BIG way.

From January to March, I worked bit by bit on the largest watercolour landscape I ever have done. The subject was one of my favourite pebble beaches on Lake Superior.

Each of the stones in this scene required 3 to 6 layers of paint to achieve a realistic result. My goal was to create pebbles so true-to-life that you want to reach in and pick one up to examine its wonders.

I took the reference photos for this project in the summer of 2022, when my husband and I visited Marathon on the north shore of Lake Superior. The primary reference was the photo above, showing him looking down at the beach stones.

I love the way his silhouette contrasts with the foggy treeline as it disappears into the misty background. I had to lay down on the stones to capture the camera angle I wanted, where all the lines converged on that distant figure.

I also took about fifty other photos of individual stones with unusual patterns and striking colours I found elsewhere on this beach. These became very useful as I worked on the final stages of my painting, so I could insert some of these more interesting features into the foreground stones.


The most difficult part of this scene, believe it or not, was the forest. I knew I had to get that right before I invested weeks and weeks into painting stones.

Portraying masses of tree foliage has always been a challenge for me, but I took it one step at a time, beginning with the misty sky and water in the distance and working forward to the more vibrant deep greens on the left side of the painting.

Shown here is the finished artwork, 'I Think I Found One', varnished watercolour on 28 x 40 inch panel. I breathed a happy sigh of relief when this one was done!

Over the three months of this project, I remembered to take a photo of my work in progress at the end of each painting session. Recently I assembled the photos into a time lapse video showing the sequencing of my work on this piece. Click on the image below to view the 2-minute video.

I developed a profound bond with this painting during our time together as its creation journey unfolded. It represents important aspects of my life: a love of travel and exploring new places together, a fascination with stones, and an enduring connection with Lake Superior.

For the time being, I am keeping this special painting in our home, to enjoy every day. At some point in the future, this piece will tell me when I can let it go to its forever home.

Prints of this painting are available in a variety of sizes on canvas, paper, and other substrates from my print-on-demand publisher Fine Art America. Click here to see the selection.

If you have comments you wish to share, please do so using the 'Leave a Comment' button at the top of this post.

Subscribe to Karen's Newsletter if you wish to see more of her painting stories, travel tales, studio news updates, or notices of upcoming exhibitions.


BIG News: ITIFO Collection Launches

22 April, 2024 0 comments Leave a comment

For three solid months this past winter, I worked on the largest landscape painting I ever have created. I am delighted to share the finished work with you here. My husband came up with a great title: I Think I Found One.

The scene shows him on Pebble Beach in Marathon on Lake Superior, a magical place that has inspired many of my paintings. Each stone in this 28 x 40 inch watercolour painting required 3 to 6 layers of paint. 

This master work has touched my soul so profoundly that have reserved the original to enjoy in our home, at least for a while. But, fear not, I have worked behind the scenes to make this image available for everyone to enjoy.

Partnering with Fine Art America (FAA), the world's largest print-on-demand technology company, I selected an exciting series of products that will feature this landscape image. I call this series the 'I Think I Found One' Collection, or ITIFO for short.

Pictured above in a living room setting is the largest canvas giclee print I ever have offered for one of my landscape paintings. This ITIFO canvas print is wrapped around a wooden cradle that is five feet wide.

ITIFO prints can be ordered in a range of sizes from 7 x 10 inches to 42 x 60 inches. Choose your print on canvas, metal, acrylic or wood panels, or even a tapestry, to suit any decor style or budget. Shown below is a 14 x 20 inch metal print in a kitchen setting.

The beauty of working with Fine Art America, is that each print order is custom made to your specifications. FAA will deliver it right to your doorstep, usually within a week or two, shipped from their nearest manufacturing facility.

FAA production centres are in Canada, USA, UK, Netherlands, and Australia. They sell thousands of pieces of high quality products each month - all with a 30-day money-back guarantee.  

Pictured here is the largest framed archival paper print in the ITIFO Collection. This example has overall dimensions of 42 x 56 inches, but can be ordered in a range of sizes starting at 13 x 16 inches, with a wide selection of frame styles. Unframed art prints and posters are available too.

But that is not all...

My ITIFO Collection includes the other home decor and lifestyle wares pictured below.



To see all the options offered in this new collection, click on the Shop Now button below. It will take you to my ITIFO Collection order page at Fine Art America.

Shop Now

I hope you find something to your liking. If you have any questions, contact me and I will be happy to assist. Thank you for supporting my artist's life.

If you have comments you wish to share, please do so using the 'Leave a Comment' button at the top of this post.

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Glorious Glass: Top 3 Destinations

23 March, 2024 2 comments Leave a comment

If you are like me, whenever this time of year rolls around I yearn to see fresh colour.

Even though the browns and grays of winter still cloak the landscape around me, I am excited to witness the vibrant spectrum of life returning to my world.

Since the full flush of spring is still weeks away, this is the perfect time to bask in rainbow-hued memories from our travels last year. Care to join me?

In this post I am sharing three amazing places we discovered, and they all have to do with extraordinary glass hand-crafted by world class artisans.

Please take a seat, enjoy some exuberant artistic creations, and maybe add these places to your bucket list.

#1: Museum of Glass (Tacoma, Washington)

This premier contemporary art museum opened in 2002, focused exclusively on the work of local glass artist Dale Chihuly. The Museum has since expanded its mission to include works in glass by contemporary artists worldwide.

The Museum of Glass houses the West Coast’s largest and most active Museum Glass studio, which hosts many artists-in-residence and allows visitors to watch them create art from molten glass.

To say the current exhibits of glass art took my breath away would be an understatement. The ever-growing permanent collection as well as travelling exhibits were astounding.

The wall art piece shown below by Amber Cowan is titled Creamer and Sugar, Swans in Sky and measures perhaps two metres across. I added a close up photo for better viewing of this remarkable piece.

Amber starts with historic American pressed glass, like you might find at a thrift store, or in your grandmother's china cabinet. She takes these commonplace items and revitalizes them into an intricate wonderland, by adding hot-sculpted, flame-worked, and blown glass details.

These botanical orbs are blown glass with flame-worked elements by Paul Stankard and each measures about 10 cm in diameter. I looked at these and wondered how on earth he managed to encase intricate glass vignettes in solid clear glass.

Paul is an internationally acclaimed artist and pioneer in the Studio Glass movement. He is considered a living master in the art of the paperweight, and his work is represented in more than 70 museums around the world.

Dale Chihuly is arguably the most famous contemporary glass artist in the world. His name draws vast crowds to site-specific glass installations across the globe as well as to art galleries and museums internationally. His technical and design innovations played a leading role in forming the current perception of glass as fine art.

Pictured here is his Gibson Chandelier at the Museum. It is over three metres tall and two metres wide. A close up photo of it is shown at the beginning of this article.

The city of Tacoma recognized and honoured its native son and glass maker with the spectacular Chihuly Bridge of Glass. This unique pedestrian bridge houses over 2,000 of his glass creations and crosses over a freeway to connect the Museum with downtown Tacoma.

I took this video of the Bridge to try and capture the sheer wonder of it. Click the image below and be amazed.


#2: Kokomo Opalescent Glass Company (Kokomo, Indiana)

My husband and I were thrilled to have a factory tour of the oldest art glass company in America, as part of our Made in USA guided Airstream caravan last fall.

Kokomo Opalescent Glass is one of the world’s leading manufacturers of art glass. Founded in 1888, they are the oldest producer of hand cast, cathedral, and opalescent glass in the USA and are known worldwide for their high-quality, hand mixed sheet glass. One of their early customers was Louis Comfort Tiffany, and KOG estimates that 75% of the world’s churches contain it’s glass. 

In this video, I share with you their process of making hand mixed sheet glass, and a sampling of the colourful results in the KOG warehouse. Click on the image below to view.


#3: The Henry Ford American Glass Collection


If you have not visited The Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation and Greenfield Village in Dearborn, Michigan, I suggest you add it to your list of 'Amazing Places to See'.

We spent two days there during our Made in USA Airstream caravan and plan to go back next year to experience more of its wonders.

The scale and excellence of this world class museum and 80-acre historic artisan village is simply astounding.

There are four working farms growing crops, raising livestock, and cooking meals using recipes from pioneer times. Skilled artisans throughout Greenfield Village are dressed in period costume and practice authentic period crafts and trades.

The Henry Ford’s American glass collection is one of the most comprehensive in the USA, numbering approximately 10,000 objects.

About 700 pieces of the collection are on display in the Davidson-Gerson Gallery of Glass, a converted 1888 machine shop in the Liberty Craftworks District of Greenfield Village.

Nearby is the Glass Shop, where visitors can see and talk to glass blowers demonstrating their craft.

The Gallery traces the history of American glass making from the 1700's through to the present. I was pleased to see a wide array of functional glass, including everyday products like Pyrex and canning jars, as well as beautiful glass art.

There were gorgeous works by important artists like Louis Comfort Tiffany and contemporary masters of the Studio Glass movement.

Shown here is Fireside Yellow and Red Persian by Dale Chihuly. It is a collection of glass pieces resting in a free-form glass vessel about a metre in diameter and a half metre tall. Imagine forming all that by hand from molten glass!

I hope you have enjoyed this colourful tour of exceptional glass destinations and that you have a chance to visit them in person if your travels take you near these locales.

Glass creations, whether made to function as part of our daily lives, or simply for the sheer beauty of their form and colour, cannot help but lift your spirits. Just like the advent of spring after a long winter! :)

If you have comments you wish to share, please do so using the 'Leave a Comment' button at the top of this post. 

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New Works: Winter, Water, Stone

25 February, 2024 1 comment Leave a comment

Karen Richardson in her art studio

This year I have been spending lots of quality time in my art studio, working on a half dozen large paintings.

The four new watercolours pictured here with me are part of this collection and share an interesting coincidence.

When my husband and I were travelling in the Airstream last summer, I was able to make only small paintings at our dinette. About four months into the trip, I started to yearn for my roomy home studio so I could create some larger, more impactful paintings.

In this state of mind, I perused my digital folder of hundreds of finished paintings going back 30+ years and made a list of a few dozen extraordinary images that I felt would be suited to large-scale paintings.

In other words, I planned to employ the original paintings as preliminary studies for big, exciting scenes that still hold a piece of my soul, using skills that (I hope) have been honed to higher levels of excellence.

I am so excited to share with you the re-imagined works I have painted this winter.


We Are All Connected, varnished watercolour on 24 x 24 inch panel, $1800.

This is the third stone circle I have painted and the largest so far.

All my stone circle paintings symbolize unity and the stripes on the stones represent the traits we share that connect us together, even though we are unique as individuals. My hope is that we focus on what unites us, rather than what divides us.

For details on availability of We Are All Connected, click here.

Karen Richardson with two earlier stone circle paintings

The first two stone circle versions were each 12 x 12 inches, inspired from actual striped pebbles from my own collection, and completed in 2018.

They are Circle of Kindred Spirits and Unbroken. Both titles were suggested by my Facebook followers and both paintings found new homes.

The Unbroken image was licensed in 2019 for an album cover by Canadian gospel singer/songwriter Terry Posthumus, who also acquired the original painting to display in his recording studio. You can read about this fascinating art/music journey here: The Unbroken Story - Why My Painting is on an Album Cover


Winter's Embrace, varnished watercolour on 20 x 16 inch panel, $1500 (shown left).

This painting is a reinterpretation of Snow Flurries (pictured below), an imaginary 12 x 8 inch scene I painted in 2004, that was inspired by many snowmobile adventures in the Ontario wilderness.

Snow Flurries (2004) by Karen Richardson

Even though this is a winter scene, it feels cozy and inviting to me. The pillowy snow and the warm tones of birch tree, creek, clouds, and shrubs make the viewer feel welcome and sheltered.

For information about availability of Winter's Embrace, click here.


Untouched, watercolour by Karen Richardson

Untouched, varnished watercolour on 12 x 24 inch panel, $1400 (shown above). This painting captures the soft, rosy light of a calm winter morning at the lake. Stately white pines cluster quietly on a rocky island, listening for the faintest whisper of the wind. For details about this painting's availability, click here.

Untouched is a reinterpretation of Enchantment (shown below), a 5 x 14 inch painting I created in 2006.

Enchantment (2006) by Karen Richardson

My initial inspiration was a photo I took back in the 1990's (shown below), on a snowmobile trip in northern Ontario.

Pine island, photo by Karen Richardson

Karen Richardson booth at 2006 Buckhorn Fine Art Festival This is a photo of my booth at the 2006 Buckhorn Fine Art Festival, where Enchantment was sold to a collector. It is the tiny painting in the middle of the far right wall. In those days, I was framing my watercolours with mats and glass. Now I mount them on art boards and varnish with a UV blocking coating, eliminating the need for glass. You can read about my framing process in this article: Framing Watercolours Without Glass.


Superior Stillness, varnished watercolour on 16 x 20 inch panel, $1500, captures a twilight moment, when majestic trees are silhouetted against a simple sunset and everything is quiet. Water laps gently against the rocky shore as moon and stars look on from above.

The location is Picture Rock Harbour in Pukaskwa National Park, which is on the shore of Lake Superior near Marathon, ON. Places like this make my spirit soar. For information on availability of Superior Stillness, click here.

This is the third time I have painted this scene, and it resonates so powerfully with me, I feel like I could paint it again sometime in the future. This artwork celebrates all I hold dear about northern scenery: vast skies, clear blue water, smooth stones, and hardy pine and spruce trees.

The first two interpretations of the scene were created in 2020. They were titled Be Still (8 x 8 inches, shown left), and And Time Stood Still (12 x 16 inches, pictured below right).

And Time Stood Still (2020) by Karen Richardson

The inspiration for all three paintings was a photo taken by Tania Bortolon Krysa, who I met through Facebook. Tania loves the same kind of wild places that I do and takes excellent photos during her adventures.

Photo by Tania Bortolon KrysaShe was on a back country camping trip and her party stayed overnight in tents on this beach. She graciously granted me permission to use her stunning sunset photo (shown left) as reference for my artwork.

I hope you have enjoyed this behind-the-scenes look at my recent paintings. There are many ways to interpret the beauty of nature as works of art. I am finding new avenues to express my deepest, heartfelt admiration for this rugged land that speaks to my soul. Stay tuned for more of my re-creations in this new collection.

Which painting is your favourite? If you have comments you wish to share, please do so using the 'Leave a Comment' button at the top of this post.

Subscribe to Karen's Newsletter if you wish to see more of her painting stories, travel tales, studio news updates, or notices of upcoming exhibitions.

The Making of 'Guardians of the Bay'

28 January, 2024 0 comments Leave a comment

Guardians of the Bay, watercolour by Karen Richardson In my last post, I told the story behind my painting Yesterday's Dreams, which was inspired by a vintage gas pump we saw on our last trip to Newfoundland.

Today I am sharing the creation story of another painting inspired by the same trip.

I took some artistic licence and combined two scenes into one that celebrates the beauty and grandeur of the rugged west coast of Newfoundland.

Reference photos and drawing by Karen RichardsonMy photo of a tree growing from a rocky cliff was taken on the Port au Port peninsula near Stephenville, and my photo of large boulders was from Gros Morne National Park.

My painting began with a detailed pencil drawing on 300 lb watercolour paper.

Guardians of the Bay, watercolour in progress by Karen Richardson

I did some colour test swatches and selected four Sennelier paints for this project: Sennelier Red, Sennelier Yellow Deep, Phthalocyanine Blue, and Ultramarine Light. Every colour in the painting was mixed from these pigments.

With clear water, I dampened the watercolour paper where the sky would be, working right through the trees on the cliff and the mountains on the far shore. Then I painted horizontal strokes of greys and blues to simulate clouds with a bit of blue sky peeking through.

Guardians of the Bay, watercolour in progress by Karen Richardson

Once the sky dried, I mixed a neutral grey and painted the shadows on the cliff while I could see my pencil lines clearly. (Many artists would paint the rock colours first and the shadows second but I do the reverse.) I blurred the paint lines where needed with a second brush loaded with clear water. 

I wet each boulder, one at a time, and painted graduated shadows to give the effect of spherical volume.

Guardians of the Bay, watercolour in progress by Karen Richardson

Using three different green mixtures, I painted the tree foliage, paying attention to placement of the light and dark shapes. This section turned out better than I hoped. I used to find general foliage masses exceedingly difficult, but I kept observing trees and practising painting them... for a few decades... and they gradually began to look more realistic.😁

Then I painted the tree trunks and golden tones of the cliff.

Guardians of the Bay, watercolour in progress by Karen Richardson

I added more tans and browns to the rock face, sprinkling some table salt on the larger masses to create a mineral effect. I did the same on the boulders. Once the salt dried I brushed it off.

I used a dull navy blue to paint the mountains on the far shore, making sure to keep the horizon (the top of the water) straight and level. Then I added the purple-grey undersides of the waves and let everything dry fully.

Guardians of the Bay, watercolour in progress by Karen Richardson

I added another layer of colour to deepen the mountains on the far shore. After that dried, I carefully placed the colours of the ocean in horizontal bands of blues and tans, in between the white foam tops of the waves (which were left the colour of the paper).

More details of cracks and shadows were added to the cliff face.

Once the ocean section was dry, I added the brown reflections in the lower right.

Guardians of the Bay, watercolour by Karen Richardson

To complete the painting, I added more colour and texture to the cliff face, and painted stripes and deeper shadows on the boulders.

I titled the painting Guardians of the Bay (varnished watercolour on 12 x 12 inch panel). It took me six days to paint this scene, and it was acquired by a collector of my work before the paint was dry.

I always will have a soft spot for this artwork, as it captures wonderful memories of the summer we spent in Newfoundland.

If you have comments you wish to share, please do so using the 'Leave a Comment' button at the top of this post.

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New Series 'It's a Frog's Life' Now Complete

07 January, 2024 1 comment Leave a comment

It took me twelve months, but I finally finished the three paintings that comprise my new series 'It's a Frog's Life'.

These pond scenes were inspired by photogenic frogs we encountered during our latest visit to Point Pelee National Park, and some glorious pink water lilies I saw blooming in Timmins, ON several years ago.

At the beginning of this project, I wrote about My Fabulous Frog Encounter. Click here to see the cute frogs that inspired this series.

Using my reference photos, I created 12 x 12 inch compositions by placing frogs onto appropriate perches, such as lily pads or a log.

I invented titles to describe what I thought the frogs may have been thinking in those moments.

While working on this series, I enjoyed working with bright, happy colours, and painting the fascinating up-close details of Nature.

One of these paintings has found a forever home, but the other two are ready to hop off to their new pad. Click on the images if you would like more information about these paintings.

Which painting is your favourite? If you have comments you wish to share, please do so using the 'Leave a Comment' button at the top of this post.

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The Making of 'Yesterday's Dreams'

30 December, 2023 2 comments Leave a comment

Red Cliff Newfoundland, photo by Karen Richardson

My husband and I have had the privilege of spending two summers touring the island of Newfoundland in our travel trailer. We were there for two months in 2007 and three months in 2019.

While exploring the back roads of the Bonavista peninsula on our more recent trip, we came across this rusty gas pump on its concrete pad, smack in the middle of a field of grass, in the tiny settlement known as Red Cliff.

The price on the pump was 75 cents a gallon, so it probably made its last sale in the 1970’s, before the metric system was adopted in Canada. Any surrounding buildings were long gone. On the shore beyond, a row of houses and fishing sheds had succumbed to wind and rain.

Yesterday's Dreams work in progress by Karen Richardson

I could imagine a story here about the families who lived and worked in this beautiful place. I knew this would make an exciting painting subject and took lots of photos.

Back at home the following winter, I got to work on a watercolour interpretation of this scene, beginning with a pencil drawing on 300 lb cold press watercolour paper.

Yesterday's Dreams watercolour in progress by Karen Richardson

I used Sennelier watercolour paints which are made in France and I was very impressed with their clarity and strength of colour.

The three pigments I chose (Sennelier Red, Sennelier Yellow Deep, and Phthalocyanine Blue) worked perfectly for mixing every colour needed in this painting.

First I painted blue on the sky and water, working wet in wet and avoiding the row of houses in the background.

The grass was finicky to paint, using many layers of masking fluid and paint to achieve the effect of individual blades of grass. This part of the scene took the longest to paint.

Yesterday's Dreams watercolour in progress by Karen Richardson

I began by protecting the body of the gas pump with masking tape, and the fence posts and blades of grass in the foreground with masking fluid.

Once that dried, I painted in the first layers of the grass field and the concrete pad, working on wet paper to create soft transitions of colour.

After the first grass layer dried, I masked out more blades of grass over the existing paint, let that dry, added another layer of green paint, and let that dry.

Yesterday's Dreams watercolour in progress by Karen Richardson

Repeating this process a few times gradually built up grass blades of differing values, and this variety is what makes watercolour grass look real.

After removing the masking, I deepened the blue colour of the ocean, making sure to keep the horizon line absolutely straight and level.

I added colour to the white blades of grass that had been under the first layer of masking fluid, and painted in the shadows of stony details on the concrete pad. 

Yesterday's Dreams watercolour in progress by Karen Richardson

The rusty gas pump was an absolute joy to portray in watercolour and very easy to do, compared to the grassy field.

Having well-focused reference photos of the pump from every angle, and up close, was key to recreating this relic in a realistic manner.

I worked on dry paper using a two-brush technique. One brush was loaded with colour and one held only clear water. I laid down paint in the shape I wanted, and then used the clear brush to subtly blur or soften the edges, to bleed out the colour where needed. This was very effective in portraying streaks of rust.

The same two-brush technique was used on the black rubber hose on the pump, creating the soft grey highlight that produced the look of a cylinder.

Yesterday's Dreams, watercolour in progress by Karen Richardson

I used a magnifying glass and super fine Micron pens with archival ink to do the lettering on the pump.

The final step was to paint the dilapidated houses and fishing sheds on the seashore in the distance.

Again, I had taken excellent reference shots of the buildings when we were there, and used the photos extensively to portray these rustic structures accurately.

Karen Richardson with Yesterday's Dreams, watercolour

I love the atmospheric feeling of this scene. It brings to mind stories of the glory days, when this was a thriving little settlement full of energetic families, with a glorious view of the sea.

In this photo, I am holding the finished painting in my art studio. In front of me, you can see the three tubes of paint I worked with as well as the #12 round sable/synthetic brushes I used to paint this artwork.

I titled the painting, 'Yesterday's Dreams', (varnished watercolour on 14 x 11 inch panel), paying homage to the families who called this place home during the last 250 years. A collector acquired my painting a few months later.

Although the original has found its forever home, art prints of Yesterday's Dreams are available from my publisher FineArtAmerica, a world-renowned print-on-demand company. This image can be enjoyed on canvas, paper, wood, acrylic, or metal prints, or featured on other fine products. Click here to see the 'Yesterday's Dreams' selection on my FineArtAmerica web page. 

Newfoundland remains one of my favourite Canadian destinations, featuring the hospitable, fun-loving, hard-working inhabitants, their wondrous musical abilities, and world-famous natural attractions such as Gros Morne National Park and Western Brook Pond.

Detail of Yesterday's Dreams, watercolour by Karen Richardson

We also greatly enjoyed the historic Viking settlement re-enactment at l'Anse aux Meadows, numerous iceburg-sightings, a vast array of lovely wild flowers, and learning the history of the cod fishery at Twillingate.

The Skerwink cliff trail and historic architecture at Trinity, magnificent sea views at Bonavista, berry picking on the Avalon, and the vibrant culture and architecture of St. John's all were wonderful experiences.

I believe every Canadian should visit the island of Newfoundland, given the chance. If you need persuading, check out the adventure highlights of our most recent trip in my other posts: 'Icebergs of Newfoundland', 'Top 14 Vistas of Newfoundland', 'A Whale of a Tale in Newfoundland', and 'Seeing Caribou and Moose in Newfoundland'.

If you have comments you wish to share, please do so using the 'Leave a Comment' button at the top of this post.

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The Making of 'Simply Superior'

29 November, 2023 2 comments Leave a comment

When my husband and I were travelling in the Airstream this summer and fall, I was able to paint ten small watercolours at our dinette. You can read about this mobile studio setup in this post: My Art Studio on the Road.

Working in a confined space meant I was limited to making paintings about a square foot or less in size. Once we were about four months into the trip, I started to yearn for my roomy home studio that would allow me to paint some larger, more impactful paintings.

One day when we were driving in the truck, I perused my digital folder of hundreds of finished paintings going back over thirty years. I made a list of a dozen extraordinary scenes that I felt would be suited to large-scale paintings.

In other words, I would consider these previous paintings to be studies for big, new, and exciting reinterpretations of scenes that still touch my soul.

Once we arrived back home last month, in very short order I got to work sketching out a couple of these paintings.

I am thrilled to be immersed in larger works; the first one I completed was this tall Lake Superior pebble beach scene, Simply Superior (varnished watercolour on 36 x 12 inch panel).

I remembered to stop and take photos of the work as it progressed, so I could share on social media the steps of creating this artwork. I have posted these photos below.

Watercolour in progress by Karen Richardson

My strategy was to finish a small section of the scene before proceeding with the next section. This provides exciting glimpses of the final artwork and encourages me to continue through the difficult middle phase that all paintings experience.

Watercolour in progress by Karen Richardson

I used masking fluid to save the white of the paper to represent highlights on the exposed stones. The underwater stones were difficult to create. The water in Lake Superior is so clear that underwater stones have the same colour and clarity as wet stones above the waterline. Several pale blue layers helped to 'submerge' the underwater elements.

Watercolour in progress by Karen Richardson

After three days of work, the upper half of the painting was completed, except for some minor adjustments that would be made in the final 'polishing up' of the painting.

Watercolour in progress by Karen Richardson 

Next I worked on the warm coloured stones in the lower half of the scene. Each stone required three or four layers of paint, with at least several hours of drying time between each layer. I painted a blue wash over the underwater section to help me get a grasp of its boundaries and to subdue the colours that would follow.

Watercolour in progress, by Karen Richardson

Once again, I completed one limited area of the painting at a time, to help fuel my excitement for the project. With a painting this large, it can be difficult to remain patient enough to work through the relatively unattractive early and intermediate stages, before reaching the satisfying realism of the final stage.

Watercolour in progress, by Karen Richardson

It took me twelve days in total to complete this painting, spread over a month. That averages three painting sessions per week.

Karen Richardson with her painting Simply Superior

Here is a photo of me holding the completed painting in its frame. This was a challenging piece but worth the struggle, as you can tell by my smile of relief.

Click here for more information about Simply Superior.

If you have comments you wish to share, please do so using the 'Leave a Comment' button at the top of this post.

Subscribe to Karen's Newsletter if you wish to see more of her painting stories, travel tales, studio news updates, or notices of upcoming exhibitions.

Pictured Rocks Perfection

19 November, 2023 4 comments Leave a comment

Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, photo by Karen Richardson

This past summer and fall, my husband and I enjoyed a 5-month camping adventure in our Airstream trailer. We began our trip by travelling to the west coast through the USA and back through Canada. I shared highlights of the western portion of our explorations in these posts:

My Summer Travels in the High Desert

Pacific Northwest: Forests and Freshwater

Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, photo by Karen Richardson

We spent the final two months of our journey discovering the wonders of the American states surrounding Lake Michigan. This exploration began with with a tour of the Upper Peninsula, which lies between Lake Superior and Lake Michigan.

Although there was much to see and do in the 'UP' as the locals call it, the most exciting highlight of our time here was taking a scenic afternoon cruise out of Munising, Michigan to see Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore.

Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, photo by Karen Richardson

This 42-mile stretch of protected lakeshore includes 15 miles of towering multi-coloured sandstone cliffs, as well as beaches, sand dunes, waterfalls, inland lakes, and forests. Pictured Rocks was established in 1966 and is managed by the National Park Service.

The cliffs reach a height of 200 feet and are made entirely of sandstone. The sedimentary rock layers erode at varying rates due to different densities. This produces the sea caves, arches, pillars, and other fantastic sandstone formations we see today.

Colourful vertical streaks are caused by groundwater seeping through the sandstone and depositing dissolved minerals on the cliff face. The orange-red streaks are iron, blue-green are copper, brown-black are manganese, and white are limonite. When afternoon or evening sunshine lights up these cliffs, the glow of rock contrasted with clear turquoise water is breathtaking.

I put together a short video from our scenic cruise, to give you a glimpse of the unique majesty of these natural formations. Click on the image below to enjoy two minutes of relaxing sights and sounds.

Our boating excursion was hosted by Pictured Rocks Cruises and I highly recommend their services.

I expect a few of these remarkable rock formations will find their way into a painting or two of mine down the road. I hope I can do justice to these natural wonders. Stay tuned!

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My Art Studio on the Road

31 October, 2023 5 comments Leave a comment

Karen Richardson and her husband with their Airstream

My husband and I thoroughly enjoyed exploring western USA and Canada in our Airstream trailer this year. It has all the comforts of a small apartment, and I often refer to it as our mobile condo.

During the 20 weeks we were away, we drove just over 20,000 km which made for a comfortable, relaxed pace. Some locales we visited only a day or two, and others had us settling in for a week or more, depending on what there was to see and do in the area.

High Desert reservoir, photo by Karen Richardson

In previous blog posts I shared my favourite photo highlights from the first half of our trip. If you missed them, here are the links:

My Summer Travels in the High Desert

Pacific Northwest: Forests and Freshwater.

I will be sharing more travel stories and including videos and photo highlights of our trip in coming months, as time permits. I have a lot of painting to do, since the fall and winter seasons are when I produce the majority of my artwork.

Karen Richardson in her mobile studio

However, as we travelled, I made sure to take time for a few hours of painting every week or so.

I have learned that this regular creative time is essential to my well-being. I get cranky if I have a long stretch of time without having fun making art.

My husband would go off to see a car show or for a walk, and I would set up my portable studio at the dinette in our trailer, as pictured here.

Karen Richardson's mobile studio setup

My painting setup is very simple: a fistful of brushes, two small travel palettes, a dozen small tubes of paint, pre-cut sheets of watercolour paper, a few foam board supports, and some reference photos. I also employ a folding LED desk lamp, old rags to protect the dinette surfaces, and some repurposed pantry equipment.

I generally had three paintings in progress at any one time, so if I had to stop working on a painting while it dried, I could work on another one in the meantime.

Getting all my equipment set up at the dinette takes about five minutes, so it is no trouble to paint for just two or three hours, and then put everything away.

Cleanup takes about ten minutes, including washing my brushes. Watercolour is especially suitable for a mobile studio like this, as there are no solvents needing disposal.

Karen Richardson's drying area in the RV

To avoid the risk of mould or mildew, I have to let my paintings, brushes, and rags dry fully before I pack them away. I also need to let my palettes dry so the paint won't spill during storage. Watercolour paint can be reused another day, by adding water to dissolve the dried paint. This is another factor that makes this medium ideal for travel.

I came up with the idea of using the shower stall in our Airstream bathroom as an overnight drying area. This keeps all the materials out of our way so we can use the living area of the trailer. This photo shows three paintings drying after a painting session.

The shower seat holds the paintings on their supports as well as my palettes. On the floor is a zippered clear plastic bag (the kind that blankets come packaged in) that I use as a storage case. Resting on top of that is a rag and my wet brushes. The shower stall has a small retractable clothesline (not shown in the photo) that I use to hang more rags to dry.

After drying, all my painting supplies fit into the blanket bag, which I then stow into one of our overhead cupboards in the Airstream.

New works by Karen Richardson


I was very happy to complete these ten new paintings during our travels. That equates to an average of one painting every two weeks.

Mounting paintings in Karen Richardson studio

Back home in my art studio, I mounted the watercolour paintings onto archival wood panels, shown here.

I use various heavy objects at hand (including my awesome pebble collection) to help affix the watercolour paper to the cradled panels.

Once the adhesive was dry, these paintings were trimmed, varnished, and framed. A few of these new paintings have found their forever homes and the rest are being delivered to my retail galleries in Huntsville, Fenelon Falls, and Port Perry, ON. To view details and locations of the remaining pieces, visit the New Paintings page on my web site.

For a complete description of how I mount and varnish my watercolours, see my article Framing Watercolours Without Glass.

We had a wonderful holiday and it feels great to be back home again. I am keen to start on several large scale northern landscape paintings in my roomy studio. Now that cold weather is here, my little gas fireplace will be put to good use.

If you have comments you wish to share, please do so using the 'Leave a Comment' button at the top of this post. 

Subscribe to Karen's Newsletter if you wish to see more travel tales, painting stories, studio news updates, or notices of upcoming exhibitions.

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