New Works - Scenes of the North

09 March, 2021 2 comments Leave a comment

Standing Watch, watercolour by Karen Richardson, with the artist

Watercolours by Karen Richardson

Watercolours by Karen Richardson

Since the turn of the year, I have been working away in my art studio, completing the eight new watercolours pictured above. During these cold months, I enjoy making art beside my cosy fireplace, while winter winds blow outside my window.

My studio is full of northern scenes this winter, and I feel like I am creating some of my best work. Half the pieces produced so far this year explore the effects of northern lights, and it has been exciting to experiment with vibrant greens and blues to create these magical skies.

I've also done scenes from summer, fall, and winter with various atmospheric effects such as mist, sunset, and moonlight.

Today, I am sharing the stories behind the creation of these new artworks, beginning with the larger pieces.


Shown above is an extra-large painting titled All That I Am (varnished watercolour on 24 x 36" panel). There is something special about a calm northern lake, especially when it features a stunning island. Every tree and rock is perfectly reflected on the water's surface. It's like Nature is saying "Stop and see how wondrous I am." This piece is twice the size of my previous largest works. 

In January, through Facebook, I met Randy Whitbread, an outdoor enthusiast and photographer who lives in Flin Flon, Manitoba. He gave me permission to use his lovely photograph shown below as a painting reference. It was taken on Millikan Lake near Flin Flon in late fall. The mist and the islands just spoke to me. I feel a kinship with quiet, wild places like this.

Photo by Randy Whitbread

The creation of All That I Am was arduous due to its size, and I will tell you the full story of that adventure in a future article. Suffice it to say for now that I was very relieved when I managed to complete the painting successfully.

Click here for more information about All That I Am.

Shown above is 'Moonglow', varnished watercolour on 20 x 16" panel. A vintage cabin sits nestled in the quiet of a winter forest, under the warm glow of a full moon. Two venerable conifers stand guard as branches creak and wind sighs softly through a gentle night.

This complex scene was inspired by a photo taken by another of my Facebook friends, professional photographer James Shedden. His photo of an old schoolhouse near Magnetawan, ON on a moonlit night (shown below and used with his permission) captivated me. I was looking for a 'meaty' subject to get my teeth into and loved the complexity and mood of this scene.

Photo by James Shedden


I consider this painting to be one of my master works, not only because of its size and intricate structure, but also for its feeling of mystery and invitation.

For more details about 'Moonglow', click here.

Pictured above is Splendour of the North, varnished watercolour on 9 x 12" panel. Calm northern lakes provide the perfect showcase for northern lights. As they dance across the starry night sky, the swirling hues of the aurora are in perfect synchronicity with their twin on the water.

This painting was inspired by another photo (shown below) by my Facebook friend Randy Whitbread.

Photo by Randy Whitbread

Click here for more information about Splendour of the North.

Pictured above is Reflections of Glory, varnished watercolour on 10 x 10" panel. One of the many benefits of living in or visiting northern Canada in wintertime is being able to view the aurora from time to time (if you are willing to stay up late in cold, dark conditions). The eerie lights move across the night sky in luminous ribbons and waves, like vast curtains billowing in heavenly breezes. In this scene, the glorious hues are reflected on a frozen river.

This painting was inspired by a photo (shown below) taken by my Facebook friend James Shedden near Magnetawan, ON.

Photo by James Shedden

Click here for more details about Reflections of Glory.

Shown above is Reach for the Stars, varnished watercolour on 12 x 6" panel. Whenever I am lucky enough to witness the aurora, they always leave me awestruck with the power of Nature. Their ever-changing colours and shapes, like silent fire rippling across the heavens, never cease to amaze me.

This painting was inspired by another photo (shown below) that was taken by James Shedden near Magnetawan, ON.

Photo by James Shedden

To see more details about Reach for the Stars, click here.

Pictured above is Standing Watch, varnished watercolour on 16 x 20" panel. Every night, as they stand guard under a canopy of starlight, these venerable pines in a northern forest witness the vastness of the universe. Tonight their spectacle includes the glow of northern lights.

This night scene was inspired by a daytime photo I took looking upward in a pine forest (shown below). I don't recall the location but I assume it was in northern Ontario.

Photo by Karen Richardson

It took some imagination to remove the sunlit effects and convert this to a night scene. I enjoyed painting the characteristics of each tree that made it unique. No two are alike.

Click here for more details about Standing Watch.

Pictured above is Sky Fire, varnished watercolour on 10 x 10" panel. This painting started out with an imaginary, luscious sky and a low horizon. I wasn't sure what scene to invent but the white section remaining at the bottom  of the watercolour paper reminded me of snow. A winter scene was born.

I see landscapes like this when we are out snowmobiling in northern Ontario. I love the drama of reflections on open water, contrasted with the white of the snowy fields. The flat orange pink colour of the lower left sky was a perfect backdrop for the intricate branches of a tree.

Click here to see more details about Sky Fire.


And finally we come to Moonbeam, varnished watercolour on 8 x 8" panel (shown above). The reflection of a full moon shimmers on the lake like a dancing flame. The heavens are so dark a blue they almost appear black - a perfect backdrop for the celestial bodies that shine in the night.

This scene was inspired by a photo I took of the full moon over Lake Ontario last summer. We were camping steps from the shore and the blue of the water and sky was captivating. Thankfully my camera was able to capture the colour (shown below).

Photo by Karen Richardson

To make the distant headland more interesting, I changed it to a group of islands I photographed at Lake Superior (shown below). I had to imagine what the islands would look like in moonlight rather than sunlight. I also added the stars to make the scene extra special.

Lake Superior photo by Karen Richardson

Click here to see more information about Moonbeam.

As the late winter snow begins to melt, and the breeze becomes more springlike, I feel my inner energy rising. I look forward to creating more new paintings and sharing with you the stories behind them.

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 painting stories, travel tales, studio news updates, or notices of upcoming exhibitions.


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  1. Tracey Coveart March 12, 2021

    I absolutely LOVE this series. You are capturing northern evenings so beautifully in these pieces. It makes me feel like I’m back at the cottage. Thank you!

  2. judi wild March 12, 2021

    Your work is super. You inspire me. Thank you for sharing.