New Works - Stars of the Night

28 April, 2021 2 comments Leave a comment

Karen Richardson working on a painting in her art studio

For the last two months I have been working diligently in my art studio, completing the seven new watercolours shown below. During this late winter season, I have enjoyed making art beside my cosy fireplace, while daylight hours continued to lengthen outside my window. I welcome the advent of spring that is upon us.

New works by Karen Richardson

You might assume my studio would be full of new paintings by now, with the pace I have been setting (painting an average of one painting each week since the fall), but most of my new works have gone on to collectors or out for display at my retail galleries. I still have two empty walls in my studio that need filling, but I am extremely grateful that my artwork is capturing the attention of collectors even during this pandemic.

New works by Karen Richardson

The series of 'after dark' paintings I began late last year continues to intrigue me. It has been exciting to experiment with new pigment combinations and create these magically dusky skies. My latest batch of paintings includes scenes of sunset, twilight, starlight, moonlight, and dawn.

Today, I am sharing the stories behind the creation of these new artworks, beginning with the two blue moonlight-on-water scenes.

These two varnished watercolours are different sizes of the same scene. On the upper left is Moonbeam Dream (8 x 8" panel) and on the lower right is Moonbeam Melody (10 x 10" panel). In both pieces, 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. 

The smaller painting was requested by a client and I enjoyed painting this simple but evocative scene so much that I proceeded to make the larger one as well. I also painted this scene in February for another client. It's a popular scene.

Photo by Karen Richardson

These paintings were 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 rich colour (shown at right).

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 for more details about Moonbeam Melody.

The next painting shown here is Dancing With the Moon, varnished watercolour on 10 x 10" panel. A stately pine bows gracefully towards a resplendent moon playing peekaboo with a delicate swirl of clouds. Together they dance under a canopy of stars.

The genesis for this painting was a photo I took at my sister-in-law's home on Lake of the Woods. We were sitting at her camp fire one evening last summer when the full moon rose over the trees (shown below left) and I grabbed my camera. I loved the soft blue and purple colours of the sky that were revealed when I lightened the digital photo later on.

I found another photo I took during that trip, of tree tops in Lake Superior Provincial Park (shown below right). I used some of the dramatic tree silhouettes in the painting.

Photos by Karen Richardson

Click here to see more details about Dancing With the Moon.

Shown here is Land of a Million Stars, varnished watercolour on 16 x 12" panel. The slim elegance of these trees hides an indomitable strength that allows them to withstand decades or even centuries of frigid northern winters. Their perseverance is rewarded on perfectly clear nights by a glimpse of the Milky Way.

This painting was inspired by a photo taken by my Facebook friend Randy Whitbread, an avid photographer who lives in Flin Flon, Manitoba. When I saw his photo (below right) , I knew it would make a super painting, although a technically difficult one (and I was right).

When I was close to finishing, I decided my painted sky was too bland. I referred to the photos of another Facebook friend, professional photographer James Shedden from Magnetawan, ON to add my interpretation of the Milky Way. An example of his beautiful night photography is shown below left.

Photo by Randy Whitbread   Photo by James Shedden

I am tremendously grateful to these intrepid fellows who allow me to use their photos in my paintings. They can capture northern night images that I cannot.

Click here for more information about Land of a Million Stars.


Shown here is Twilight Magic, varnished watercolour on 6 x 12" panel. Northern lakes are the places in nature that heal the stress of my busy life, calm my mind, and restore my equilibrium. I love them beyond measure and cannot imagine a life that does not offer frequent immersion in these magical landscapes throughout the year.

Photo by Lee Warner

This photo was inspired by the photo (shown here) posted on Facebook by our friend and former neighbour, Lee Warner of Port Perry, ON. This is the view from the property where she used to live. I loved the way the last rays of sunlight silhouetted the Muskoka chairs and distinctive cedar trees of the shoreline.

Click here to see more details about Twilight Magic.


Shown here is Morning Calm, varnished watercolour on 8 x 10" panel. This iconic diving raft is often seen in the quiet bays of northern Ontario lakes, near family cottages. A luminous sunrise reflected on the water makes the solitary raft our sole focus. It brings memories of summer fun, when swimmers played in the bay, and reminds us that soon summer will be here again.

Raft in the Clouds, watercolour by Karen Richardson

In 2006, I painted Raft in the Clouds (watercolour, 5 x 14"), shown here.

The photo that inspired both of these painting was one I took in 2004 at my sister-in-law's former cottage at Lake of the Woods (shown below).

Photo by Karen Richardson

Click here for more details about Morning Calm.

The last and largest painting in this group is shown below, When Dreams Come True, varnished watercolour on 24 x 12" panel. A cluster of pines on the rocky shore of a peaceful northern lake behold the approaching night. Stars begin to fill the sky and the last rays of daylight bathe the scene in a misty glow. Immersing ourselves in glorious moments like this, is a dream come true.

This scene is mostly from my imagination. I found an old colour test sample (shown below) from my studio archives and liked the soft glowing effect these colours produced when used together. I decided to use them in the new painting.

Watercolour test by Karen Richardson

For the tree shapes, I referred to the photo shown below, which I took in 2018 on a Lake Muskoka cruise. I drew a loose interpretation of the point of land on the right side.

 Photo by Karen Richardson

Of all these paintings, I am most drawn to When Dreams Come True, because of how it took on a life of its own during the creation process. I love the misty, dreamy quality of the trees and the golden light. This painting surpassed my expectations. I look at it and wonder "how on earth did I do that?".

Click here to see more details of When Dreams Come True.

As spring flowers begin to bloom, and gentle rains bring new life to the earth, I feel my inner self reveling again in the simple abundance of the outdoors. I look forward to creating more new paintings that celebrate those natural places that replenish us, and sharing with you the stories behind the artwork.

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. Jean Cornelisse May 26, 2021

    Thank you Karen for painting this wonderful cottage and the memories enjoyed there. Plus the video that shows the process of the beginning and finishing of the artwork. Amazing

  2. Sharron MacBride April 29, 2021

    Stunning work as always. Night skies are such a challenge and you have met that and then some. Your art is always inspiring.