Earthbound Artist

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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!

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.

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.

Pacific Northwest: Forests and Freshwater

25 September, 2023 1 comment Leave a comment

Northern Idaho, photo by Karen Richardson

When examining the map of the Pacific Northwest region of North America, one might assume that mountains would be the most remarkable feature travelers would encounter.

But when my husband and I explored the Pacific Northwest for five weeks in July and August, I found this not to be the case.

Northern Idaho, photo by Karen Richardson

As we camped and hiked throughout northern Idaho, Washington, and southern BC, I was much more intrigued by the pine trees, lakes, and rivers we encountered.

In my view, the mountains became more of an attractive backdrop that gave context to the landscape.

The first group of photographs pictured here were taken as we explored northern Idaho, following our travels in the high desert of Wyoming and southern Idaho in June and July.

Journeying north from Boise, we followed along the Salmon River and were thrilled to see many parties of river rafters floating in the current.

Rafters on the Salmon River, Idaho, photo by Karen Richardson

We didn't have a chance to investigate this time, but if we return to this part of the world, we will look into taking a guided rafting trip down the Salmon River.

It looked like a lot of fun, not too challenging, and the scenery was gorgeous.

Lake Coeur d'Alene, photo by Karen Richardson

When we used to travel all over the US and Canada by motorcycle, we attended a Honda Gold Wing rally in Coeur d'Alene and were impressed by the beauty of the area.

As we planned this year's trip, we were sure to include a visit to this scenic lake, pictured here from the Mineral Ridge hiking trail.

Karen Richardson and her husband

We were thrilled to take a site seeing cruise on Lake Coeur d'Alene one warm evening. We got to know some of our fellow passengers and enjoyed excellent live music by a local band, while watching the sun go down over the surrounding hills.

It was a magical experience and the scenery reminded me of Lake Muskoka, with many luxury homes and resorts nestled along the shore.

Karen Richardson in Deschutes Falls Park

We journeyed on from northern Idaho across Washington and up to Vancouver to visit family and friends for a week. Then we made our way south to Olympia, Washington.

For two weeks we camped at the Washington Land Yacht Harbor, an Airstream-only RV park and mobile home community.

From there, we explored the area around Tacoma. We asked a local resident about scenic hiking areas and she directed us to a hidden gem near the town of Yelm.

It was Deschutes Falls Park, a 155 acre sanctuary featuring a lovely old growth forest and a small river gorge, and we spent a pleasant afternoon hiking in this shady park.

In this photo I am standing beside one of the venerable trees beside the forest walking path.

Deschutes Falls Park, photo by Karen Richardson

The river water dropped 27 feet over rapids and a series of small waterfalls, interspersed with calm clear pools. All we could hear were the soothing sounds of trickling water, a breeze in the treetops, and birdsong.

The moss-covered rocks were a type of conglomerate that looked very different from the Ontario granite and limestone I am used to.

Another day, we took a bus trip to Crystal Mountain (the largest ski resort in the state of Washington) with some fellow Airstreamers. We enjoyed a gondola ride up the mountain and lunch at Summit House restaurant.

As our cable car slowly ascended, more and more of the surrounding mountain ranges came into view.

View from Crystal Mtn, photo by Karen Richardson

I loved seeing the progression of blue shades in the mountains, from pale cerulean in the far distance, gradually darkening to a smokey navy blue in the foreground. 

You can see two gondolas in the centre of this photo.

Mt Ranier, photo by Karen Richardson

At the summit of Crystal Mountain we enjoyed beautiful views of the Cascade Range and Mount Ranier, which we learned is pronounced ‘rah-NEER’ in Washington. (We had been calling it ‘RAY-nee-er’.)

With its snow cap glowing white in the sunshine, contrasting with the clear blue sky, Mount Ranier was an impressive sight. We also could see Mount St. Helens and Mount Baker (which we had glimpsed often when visiting Vancouver.).

Rivers Edge Ranch RV Park, photo by Karen Richardson

Our travels then took us east through Washington, crossing back into Canada at Yahk, BC, where we found a delightful little place to stay for a few days.

River's Edge Ranch RV Park was nestled on the bank of the Moyie River, which was a shallow glacial stream with a gravel bottom.

In this photo of the campground, you can see our Airstream on the right.

Rivers Edge Ranch, photo by Karen Richardson

The campground was just off the Crowsnest Highway and was part of a horse farm, surrounded by the Kootenay Rockies.

The owner said we could hike beside the pasture area, so we were able to stretch our legs and see the horses up close.

Rivers Edge Ranch, photo by Karen Richardson

We drove to nearby Creston for groceries (having crossed from the USA with a nearly empty fridge) and were delighted to find many roadside stands selling local produce from vegetable farms and fruit orchards. We loaded up on organic sweet peppers, summer squash, cherries, nectarines, and apples. Delicious!

The next day we walked into the quirky village of Yahk, home of Two Pump Paul's gas station, and enjoyed lunch at a tiny ice cream shop and cafe called Two Scoops Steve's. Next door was an artisan soap shop that had a pen of pet white goats.

Between the two stores was an entrance to a public garden that lead to a charming forest walk, which eventually brought us to this beautiful spot on the Moyie River.

Our stay in this interesting community, surrounded by breathtaking natural beauty, was as delightful as it was unexpected, and allowed us to conclude our visit to the Pacific Northwest on a high note. It was time to head east towards Ontario and more adventures...

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.

My Summer Travels in the High Desert

31 August, 2023 6 comments Leave a comment

Flaming Gorge, photo by Karen Richardson

I grew up in northern Ontario near Algonquin Park, and my formative years were spent on the Canadian Shield, a land of rocks and pristine blue lakes and rivers. As an adult, my art now centers on the wild scenery I learned to love in my youth.

When my husband and I spent several weeks exploring high desert regions of the USA earlier this summer, I was surprised to discover the most beautiful places we visited also featured rock and blue water.

Over the course of three weeks, we sampled the scenic delights of Wyoming, northern Utah, Idaho, and eastern Washington. In this post I am sharing my favourite photos of the dramatically beautiful landscape we discovered there.

Richardson rig, photo by Karen Richardson

Our mode of travel is a pickup truck towing our 2021 Airstream Classic 30-foot travel trailer.

I think of our recreational vehicle as a moveable condo, with all the comforts of home including full kitchen, 3-piece bathroom, bedroom, dining area, lounge, art studio, and internet access to support all our entertainment and communication needs.

We began our trip in early June, crossing from Ontario into the USA at Niagara Falls, and headed straight west to Wyoming.

Airstream rally, photo by Karen Richardson

Our main reason for going there was to spend an exciting, informative week at the 2023 Airstream Club International Rally, held at a huge outdoor events complex in Rock Springs.

Ours was one of 1,200 Airstream trailers and motor homes hosted at the site, each provided with full utility connections. In this photo, taken by a drone flown by one of the 2,300 attendees, you can see about a quarter of the Airstreams camped there.

Flaming Gorge, photo by Karen Richardson

At the rally, we met tons of friendly, interesting people, got to see inside vintage trailers, and attended a variety of camping-related seminars.

For example, I went to two Instant Pot cooking demonstration sessions and my husband learned about optimizing solar power on trailers, and tire maintenance.

One day, we went on a sight-seeing bus trip to tour around the 91-mile long Flaming Gorge reservoir, pictured here and at the top of this article.

We both enjoyed the rally trade show offering travel accessories and equipment for sale, and I volunteered at a fund-raising art show to benefit a local charity.

Wyoming storm clouds, photo by Karen Richardson

In the evenings, there were themed dances and concerts, and star gazing with telescopes.

One of the aspects I loved about the high desert was the dramatic and huge skies we saw there.

With no large trees to block the view, one could appreciate the vastness of the weather patterns in all directions.

I took this photo of an approaching rain storm from our trailer at the rally one evening.

Indian Bathtub rocks, photo by Karen Richardson

Elsewhere in Wyoming, we hiked on Indian Bathtubs Trail to see some interesting granite rock formations, shown here. The rocks have unusual depressions caused by natural erosion.

According to legend, when the Great Spirit decided to give rain, Native Americans played in these 'tubs'.

As we journeyed on through southern Idaho, we were very keen to visit Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve to see the lava fields there.

Craters of the Moon lava cave, photo by Karen Richardson

The most interesting feature was the lava tubes. These are natural conduits formed by lava flowing from volcanic vents.

The surface lava cools and hardens, forming tubes that later become empty underground caves after the hot lava drains away.

Over millions of years, the roof of the caves collapses here and there, creating access openings to the underground tunnels.

In this photo, my husband is pictured inside one of the huge caves. The rock debris in front of him is from a collapsed roof.

Snake River at Twin Falls Idaho, photo by Karen Richardson

Elsewhere in Idaho, we learned the Snake River aquifer is an important resource, providing sustainable irrigation for farming a wide variety of crops in the desert, including the famed Idaho potato.

When we approached the city of Twin Falls, suddenly this huge Snake River gorge appeared below us. As we stopped to take photos, we were thrilled to see base jumpers leaping off the bridge to parachute into the river.

Shoshone Falls Idaho, photo by Karen Richardson

On the other side of town, we stopped by another section of the Snake River to view Shoshone Falls, which is often called 'Niagara of the West'.

It is 212 feet (65 meters) in height, 45 feet (14 meters) higher than Niagara Falls. Shoshone Falls flows over a rim nearly 1,000 feet (300 meters) wide. It was a wondrous sight to behold.

Columbia River, photo by Karen Richardson

The Snake River originates in Wyoming, crosses southern Idaho, and flows west into Washington where it empties into the Columbia River, which is pictured here.

Having spent several weeks in the high desert, I understand how important these large river systems are to the region.

It is uniquely awe-inspiring to drive through an arid desert landscape, full of dusty brown and grey rock, and suddenly come upon a vast ribbon of deep blue life-giving water.

Stay tuned for an upcoming post, where I will share photos from the next leg of our summer journey, as we explored the Pacific Northwest.

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.

Autumn Adventures in Muskoka

28 December, 2022 2 comments Leave a comment

Karen Richardson's Airstream

Throughout this past spring, summer, and fall, my husband and I enjoyed seven camping excursions in Ontario in our Airstream. We were out for a total of eighty days. 

I wrote about the major trips in previous posts, One Magic Island is Enough (June in Muskoka), My Fabulous Frog Encounter (June in Point Pelee), and Visiting Northern Vistas (August in Manitoulin, Lake Superior, and Lake of the Woods).

North Channel, Lake Huron, photo by Karen Richardson

I was able to paint and gather extensive inspiration for new artwork, while enjoying hiking and boating in these beautiful regions.

We concluded the camping season with a ten-day stay just west of Algonquin Park. Our timing was perfect, and we witnessed some of the loveliest fall foliage we have seen in years.

The weather was sunny and mild for most of our stay, and we hiked almost every day as the fall colours came to full glory around us. It was a truly magical time and now I have enough fall foliage photos for decades of paintings!

Buck Lake, photo by Karen Richardson

It was impossible to whittle down my best shots to just a handful for this post, so I made a video slideshow instead.

Click on the image below to view a glorious autumn in Muskoka, seen through an artist's eye (3-minute video). Enjoy!


Thank you to my friend Roger who took the photo of me beside the Oxtongue River, shown on the title page of the slideshow.

Where is your favourite place to see fall colours? 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 painting classes and exhibitions.


Visiting Northern Vistas

23 October, 2022 3 comments Leave a comment

Near Killarney, photo by Karen Richardson

Our longest camping trip this summer was a four-week exploration of northwestern Ontario: Manitoulin Island, the North Channel, Lake Superior, and Lake of the Woods. During this trip I amassed many wonderful reference photos to inspire future paintings.

As I was reviewing the best of the best photographs to share with you, it struck me that my final selections, the ones that truly captured the sense of place, were stretched panoramas. The lakes and skies up north are so vast and wide, it's hard to take in all the beauty on display.

Sandhill Cranes on Manitoulin Island, photo by Karen Richardson

We spent the first week camping on Manitoulin Island, which is a very laid back place with a rural vibe and lots of historic barns. These Sandhill Cranes crossed a country road just as we approached in our truck. We see cranes like these every summer we travel in the north.

Karen Richardson and friends

My husband and I (back) were accompanied by our long-time friends Carolyn and Roger (front), pictured here at a lookout on the famous Cup and Saucer Trail. We had no trouble finding daily excursions like this to keep active and search out beautiful scenery.

North Channel, photo by Karen Richardson

Shown above is a view of the North Channel near our Manitoulin Island campground, with the Ontario mainland in the distance. I love the patterns the wind and currents make on the intensely blue water.

North Channel point, photo by Karen Richardson

Hoping for more photographic opportunities, we took a day cruise from Little Current harbour to the village of Killarney and back. Shown above is one of many 'paint-able' rocky points we cruised by. This type of rock reminds me of Georgian Bay, which is not surprising since the North Channel leads into Georgian Bay.

Killarney cottage, photo by Karen Richardson

At Killarney, we saw many lovely summer homes on the rocky shore, but this humble cottage embodies that old-time Georgian Bay nostalgia.

North Channel sunshine, photo by Karen Richardson

As we cruised back to Little Current that afternoon, the sun came out and sprinkled diamonds on the waters of the North Channel, while a thunder cloud poured rain on Manitoulin.

Aguasabon Falls and Gorge, photo by Karen Richardson

After a very relaxing week on the Island, we journeyed north-westward to Lake Superior, camping at Wawa and then stopping at Terrace Bay to show our friends Aguasabon Falls and Gorge. There is a generous parking area, large enough to turn around and park our travel trailers, and a very short boardwalk hike that took us to this stunning view.

In the words of the town, "With a beautiful ferocity in the spring and a serene grace in the summer and fall, this spectacular 100 foot waterfall cascades into the Aguasabon Gorge—flowing along a 2.6 billion year old rock face." If your travels take you through Terrace Bay, watch for the signs to the Gorge and take a look at this natural wonder.

Lake Superior Archipelago at Red Rock, photo by Karen Richardson

We camped for several days at Nipigon to attend the Live from the Rock Folk Festival, an annual music and arts festival held on the shore of Lake Superior in Red Rock. While there, we hiked up to the lookout over Nipigon Bay to view the islands of the Lake Superior Archipelago. The hilly shapes remind me of paintings by the Group of Seven. I love the grace and power of this place.

Lake of the Woods, photo by Karen Richardson

While our friends departed to spend time with family, my husband and I headed for Lake of the Woods, pictured above. We spent a glorious week there, visiting family and enjoying lakeside living. The weather was favourable and we spent an entire afternoon boating through a tiny section of the lake, which is an enormous body of water - 137 km long and 91 km wide at its widest point.

Lake of the Woods, photo by Karen Richardson

Lake of the Woods has a shoreline of just over 100,000 km if you count the shoreline of its many islands as well as the mainland. That's more than Lake Superior! There are 14,522 islands in Lake of the Woods.

And gosh, do I love painting those islands and points with their iconic twisted pines! Our visits to this lake have inspired dozens of paintings.

As we journeyed homeward, we made a point to camp a few nights at Marathon so I could visit my favourite Pebble Beach.

Pebble Beach Marathon, photo by Karen Richardson

As is often the case, the weather was cool and foggy while we were there. I have only seen this beach once on a calm sunny day, and the rest of the time conditions have been misty or raining. But the mist adds a sense of hushed solitude that makes for very compelling paintings, and also makes the beach stones look more colourful than they do when dry. I like this shot above of my husband bending for a closer look. I had to lay flat on the stones to get the shooting angle I wanted.

Flat Rock Beach Marathon, photo by Karen Richardson

While in town, we heard about a flat rock beach and searched it out. We were amazed at the great slabs of rock we found there along the Lake Superior shore. It felt very other-worldly.

Flat Rock Beach, Marathon, photo by Karen Richardson

Now that we know where this place is, I'll have TWO beaches to stop at every time we travel by Marathon. Thank goodness for a patient husband! I would love to see this landscape in sunshine, when the lake looks sapphire blue.

By the time we reached our home base in Lindsay, my husband and I had travelled 5,000 km on this month-long adventure. We came back with happy memories of fun times, a renewed appreciation of this remarkable province, and so much painting inspiration, I hardly knew where to begin!

Did you enjoy these highlights of Karen's camping trip? 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.

New Works: Mist and Moonlight

20 September, 2022 3 comments Leave a comment

Karen Richardson in her mobile art studio

Usually when we travel in the Airstream I fit in a painting day once a week or so, just for the joy of it.

The rest of my time is spent living the simple life with my husband: hiking, kayaking, making healthy meals, and slowly exploring the region in which we find ourselves.

Varnished watercolours by Karen Richardson

This past summer, with steady sales of my artwork continuing in the galleries back home, I was keen to paint more frequently.

I found the dinette in our trailer (pictured above) to be the perfect spot to set up a simple painting space for a few hours at a time.

Varnished watercolours by Karen Richardson

By the time we got home and I returned to the art studio, I was able to mount and frame a half dozen new works (pictured here).

In these paintings, I have continued to focus on misty northern lakes, bringing more imaginary places to life, venturing into a moonlit night scene, and branching off (pun intended) into a pile of colourful maple leaves.

This pair of blue lake scenes began as simple blue graded washes for the sky and a few horizontal streaks of blue for the water ripples. It took 3 or 4 layers of paint to build up the colour density I was after. I left large blank white areas in the middle to add some islands and reflections later.

Listen to the Silence, varnished watercolour on 14 x 11 inch panel.

I invented the overlapping blue hills for the background, wetting the bottom edges with clear water to simulate mist.

When that was dry, I painted an imaginary island, again with mist cloaking the shoreline, and a canoe seen coming towards the viewer.

I added a soft reflection under the island so it would not draw the viewer's eye away from the canoe.

Click here for more information about Listen to the Silence.

The Answer Will Come, varnished watercolour on 14 x 11 inch panel.

I knew I wanted an interesting island centred in this piece so I looked through my treasure trove of Lake of the Woods photos. (We visit family there most summers.)

Photo Lake of the Woods by Karen Richardson

This is the reference I chose, adding some hefty rocks to the front of 'my' island. Again, I added water when painting the bottom of the island, to simulate a foggy shoreline.

The water ripples in the foreground needed more visual interest, so I imagined some smooth underwater stones and painted the shadowy spaces in between them. Then I added a few above-water rocks to lead the viewer's eye between the foreground and the big island. Lastly, I painted in a hazy reverse image for the island reflection.

Click here for more details about The Answer Will Come.

Reunion, varnished watercolour on 10 x 10 inch panel.

One of my painting buddies goes on an annual canoe trip with a group of women friends, and she was kind enough to supply me with several dozen photos of canoes taken at various places during her trips.

These are a great resource whenever I want to add a canoe into an imaginary scene.

Photo Lake Traverse by Averill Ambrose For this painting, I used her reference photo (shown here) for the foreground and invented a couple of islands to make a more interesting scene. I changed the canoe colours and decided to make the season autumn, so the trees would complement the canoes.

Click here for more information about Reunion.

Misty Beginnings, varnished watercolour on 10 x 10 inch panel.

This painting was inspired by a quick photo I took out of our truck window one summer as we were driving along Hwy 17 north of Lake Superior.

Photo by Karen Richardson

I thought this little point of land on the edge of an island looked interesting.

I imagined a new scene roughly based on the photo, adding more mist, a canoe, more prominent rocks, and individual trees on the point.

Click here for more information about Misty Beginnings.

Some Enchanted Evening, varnished watercolour on 16 x 12 inch panel.

This was an experimental piece, meaning I had no idea if it would be successful or not. I knew I wanted a night scene with lots of deep blues and black, with a yellow full moon and its reflection across the water.

I imagined a slight breeze rippling the water and how the resulting reflections would behave.  I figured the rocks would have some warm tones, coming from moonlight.

I breathed a big sigh of relief when this painting turned out so well.

Click here for more information about Some Enchanted Evening.

Maple Flooring, varnished watercolour on 11 x 14 inch panel.

I took this reference photo decades ago while walking in the woods and have painted from it twice.

Photo by Karen Richardson

It is a simple scene, but that red maple leaf is so wonderfully symbolic of Canada, and it was fun to work with bright colours.

Click here for more information about Maple Flooring.

As cooler weather arrives, I feel my inner energy rising. It's time to get the garden trimmed back and close out the growing season. I look forward to having lots of studio time this fall and winter to create more new paintings, and then share 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.


My Fabulous Frog Encounter

24 July, 2022 3 comments Leave a comment

Frogs at Point Pelee, photo by Karen Richardson


Water Lily photo by Karen Richardson

My husband and I had the chance to visit Point Pelee National Park on the shores of Lake Erie this summer.

While there, I was thrilled to meet some very photogenic frogs in a small pond near the visitors' centre.

Why this excitement over frogs, you ask?

It's because I have a collection of lovely photos of pink water lilies I would like to paint, and lily pads are the perfect setting for frogs.

I chanced upon the gorgeous blooms pictured here near Timmins, ON three years ago. 

Water Lillies, photo by Karen Richardson

We were in town to see the 'Stars and Thunder' outdoor music festival, and the resort we camped at had an ornamental pond with koi and water lilies.

These photos could translate into great paintings, but if I have some well-focused close-up shots of frogs to add a bit of animation or 'story' to the scenes, I have the possibility of creating some really exciting, large-scale watercolour pieces.

That is why I was so pleased to have these wee frogs pose for me at Point Pelee. Imagine the fun I could have coming up with painting titles...

Frog photo by Karen Richardson

'I've Got Your Back'


Frog photo by Karen Richardson

'Private Spa'


Frog photo by Karen Richardson

'Who Let the Frog Out'


Frog photo by Karen Richardson

'Sit Quietly and Listen'


Frog photo by Karen Richardson


'The Thinker'


Frog photo by Karen Richardson


'All That You Dream'


Frog photo by Karen Richardson


'Best Friends'


Frog photo by Karen Richardson

'Just Chillin'


Frog photo by Karen Richardson

'The Sunbathers'

With this variety of poses, I may have all the angles covered for some upcoming frog-and-water-lily compositions. Stay tuned!

Which frog is your favourite? Do you have a great painting title in mind? 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.


One Magic Island is Enough

17 July, 2022 1 comment Leave a comment

Sand Lake - photo by Karen Richardson

My husband and I love to go camping spring, summer, and fall. Most of my inspiration for paintings of northern scenery and pristine lakes comes from these trips.

Earlier this summer, we camped for a week at Sand Lake near Kearney, in the Muskoka region of Ontario. While there, I got to study this magical island just off shore. It's just one wee island, but I know it will inspire a multitude of paintings.

Edgewater Park Lodge, photo by Karen Richardson

We discovered this pretty little lake in March when we stayed at Edgewater Park Lodge to do some snowmobiling, and decided we should return to see it in the summertime. You can read about our winter adventure here.

Sand Lake - photo by Karen Richardson

The Lodge had a half dozen serviced camping sites adjacent to their cabins, so we reserved a spot for a week in June and brought our travel trailer.

Sand Lake, photo by Karen Richardson

This is the view of the little island from the shoreline of Edgewater Park.

The island looks small and unassuming from this angle, but I suspected from seeing it last winter that the island might be more impressive from other viewpoints.

These Canada geese swam by as I was taking photos from the shore.

They might be just the thing a future painting could use in the foreground.

Sand Lake, photo by Karen Richardson

Luckily, we had our kayaks with us, and on the first calm day of our visit, we went for a paddle along the shore and over to the island.

I had my IPhone on board in a waterproof case so I could take pictures.

Sand Lake - photo by Karen Richardson

My husband, paddling in his kayak ahead of me, made for a good model in some of my photos, helping to show the scale of the landscape. The island looks quite wide from this angle.

Sand Lake - photo by Karen Richardson

As we circumnavigated the island, it was amazing to see how its appearance changed when viewed from different directions, and depending on whether the sun was shining or hidden by a cloud.

The lake water changed its appearance also. Sometimes it was a pale blue, sometimes a deeper blue, and other times the water was so clear we could see the sandy bottom.

Sand Lake - photo by Karen Richardson

There were quite a few different types of evergreens on the island and they made ever-changing groupings as we paddled by.

I particularly like the dynamic cloud and tree reflections in this scene. They would be challenging to paint but worth it.  I think a large scale painting would do this scene justice.

Sand Lake - photo by Karen Richardson

Here are more intriguing cloud and tree reflections. The slanting lines of the waves really catch my eye in this photo.

Sand Lake - photo by Karen Richardson

Parts of the shoreline were rock, which is one of my favourite subjects. The warm tones of the stone contrast nicely with the cooler hues of lake, sky, and trees.

Sand Lake - photo by Karen Richardson

Here are some lovely slabs of rock counterbalanced with a few interesting trees and rustic sheds. I am certain these rocky shorelines and their reflections will make their way into some northern lake paintings one day.

These are just a sampling of the many photos I took of this little island. Each of them is a seed with potential to grow into beautiful artwork one day. Nature is all around us, ready to inspire dozens of paintings. But sometimes, one magic island is enough.

Which scene 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.

Winter Adventures... At Last!

28 March, 2022 1 comment Leave a comment

The Richardson's planned to go on several snowmobile trips during the winter of 2021 but had to cancel due to pandemic restrictions. Fortunately, we were able to defer the bookings for a year and were thrilled to partake of these long-awaited winter outings over the last month.

Karen Richardson and friendsThis photo shows my husband John and me on the left, beside our longtime friends Nancy and Rick, enjoying a bit of snow shoeing at Elk Lake Wilderness Resort in February.

Karen Richardson and friends at Elk Lake

Snowmobile trail

The four of us stayed in one of the resort's heated cabins overlooking Elk Lake, near Earlton in northern Ontario. With gas fireplace in the living room, full bathroom and kitchen, and two bedrooms, the cabin was a cosy home base for our 4-day holiday.

Our friend Nancy took this photo of the rest of us on our sleds, in front of the resort's heated ice fishing hut.

The resort staff made a different home cooked dinner each evening and brought it to our cabin. One memorable meal was roast chicken, potatoes, salad, and blueberry pie. We cooked our own hot breakfasts, using the food in the fully-stocked fridge.

Trail sign

We toured the local region on beautifully groomed snowmobile trails for about 6 hours one day, swooping through scenic forests and farm fields. We plan our trips so they fall during the middle of the week to avoid busy weekend traffic, and we mostly had the trails to ourselves.

Thanks to the efforts of many volunteers in the local snowmobile clubs, the trails were well signed and extensive. John tells me there are more kilometres of groomed snowmobile trails in Ontario than there are paved highways. The winter infrastructure in the frozen north really is amazing.

Our machine has a GPS navigation system, two gas tanks, and supportive heated seats. I ride on the back and my hand grips, face shield and under-jacket, are also heated electrically. Combine that with snowmobile suits, boots, and helmets that are put together like space suits, and we can be outdoors in a blizzard all day and still be comfortable in our own little bubbles.

Another day, we explored the shoreline of Elk Lake by snow shoe, tried our hand at ice fishing, and relaxed and chatted in the cabin. In the evenings we had fun playing board games and putting together jigsaw puzzles on the kitchen table. We were so appreciative of this quality time with our friends, after many months of isolation. 

Edgewater Park Resort

Sandy LakeIn early March, we went on our second snowmobile adventure, based at Edgewater Park Lodge on Sand Lake, near Kearney (north of Huntsville, Ontario).

Pictured here is the 2-bedroom cabin we rented, with our truck, trailer, and snow machine parked outside. Our friends Nancy and Rick joined us on this 4-day trip as well.

Here is the view from the Lodge property looking onto Sand Lake. The tracks reveal how this lake serves as a link to many of the local snowmobile trails. The people way out there are John and our friends getting set up for ice fishing.

Karen Richardson ice fishingJohn used a battery powered drill to auger a hole in the ice which was three feet thick. That is me in the camp chair holding a fishing rod over the hole. (No fish were harmed, or even seen, during this escapade!)

Good fortune shone upon us and the weather was clear, sunny, and mild every day. The snowmobiling was superb; as good as it gets. We spent a day and half touring the region's excellent trail system through one of the loveliest mixed forests I have visited.

Winter photo by Karen Richardson

We drove by huge white pines and maples, gorgeous yellow birch, and lots of beech saplings with their dried leaves adding pops of golden pink colour to the winter scenery.

There had been recent snowfall, as branches were loaded with fresh 'icing' and the trails were very smooth with good traction.

Winter photo by Karen Richardson

One of the excellent side benefits of these winter adventures is that I have access to gorgeous wilderness scenery, to take photos I can use for painting ideas.

Here are a few shots that I think would make great paintings.

John and Karen Richardson

Our snowmobile adventures this year were easy and fun, and we very much enjoyed the camaraderie of our friends. We feel lucky to live where we easily can access world-class snowmobile trails for winter getaways.

Here are John and I standing on a scenic section of trail, surrounded by the beauty and tranquility of the forest. Life doesn't get much better than this.

We hope you have had a good winter and managed to spend some time out in nature.

I put together this 1-minute video to give you a glimpse of how lovely our northern snow trails can be. I took the footage using my iPhone, holding it above John's head as we drove along. (Please forgive the sound quality.) Click on the picture below to view the video.


What do you do to enjoy the outdoors in winter? 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 painting classes and exhibitions.

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