Earthbound Artist

The Making of 'Lapping Waters'

16 November, 2020 2 comments Leave a comment

Lapping Waters, varnished watercolour on panel by Karen Richardson

Shown above is Lapping Waters, watercolour 16 x 20". I painted this scene as a demonstration for a 3-day advanced level workshop I taught in my studio in November 2019. I took some photos during class so I could show you the strategies and steps involved in making this painting.

Beach at Neys Provincial Park photo by Karen Richardson

The photo above is one I took on the beach at Ney's Provincial Park, on the north shore of Lake Superior near Marathon, Ontario and was the reference we used for the painting. I gave my students the option of bringing their own photos of driftwood to make their paintings unique.

As is my usual habit, I used just three tubes of paint to mix all the colours I needed for this scene. I don't always use the same primary colours but in this case I used Antwerp Blue, Permanent Alizarin Crimson, and New Gamboge (all by Winsor & Newton) because this brand is easiest for my students to obtain locally.

Because watercolour dries very quickly, I have a small window of time to apply paint before it starts to dry. Since it is easier to paint a small section in 30 seconds than it is to paint a large section in 30 seconds, it is helpful if a scene has distinct sections that can be worked on individually. Conveniently, this scene divides naturally into several horizontal sections and my strategy was to work on one section at a time, starting at the top and working downward. (Sky, deep water, surf, calm water, sand.) 

Lapping Waters layout sketch by Karen Richardson

DAY 1 (plan, sketch, begin painting background)

To begin, I sketched a simple contour drawing on graph paper (shown above). This establishes the horizon, the edges of each section of the scene, the shapes of the foam, and the outer shape of the driftwood.

When completed, I traced this sketch using graphite transfer paper onto a 17" by 21" piece of 300 lb Arches cold press bright white watercolour paper. The finished size of the painting would be 16" by 20".

Lapping Waters, watercolour in progress by Karen Richardson

(Shown above) I wet the sky area and painted the upper blue section and then the purple mist section, being careful to leave some of the mist area white in between the colours.

On dry paper, using a paint brush and a water brush, I painted in the darkest shapes of the waves using a golden brown mixture, softening the edges with clear water as I went along. (This is the complementary colour to the blue water, so will read as a dark blue gray once the transparent blue layer goes over top.)

While that area dried, I used liquid masking fluid (my favourite type is Pebeo Drawing Gum which is pale blue) to protect the white highlights of the surf. This is a temporary coating that preserves the white of the paper and allows me to paint around the protected area quickly and evenly. The close-up photo below shows the blue masking fluid in the surf section.

Detail of surf by Karen Richardson

When the masking was dry, I painted gray on top to represent the shadows in the surf. When that paint was dry, I rubbed off the masking fluid with a crepe eraser, revealing white bits of the foam nestled in gray shadows. I added pale blue shadows to the lower edges of the white bits to give them dimension.

DAY 2 (completing hill and lake sections, beginning the sand)

Lapping Waters, watercolour in progress by Karen Richardson

(Shown above) I mixed a dark gray and painted in a hint of the far hill peeking above the mist. I also added a few purple shadows in the mist to give it some form.

I wet the deep section of the lake with clear water and painted blue and dark blue onto the lake surface. I lifted colour here and there, using a clean damp brush, to look like sunlight on the swells in the water.

Lapping Waters, watercolour in progress detail, by Karen Richardson

(Shown above in detail) Using mixtures of green and blue green, I painted in the near headland. Then I touched a wet water brush to the painted areas, leaving soft blooms in the paint that looked like sunlit tree masses. When the greens were dry, I added some tidbits of tan colour to the shoreline to represent the rocky shore.

While that area dried, I applied liquid masking fluid to protect the white surf and driftwood.

Lapping Waters, watercolour in progress by Karen Richardson

(Shown above) I wet the middle section (the calm water closest to the beach) with clear water and painted in three colours: pale gray under the far surf, tan across the middle, and darker brown along the leading edge of the wave. These colours had to be applied quickly so they could have equal moisture levels that would dry evenly, with no back runs.

Then I wet the front section (the sand) with clear water and painted on the same three colours I used in the middle section, trying to imitate the placement of the colours according to the reference photo. The pale gray went next to the wave, the tan across the middle, and the darker brown in several areas.

Lapping Waters, watercolour in progress by Karen Richardson

(Shown above) Once the paint was fully dry, I re-wet the sand with clear water and painted on a second layer of the same paint mixtures, in the same areas as before, to deepen the colours.

Lapping Waters, watercolour in progress by Karen Richardson

(Shown in detail above) When the sand area was dry, I added the cast shadows below the foam to give it dimension. After that dried, I rubbed off the masking fluid and painted pale gray shadows within the foam, using the reference photo to get the shapes right.

DAY 3 (completing the sand and driftwood)

Lapping Waters, watercolour in progress by Karen Richardson

(Shown above) I painted the first layer of shadows and texture in the driftwood using a mixture of grays and browns. (Shown in detail below.)

Lapping Waters, watercolour in progress by Karen Richardson

 

Lapping Waters, watercolour in progress by Karen Richardson

(Shown above) After the first layer of paint dried, I added more layers of colour and shadow to the driftwood, paying careful attention to my reference photo.

Lapping Waters, watercolour in progress by Karen Richardson

(Shown above) After the driftwood was fully dry, I painted the shadows cast on the sand. I was careful to make these graded washes rather than flat washes, to imitate how light reflects back into shadowed areas.

Lapping Waters, watercolour by Karen Richardson

Shown above is my finished demonstration painting.

Students with driftwood beach paintings, workshop taught by Karen Richardson

My students were accomplished watercolour painters who worked diligently to recreate this complex scene, and the results are shown above. Each one is a unique interpretation, beautifully done.

My finished painting, titled Lapping Waters, was mounted on a 16 x 20" archival wood panel, then varnished and presented in a black wood floater frame. There is no glass to get in the way of enjoying the details of this scene. I think it successfully represents the stark beauty and warm light of this special place.

For more information about Lapping Waters, click here.

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 to see more of her painting stories, travel tales, studio news updates, or notices of upcoming painting classes and exhibitions.

Ontario has some Great Lakes

03 November, 2020 4 comments Leave a comment

Pukaskwa National Park photo by Karen Richardson

When Ontario was on full COVID-19 lock down last spring, including campgrounds, provincial parks, and national parks, my husband and I thought we might not be able to go camping in our travel trailer this year. That is the main reason we decided to grow a food garden and complete some house renovations while we sheltered at home.

Fortunately for us, Ontario travel restrictions started to loosen in June and we managed to fit in a few wonderful camping trips to several scenic lake regions of our home province between July and October.

These trips to natural settings allow us to relax and unwind, without all the to-do list-pressures that life at home entails, and let me immerse myself in Nature to gather reference photos and sketches for future paintings.

In this post, I am sharing with you a selection of inspiring landscape photographs I was able to capture this past summer and fall while camping. The photo at the top of this post was taken in September at Pukaskwa National Park on Lake Superior.

Full moon over Lake Ontario photo by Karen Richardson

Shown above is the full moon over Lake Ontario on July 4, steps from our beach front campsite at Quinte's Isle Camppark in Prince Edward County. We spent an enjoyable and relaxing week camping there under sunny, blue skies.

Mississagi River photo by Karen Richardson

Pictured above is the Mississagi River, north of the North Channel of Lake Huron. I love the little islands and perfect reflections. The Trans-Canada Highway follows the shore of this pretty river for many kilometers between Blind River and Iron Bridge. When we are driving eastward, I have an unobstructed view of the river from my passenger side window.

Lake Superior photo by Karen Richardson

Lake Superior (pictured above) remains my favourite Great Lake. It looks like a magnificent inland sea, with dramatic headlands and rocky islands, and simply takes my breath away whenever I see it. Lake Superior contains as much water as all the other Great Lakes combined, plus three extra Lake Erie's.

Batchawana Beach Lake Superior photo by Karen Richardson

Pictured above is the beach at Batchawana Bay Park, between Lake Superior Provincial Park and Sault Ste. Marie, in September. Lake Superior contains ten percent of all the fresh water on our planet, enough to cover all of North and South America with water one foot deep. I find such facts about this lake utterly astounding, and they help to convey the vastness of this magical place.

Rainbow Falls Provincial Park photo by Karen Richardson

Shown above is the pebble beach and rocky island at Rainbow Falls Provincial Park near Rossport. We have stayed in this picturesque beach front campground several times in the past, and finally the weather gods smiled on us one August day, so we could paddle along the tranquil shoreline in our kayaks. This was the first time in our lives that we kayaked on Lake Superior and I think I grinned the whole time.

Shown below are another couple of views of this beautiful park, seen from my kayak. The water is so clear that the bottom can be seen distinctly in shallow areas. I have about 100 stunning reference photos taken during our most recent stay here.

Rainbow Falls Provincial Park from my kayak, photo by Karen Richardson

Rainbow Falls Provincial Park photo by Karen Richardson

This also was the summer we discovered Pukaskwa National Park, which is between Wawa and Marathon on the north shore of Lake Superior. We visited the park twice, briefly, checking out the serviced campsites to confirm our travel trailer could fit there (it would), and hiking the short Southern Headland Trail to enjoy scenic vistas, such as the ones pictured below and at the beginning of this post.

Horseshoe Bay in Pukaskwa National Park photo by Karen Richardson

Above is the gorgeous view from the beach at Horseshoe Bay in Pukaskwa (pronounced 'PUCK-a-saw').

We are eager to return to Pukaskwa another year, perhaps for a week-long stay, to camp in our trailer and spend some time kayaking among the scenic islands and hiking back country trails. This park is truly spectacular and has captured our hearts.

Hwy 17 photo by Karen Richardson

Although the lake scenery takes centre stage for me, I have to share some photos of the vistas seen from the Trans-Canada Highway that took us along the north shore of the Great Lakes. The iconic white pines tower above the other trees on forest-clad hills of the Canadian Shield that flank Highway 17 (shown above and below).

Hwy 17 photo by Karen Richardson

Ontario's autumn colours were fantastic this year, and we journeyed through the Lake Superior region at just the right time (late September) to see the glorious fall foliage (shown below).

Hwy 17 photo by Karen Richardson
Hwy 17 photo by Karen Richardson
 

On our journey, we noticed that the autumn forests west of Wawa are yellow and green. These photos all were taken east and south of Wawa and include the glorious red maples and sumacs.

Hwy 17 photo by Karen Richardson

Hwy 17 photo by Karen Richardson

Huge rock cuts such as those shown above and below are an intrinsic part of this route, blasted and carved through the Canadian Shield to make road travel possible in this mountainous region.

Hwy 17 photo by Karen Richardson

 

I am feeling blessed to have been able to explore these beautiful regions of Ontario this summer and fall, despite the pandemic. I hope you were able to get out into Nature and feel her healing effect too. If not, I hope these photos have given you the feeling of being there.

Now I am back in the studio, starting to work on new paintings from the Great Lakes region. Stay tuned folks.

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.

New Works: Stories of Peaceful Northern Lakes

25 October, 2020 4 comments Leave a comment

New paintings by Karen Richardson

 

It is remarkable how many memories can be captured in a simple lake scene. I grew up in the Canadian Shield region of Ontario, just east of Algonquin Park. Landscapes filled with clear water, sturdy rocks and wind-sculpted pine trees are ingrained in my soul.

Now that our summer camping trips are in the rear view mirror, it feels great to get back to playing with paint in my studio. Camping season ended at Thanksgiving, and already I have finished six exciting new works in my northern lakes series, pictured above.

I love painting the effect of calm water and the stillness it imparts to the viewer. Many people tell me these paintings remind them of their childhood. Let me give you a tour of my latest paintings and tell you their stories.

Exit Light, Enter Night watercolour by Karen Richardson

Exit Light, Enter Night, 6 x 12" varnished watercolour on panel, shown above, has been a long time in the making. I have lost count of how many attempts I made at capturing the vivid colours of this scene.

My original inspiration was a photo taken by professional photographer James Shedden, who posts his gorgeous photos on Facebook. When I saw his winter photo (shown below) in May of 2019, I felt a visceral connection to the land of my childhood in the Upper Ottawa Valley. I just had to paint this! And James was kind enough to give me permission to use his photo as a painting reference. You can check out his work at SheddenPhotography.ca

Photo by James Shedden

The difficult aspect of this subject is controlling the placement and intensity of the colours that make up the sky. I had to paint on wet paper to get the soft transitions between colours, but problems occurred when the colours bled too far on the wet paper, and warm oranges mixed with cool blues to create grayed colours. After starting over a few times and running into the same problem, I decided to begin again but with a new strategy: slow down and separate the processes.

I pre-wet the watercolour paper and applied many coats of blue to the upper sky and the snow-covered lake, letting each layer dry overnight before adding the next coat. After several days, the blues reached the intensity I was after. When they were fully dry, I re-wet the middle section and stroked in the pinks and oranges.

I changed some pink areas of the photo references to oranges when I painted them, to emphasize the dramatic contrast of complementary colours blue and orange. It took a few coats over several days to build up rich colour there too. When the sky had dried, I added in the delicate streaks of purple and turquoise above the treeline.

Once the sky had dried thoroughly for a few days, I drew the tree outlines with pencil and then filled in the trees with black watercolour mixed from the primaries. Several coats were needed to achieve an opaque black.

This paint-and-wait process I have described required patience and the ability to delay gratification, but I was very happy with the final result.

The title 'Exit Light, Enter Night' is from the lyrics of one of my favourite Metallica songs and perfectly describes what is happening in the scene.

For more information about Exit Light, Enter Night, click here.

Serenity by the Shore, watercolour by Karen Richardson

Shown above is Serenity by the Shore, varnished watercolour on 8 x 8" panel, inspired by our camping trip to Lake of the Woods in northwestern Ontario in July. This vast lake contains many scenic bays and islands and the waters are very clear so you can see the bottom of a shallow bay.

Photo by Karen Richardson    Photo by Karen Richardson

These are the two reference photos I used to compose my painting. The transition from blue sky reflected on the water to the sandy brown lake bottom was done in one paint layer on wet paper. This is a risky technique, especially adding in the slight ripple of waves, so I was very pleased to get it right in one go. Once this layer had dried for a few days, I painted in the island, its reflection, and the underwater rocks and crevices.

For more information about Serenity by the Shore, click here.

Waiting For Summer, watercolour by Karen Richarsdon

 

Shown above is Waiting For Summer, varnished watercolour on 8 x 8" panel. This quiet little scene was inspired by a photo I took decades ago at the Richardson familycottage on Big Cedar Lake, in central Ontario.

Photo by Karen Richardson

 

When I look at this scene, I almost can hear the echoes of summers past, when kids swam around and dove from the home-built raft. I love the feeling that mist softly imparts; there is a gentleness, but also a sense of mystery, inviting the viewer to add personal reminiscences of cottage life.

For more details about Waiting For Summer, click here.

Heading For Home, watercolour by Karen Richardson

Pictured above is Heading For Home, varnished watercolour on 10 x 10" panel. This painting began as a doodle in my sketchbook (shown below), during our camping trip to Lake of the Woods. This was drawn entirely from my imagination.

Pencil Sketch by Karen Richardson

When planning the colour scheme for the painting, I wanted to try some complementary sunset hues. I found a photo of a random sunset in my archives and the unusual colour combination of turquoise and peach caught my eye. I added the canoe and paddlers in the distance to imply the end of a fabulous, strenuous day spent exploring the wonders of Nature, when it is time to return home before dark.

To see more information about Heading For Home, click here.

Misty Blues, watercolour by Karen Richardson

Shown above is Misty Blues, varnished watercolour on 8 x 8" panel. This foggy Lake Superior scene was inspired by a photo taken by my Facebook friend Ellen VanLaar. Last May, she posted the photo shown below of a foggy morning at Coppermine Point, which is near her home between Pancake Bay and Lake Superior Provincial Park. Ellen graciously gave me permission to use her photo as a painting reference.

Photo by Ellen VanLaar

I so enjoyed painting the 8 x 8" version of the scene that I made a second version in a rectangular format in a larger size. This became Blue Becomes You, varnished watercolour on 12 x 16" panel, shown below.

Blue Becomes You, watercolour by Karen Richardson

For more information about Blue Becomes You, click here.

As our weather gradually cools, and more days are spent indoors than out, 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 painting classes and exhibitions.

A Perfect Corona Bubble

16 August, 2020 0 comments Leave a comment

Karen Richardson RV

It is hard to believe my husband and I have enjoyed 16 seasons exploring North America in an RV. And the last ten seasons have been spent with our Earthbound travel trailer, shown above in Quetico Provincial Park in NW Ontario a few weeks ago. Most of the reference photos I use to inspire my paintings are taken during these travel adventures.

This year we discovered that recreational vehicles (RV's for short) provide the perfect mode of travel for the current global pandemic. Having owned two travel trailers and a fifth-wheel trailer since 2004, and embracing the RV lifestyle up to 4 months each year, we fully understand why the RV industry in Canada and the USA is experiencing record sales since the pandemic began.

Karen Richardson RV

Shown above is our first travel trailer, an Award, camped in Nova Scotia in 2005.

People have become leery of boarding airplanes and cruise ships but still want to get away with their family to enjoy quality time together. RV travel is the perfect way to isolate with most of the comforts of home, while safely enjoying the rejuvenating aspects of nature.

In June of this year, the president of the Canadian Recreational Vehicle Association, Shane Devenish, said in a statement that recreational vehicles are more desirable now because people can prepare and eat meals in a private space, use a private washroom and bed, and have peace of mind knowing who is sanitizing the space and how.

He went on to say that "RVs lend themselves to outdoor activities where crowds are nonexistent, like hiking, biking, fishing, geocaching, photography, off-roading, rockhounding, exploring back roads, kayaking, etc.".

Shown below is our second RV, a 31-foot Wildcat fifth wheel trailer, pictured in New Mexico in 2009. This model had a small garage in the back that would transport either our ATV or two small motorcycles.

Karen Richardson RV

When the pandemic hit in March of this year, we assumed we would be spending most of this spring and summer at home. (That is why we decided to embark on a food-growing journey in our back yard, and you can read about it in these Garden posts.)

We were relieved when Ontario campgrounds opened in June with safe protocols in place, and since then we have taken some short camping trips.

Shown below is our current typical camping setup, complete with dining tent, pictured at Rainbow Falls Provincial Park on the shore of Lake Superior. We bought this 29-foot Earthbound travel trailer in 2011 and still love the layout, build quality, and amenities it provides.

Karen Richardson RV

We often refer to our trailer as our 'bubble', because it is a self-contained unit with its own kitchen, 3-piece bathroom, bedroom, and living room with TV and satellite radio. It is the perfect setup in which to isolate and entertain ourselves during the pandemic, while still being able to enjoy the outdoors.

When we are set up a campground with full hook-ups (water, electrical, and sewer connections), we have essentially a condo unit. Campsites have lots of open space, which makes it very easy to keep safely distant from other campers during this time of isolation.

If we need to, we can camp for up to a week without services, by using our solar panel, batteries, propane tanks, freshwater tank and sewage holding tanks. This 'boon-docking' capability allows us to camp in more remote areas for brief periods. Shown below is our rig stopped at a Lake Superior lookout on Hwy 17 a few years ago. 

Karen Richardson RV

The easiest way to explain what makes our innovative, eco-friendly Earthbound special is that it is built like an aircraft rather than a house. It was constructed aerodynamically with recyclable materials, has no wood in it, and only weighs 4,500 lbs (compared to 10,000 lbs for our previous fifth wheel toy hauler trailer).

All this makes for an easy-to-tow, extremely durable RV. It is short enough to park in most campgrounds, but long enough to contain the amenities we like. Let's take a look inside.

Karen Richardson RV

Shown above is the view from the entry door (which is in the living room), looking at the kitchen. The kitchen slide-out is in the 'out' position, which has expanded the hallway by a foot. The kitchen has a large round sink, 3-burner propane stove and propane oven, and a fridge/freezer that will operate on 120V, 12V or propane.

Across the hall from the kitchen is our little bathroom. The shower has glass doors and a built-in seat. We appreciate having hot running water and our own flush toilet.

Karen Richardson RV

The photo above was taken in the kitchen, looking back toward the entry door. The large living/dining room with lots of seating was a feature that attracted us to this model, which is called Copper Mountain. The extra loveseat on the left gives us additional room to spread out. My husband added the convenient illuminated shoe cupboard under the seat by the door.

Karen Richardson RV

Shown above is another view of the dinette and seating area. The dinette table can be moved to various positions and is where I work on paintings and drawings.

There are so many storage cupboards in this trailer that it holds everything we need for a 4-month stay. Recently my husband installed a microwave oven in the upper right hand cupboard, which is next to the kitchen.

Karen Richardson RV

The photo above was taken from the dinette, looking up the hallway. Underneath the TV is a very handy coat closet. Every surface inside and outside our trailer is washable and easy to keep clean. The Earthbound came with two flat screen TV's, propane furnace, air conditioner and radio sound system with three speaker zones (living room, bedroom and outdoor).

Karen Richardson RV

A feature I especially enjoy, being someone who loves to bake and cook, is the pull-out pantry (shown above) beside the fridge.

Karen Richardson RV

Shown above is our bedroom, with a queen size pillow top mattress that lifts up on pistons to access the huge under-bed storage compartment. The extensive closet space was another plus with this floor plan.

Karen Richardson RV

Shown above is the bedroom dresser and TV. We can run this TV from our batteries, connect our laptop, and watch prerecorded movies and documentaries, even if we are camped in the wilderness with no electrical services. It is a perfect activity for a rainy day. All the windows in the RV are double glazed, can be opened to let in the breeze, and have roll-up screens and roll-down insulated blackout blinds.

I hope you have enjoyed this tour of our travel trailer and understand why I think of it as a perfect Corona bubble.

Are you a new RV owner? Or thinking of getting an RV? Had some safe RV adventures this year? 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.

My Corona Silver Lining

13 July, 2020 2 comments Leave a comment

Karen Richardson's Corona garden

As I write this, I find myself feeling very grateful for silver linings. I am referring to all the positive things that have happened in my life because of the global pandemic which has caused us to isolate at home. I posted in May about how Corona impacted us and you can read the article here.

I realize that some people have had a much sadder experience with COVID-19 and my heart goes out to them. I'm one of the lucky ones, and most Canadians I have spoken to feel blessed about their situation this year.

Karen Richardson's Corona garden

My husband and I had planned to spend the spring of 2020 touring Australia in a rented camper van, and then venture out on summer camping trips with our travel trailer to various regions of Ontario. The realization that we would be spending more time at home this year lead us to research growing a vegetable garden. This project has become my favourite 'silver lining'. Check out the lettuces I'm growing (shown above and below)!

Karen Richardson's Corona garden

Bare shelves at the grocery stores this spring resulted in many people growing a vegetable garden, similar to the Victory gardens of the second world war. I think taking concrete action gives people a sense of control in a time of uncertainty, and growing food in our own back yards makes us feel useful and gets us out into the fresh air while safely spending time at home.

Karen Richardson's Corona garden

My husband built me two raised bed planters for my food garden in March (shown above in his workshop) and I filled them with organic matter and soil and planted a square foot style garden in a sunny spot in our yard in April and May. We had a cold, wet spring but the heat really came on in June and July and the plants took off. This is what my west planter looks like now (pictured below).

Karen Richardson's Corona garden

The front row is 5 varieties of pole beans (vines) climbing up bamboo teepees. They are flowering now (shown below) and will start producing fresh beans within the next few weeks. They will continue producing beans for about 3 months, until hard frost kills the plants. I have grown pole beans before and they are excellent producers for small gardens, since they take advantage of vertical space.

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Behind the beans are 6 tomato plants supported by spiral stakes. The huge plant on the left (taller than I) is a cherry tomato and I picked my first ripe one this week. The other tomato plants are beefsteak (shown in the first photo at the top of this post) and Italian (shown below). I have hundreds of green tomatoes and I'm going to try my hand at canning when they ripen.

Karen Richardson's Corona garden

Behind and around the tomato plants I have sweet peppers, chives, basil, parsley, thyme, and marigolds growing. Below is a photo of my baby sweet peppers and parsley.

Karen Richardson's Corona garden

My east planter is pictured below and contains onions, carrots, raspberry bushes, leaf lettuce, romaine, spinach, radishes, mesclun mix, and marigolds.

Karen Richardson's Corona garden

I've been picking baby lettuces and spinach since early June and they are excellent - mild and tender - and very prolific. I thought the lettuces might bolt (flower) in our excessive heat the last few weeks, but they are still growing tidy little leaves and taste great (pictured below).

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The spinach has flowered so I pulled it out today and will plant more seeds in August for a fall harvest. I had less success with radishes, harvesting a half dozen before the plants flowered. I dug up my first samples of onions this week to check the size and it looks like I will have a large harvest of small onions. Carrot tops are looking healthy and I have my fingers crossed.

Karen Richardson's Corona garden

Shown above are two more food gardens. At the house foundation is a row of rhubarb, which I harvested twice this spring and preserved rhubarb nectar (shown below). I mix this sweet syrup with club soda to make a delicious rhubarb lemonade.

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Next to the rhubarb garden I am growing 6 blueberry bushes (in cages to protect from rabbits) and 50 heads of garlic. Shown below are the garlic flower stalks (scapes) that I harvested a few weeks ago. I made a delicious pesto for pasta, and froze some chopped scapes. They are very tender and mild and I enjoy them sauteed with potatoes.

Karen Richardson's Corona garden 

This week I dug up the ripened garlic bulbs (about half the crop - shown below) and will wait a week or two to harvest the rest when they are ready. I will set aside enough bulbs to plant 50 cloves in late October and use the rest for cooking from now until next July.

Karen Richardson's Corona garden

I'm 'cautiously thrilled' with my Corona garden and am hoping that pests and diseases will stay out of my beautiful raised beds. So far, so good.

I will post a garden update later in the season so you can see how things progress. If you are growing a Corona garden this year, I hope you are enjoying it and have good luck with your silver lining. Be well and safe.

If you have comments 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 life-of-the-artist articles, travel tales, painting stories, studio news updates, or notices of upcoming painting classes and exhibitions.

 

The Making of 'Discovery Awaits'

05 June, 2020 1 comment Leave a comment

Usually I paint from my own reference photos gathered during our camping journeys, but today I am showing my process of creating a watercolour from photos taken by other people.

Shown above is 'Discovery Awaits', watercolour on panel (no glass) 10 x 10". This was inspired by a photo, taken by my long time friend and former co-worker Tim Thorington, of Rock Lake in Algonquin Park. Tim is an avid, accomplished photographer who shares his work with the world via Facebook, and when I saw this photo below, I knew it would translate into a fine painting.

Photo of Rock Lake, Algonquin Park, by Tim Thorington

I loved the curving shoreline that invites the viewer into the scene, the unusual cloud patterns, the warm and cool colour scheme, the rocks, the pine trees and the autumn colours in the far hills. I messaged my buddy Tim and he kindly replied with his consent for me to copy his photo and sell my painting.

Many hobby painters don't realize that all photography has an automatic copyright, meaning only the photographer has the right to sell any copies of his or her photo. Painters can copy any photo they wish to, for practice or for pleasure, but if the painter wants to sell the resulting painting (or any reproductions of that painting), international copyright law says the painter must obtain written permission from the original photographer.

Colour tests by Karen Richardson

As with all my paintings, before I started to paint, I made some colour tests (shown above) to help me choose which primary paint colours to use to make this scene. I decided on MaimeriBlu paints Primary Yellow, Primary Red, and Primary Blue. These three combine to make all the land and foliage colours in  the scene (see the bottom row of paint swatches), but I knew I would need to mix in a second blue to produce the soft sky and lake colours, so I included Cobalt Blue Deep.

The next step was to gather a few more reference photos, cut my Arches 300 lb bright white cold press watercolour paper about 1" larger in length and width than the finished painting, and tape it to a back board (shown below). The pine tree reference photo was my own, and another good friend supplied the canoe reference photo with permission to use it.

Discovery Awaits, watercolour in process by Karen Richardson

On the watercolour paper, I penciled in the major lines of the composition and used liquid masking fluid to temporarily waterproof a few details such as the canoe and logs on the beach. This masking preserves the white of the paper until after the sand is painted.

Then I began with the most risky part of the painting - wetting the sky area with clear water and brushing in the cloud patterns using a mixture of Cobalt Blue Deep with a bit of Primary Blue. The tricky part is matching the moisture level on the wet paper to the thickness of the paint, so the blue/gray transitions are gradual and the blue doesn't bleed too far. I was thrilled when the sky turned out so well. Then I wet the lake area and brushed in the same paint mixture, being sure to leave areas of highlight to make the water appear to glow.

Discovery Awaits, watercolour in process by Karen Richardson 

I let the sky and water dry for an hour and went on to paint the first layers on the beach, rocks, and deciduous trees, (shown above) and completed the far shore by dabbing in a careful arrangement of foliage colours, using the photo as reference. These colours are slightly more muted (grayed) than the foreground foliage will be, to give the appearance of atmospheric distance.

Discovery Awaits, watercolour in process by Karen Richardson

After another half hour of drying, I deepened the colours on the beach and painted the pine tree foliage and then their trunks and branches (shown above).

The next day (shown below), I added yellow and orange areas to the deciduous tree on the right, shadows and twigs to the pine trees, shadows on the rocks, and texture to the foreground beach. I removed the masking fluid from the canoe and pieces of wood on the beach and painted them, adding shadows at the end. I decided the far shore was still too bright, so I glazed over it with a diluted neutral (grayish tan) mixture to subdue the colours slightly. Perfect.

I feel many elements of this painting turned out exactly right: the curving line of the beach that beckons the viewer into the scene, the glow of light on the water, the unusual cloud patterns that lead the eye to the sculpted pine trees, the warm and inviting colour scheme, and the canoe which adds a storytelling element. I love the  sense of place in this painting and feel like I could step into the scene. I grew up just east of Algonquin Park, and have happy memories of time spent on sandy beaches like this one, swimming, canoeing, listening to the wind in the trees and enjoying the peace of nature.

The completed painting is mounted on an archival wood panel, trimmed, varnished, and presented in a black wood floater frame. There is no glass to get in the way of enjoying the details of 'Adventure Awaits'.

Click here to see more details about this painting.

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My Corona Garden

12 May, 2020 2 comments Leave a comment

Karen Richardson home and studio

My life has been impacted in many ways by the Covid19 global pandemic. During these last few months of isolation, it has been an interesting journey to design a 'new normal', while my husband and I hunker down at our home property, which is pictured above. In this article I am sharing with you a glimpse of how we have been spending our time at the homestead.

The biggest impact to our personal life was the cancellation of a 7-week vacation in Australia. My husband and I were to begin our excellent adventure in early April with a week touring Tasmania in our rented camper van and then fully explore the coastal route from Melbourne to Cairns before flying home at the end of May. Here is the type of adventure we had envisioned:

Gallivanting Oz Adventure in Australia 

Hopefully we can re-book the trip at a later date through the same company, Gallivanting Oz, who did an excellent job of arranging our camper van rental and subsequent cancellation and refund. If anyone is considering a similar holiday in future years, I highly recommend this awesome Australian company. We cancelled our first class flights with Air Canada but have not seen our refund or credit yet.

Karen Richardson gardens

Our life at home has gotten quiet, yet not boring. My husband is retired but his handyman hobby takes him to his shop out back (pictured above), fixing things for the house and doing vehicle maintenance. We order repair parts and supplies online or by phone (from local stores offering safe curbside pickup if possible) and I make a weekly trip to the grocery store. I'm doing more cooking and baking for us than I usually would and we are making the most of this chance to live life simply and deliciously.

Karen Richardson's baking

Since we live on the edge of a small town, there are lots of places where we can walk during the day for exercise without getting close to anyone. We don't have cable or satellite TV but enjoy spending our evenings watching educational videos on YouTube or programs on Netflix. I also enjoy reading most days. We have conversations with friends and family by phone or Facetime. I look forward to the day when we can resume our in-person walks, visits, and dinners with our longtime friends.

Karen Richardson studio

I'm an introvert by nature (as many artists are), so being told I have to stay home actually makes me happy. I have an infinite list of fun things to do in my home and art studio (pictured above). As is my usual habit, I spent the winter months creating lots of new paintings and then moved to outdoor mode once spring arrived. Shown below is the mound garden in our front yard, tidied up for the start of the growing season.

Karen Richardson garden

The fact that I don't have to go out for meetings, fitness classes or appointments, means I can decide how to fill each day based on the weather or how energetic I  feel. I find myself wondering how to change my habits going forward, so I can continue this simpler existence in a post-pandemic world.

My husband and I had planned to spend the summer of 2020 making short camping trips with our travel trailer to various regions of Ontario, after we returned from Australia. It remains to be seen whether those excursions will happen or not. The realization that we may have to stay home this spring and possibly summer lead us to research growing a vegetable garden.

The current upheaval of our food supply caused by the pandemic has prompted many people throughout the world to start a vegetable garden this year, just like the Victory gardens of the second world war. I think this activity gives people a sense of control in a time of uncertainty, makes us feel useful by growing our own food, and gets us out into the fresh air while safely spending time at home.

I have enjoyed establishing raised bed flower gardens at all three of our home properties over the years, but never had the time to devote to growing many edibles before this year. The photo below from 2013 shows some of the backyard flower gardens at our Port Perry home, which was on a one acre property.

Karen Richardson garden

We downsized to our lovely bungalow in Lindsay the following year. The raised border garden shown below was one I constructed shortly after our move, using stone dug up from our one acre yard. I grew pole beans and garlic successfully, but invasive grass runners from the adjacent farm field had started to invade my stone garden. This spring, I decided to dismantle it and try something more robust and permanent for my new vegetable garden.

Karen Richardson stone garden 

My husband and I designed wooden raised planters 18 inches tall with a top frame wide enough to sit on, to make gardening more comfortable for me, and to have high quality soil with fewer weeds.

He built the two cedar planters pictured below in his shop. These are each 4 feet wide by 8 feet long and have no bottoms. The little legs will keep them pinned to the ground and the planters are lined on the inside with builders' vapour barrier to help extend the durability of the wood. He also varnished the outside surfaces with clear Varathane wood preservative.

Karen Richardson garden planters

We moved the planters to a sunny spot in our yard in mid April, and since then I have been steadily filling them with a custom mix of soils and amendments using a sustainable agriculture technique called Hugelkultur (meaning 'hill culture' in German).

Hugelkultur mimics how plants grow in a natural forest ecosystem, where trees fall over onto the forest floor,  and other organic matter falls and accumulates on top of the fallen trees and breaks down. This creates a fertile place for the seeds of new plants to germinate and grow on top of the decaying wood and other organic materials. This environment not only provides extremely fertile soil for new plants, but the woody materials also soak up water like a sponge.

The photos below show the layers I used to fill my planters.

Karen Richardson garden planters   Karen Richardson garden planters  

First I covered the sod with cut up paper leaf bags. By the time they decompose over the next year, the grass will have died and will not invade the garden. Worms and other beneficial organisms will be able to travel between the ground and the raised beds. The second layer was wood from apple trees we cut down. The largest pieces went in the bottom, followed by all the cut up twigs. This wood layer will slowly rot, providing nutrients to the soil above and acting as a spongy layer to retain moisture.

Karen Richardson garden planters   Karen Richardson garden planters  

Next I covered the twigs and wood with layers of composted manure and native top soil (screened to remove gravel and weeds) that was cleared from our yard when my husband's shop was built.

Karen Richardson garden planters   Karen Richardson garden planters

I had saved garden clippings from the spring cleanup of my perennial beds and all those dried trimmings went on next. I covered that with about 8 inches of screened native topsoil mixed with peat moss and composted manure. Then I created a grid with string and aluminum plant markers, in preparation for my 'square foot gardening' planting layout. In this bed I am densely planting raspberry bushes, onions, carrots, lettuce, spinach, radishes, and marigolds (to deter pests).

Karen Richardson garden planters

The photo above shows my other raised planting bed which will have asparagus, pole beans, tomatoes, sweet peppers, lettuce, herbs, nasturtiums, and marigolds. You can see the bamboo teepees that will support future pole beans. The plastic bubble is a cloche, protecting herb seeds while they germinate. To the right of my planters is where the stone border garden used to sit, now seeded with grass.

I will post a garden update later in the season so you can see my progress. If you are growing a Corona garden this year, I hope you enjoy it and have good luck with your green thumb. Be well and safe.

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

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The Making of 'One Shining Moment'

15 April, 2020 3 comments Leave a comment

One Shining Moment, watercolour by Karen Richardson

Since I paint in a realistic style, I use photographs as references for my watercolour scenes, so I can get the details right and make viewers feel like they could walk right into my paintings.

Although I occasionally use a photo taken by another photographer (with written permission as dictated by international copyright laws), the overwhelming majority of my painting references are my own photos.

The autumn scene pictured above, 'One Shining Moment', watercolour on panel (no glass) 14 x 22" was inspired by a photo I took while visiting our friends' cottage near Haliburton, Ontario.

The view from their shore is lovely in all seasons, looking out over the lake to a series of forested hills.This lake has inspired a handful of watercolour paintings over the years, including 'Winter Interrupted' (2001) 12 x 21", shown below.

Winter Interrupted, watercolour by Karen Richardson

Here is another watercolour shown below, 'Jennifer's Winter Wonderland' (2007) 10 x 7".

Jennifer's Winter Wonderland, watercolour by Karen Richardson

During another visit to this lake in September 2012, I managed to catch a moment of autumn sunlight highlighting the shoreline trees in the photo below. This 'spotlighting' effect creates a dramatic focal point, emphasized by diagonal lines of the treed slopes as well as dark shadows in behind, and underscored by gentle lake ripples from a faint breeze.

Photo by Karen Richardson  

Lighting makes the difference between a great photo and an ordinary one. Below is another shot taken at a different time that day. While lovely, it has no strong focal point. No single element grabs the viewer and says "Look at me! I'm magnificent!".

 Photo by Karen Richardson

For the last 8 years, the sunlit photo with the strong focal point has lingered in my vast photo reference collection, too daunting to try to capture in watercolour. Finally this spring I had time to tackle a major work, so I took the plunge and developed a large watercolour based on my autumn lake photo.

As I suspected, the sheer scale of the painting and the technical difficulties of masses of tree foliage and blurred reflections would make this a very difficult and time-consuming project. But I kept my nose to the grindstone for 3 weeks, working layer by layer with lots of patience, and prevailed.

I added a tiny red canoe to the sheltered little beach to give a sense of scale to the forest and to help viewers insert their own stories and memories into this scene.

Fortunately I had the foresight to take photos of each stage of this challenging painting as I worked. From these work-in-progress photos, I assembled a short time lapse video, so you can see the flow of this piece to its completion.

Click on the image below to view the 3-minute story:

I am very pleased with how this major work turned out. I feel like it is beckoning me to enter the scene and spend a perfect day exploring the mysteries of this beautiful northern lake. I hope you feel the same pull to become part of this magical place.

For more details about this painting, click here.

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New Works: Magical Islands

25 March, 2020 2 comments Leave a comment

Watercolours by Karen Richardson

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 glorious landscapes throughout the year.

I pour my authentic soul into each and every painting I create of remarkable natural places. My hope is that you, the viewer, find a soothing resonance within your own true self when you gaze upon my artwork.

Every winter I enjoy several months of dedicated studio time. This post tells the creation stories of my latest northern lake paintings, all of which are small in size but abundant in optimism and joy.


A Piece of Heaven by Karen Richardson

Shown above is A Piece of Heaven, watercolour on panel (no glass) 6 x 12".

This piece was inspired by two photos taken years ago. I forget the locations but I think they were somewhere in Ontario. One was an early autumn photo and the other was was taken in summer, but they joined together to make an interesting composition (shown below).

Photo by Karen Richardson

I particularly liked the tiny sailboat near the island, and the faint reflections of the dark trees on choppy water. I decided to make my painting a later autumn scene. How lovely it would be to spend a breezy day sailing between the islands of this glorious place.

Click here for more details about A Piece of Heaven.

 

Shown above is Out of the Blue, watercolour on panel (no glass) 12 x 9". This piece is entirely from my imagination, based on years of visiting beautiful northern lakes and absorbing their peace and serenity.

I painted the sky and water first, building up a half dozen layers over the course of a week to get the depth of colour I needed. When that was fully dry I penciled in the island and two canoeists, then painted them. They are enjoying a peaceful paddle around the island, before the sun dissolves the early morning mist.

Click here for more details about Out of the Blue.

 


 

Shown above is Autumn Dream, watercolour on panel (no glass) 6 x 12". It is another piece painted entirely from my imagination. Originally it was a square 12 x 12" work in progress, but I overworked the reflections and decided to crop them out of the painting. I think this stretched format makes a stronger statement.

I especially love the clear autumn colours and variety of trees on the island, and the misty shores in the background. I included a canoe in the scene to add to the story. Someone is exploring this wee island. Maybe they camped here last night and are preparing for another glorious day on the lake.

Click here to see more details about Autumn Dream.

 

Autumn Adventure, watercolour by Karen Richardson

Shown above is Autumn Adventure, watercolour on panel (no glass) 8 x 8". I took the reference photo (pictured below) a few years ago on an ATV excursion in the Haliburton region of central Ontario.

Photo by Karen Richardson

It was easy to translate this photo into a square format. I changed the overcast day into a sunny one in my painting. I included the overhanging leaves to enhance the sense of shelter and protection. The viewer is exploring on a fine autumn day, peeking out from a tree-covered shoreline to discover this wee gem of an island. Let's hop in a kayak or canoe and paddle over there.

Click here for more details about Autumn Adventure.

 

Shown above is When All is Calm, watercolour on panel (no glass) 6 x 12". This scene was inspired by two photos I took somewhere in Ontario years ago (shown below).

Photos by Karen Richardson

I employed considerable artistic license when creating this painting. It captures a moment of serene calm - that rare early autumn day when the lake is like glass. We all could use some of this peace and solace these days.

Click here for more details about When All is Calm.

 

Shown above is The Golden Hour, watercolour on panel (no glass) 10 x 10". This is one of those paintings that started off as one thing and morphed into something completely different. It was like the painting knew what it wanted to be and nudged my brush strokes in that direction.

The original idea was inspired by two saltwater sunset photos (shown below) that I took near Twillingate when we visited Newfoundland last summer. I liked the golden tones in the first photo and planned to add the moored sailboat from the second photo. The story would involve sailors anchored for the night in a sheltered bay.

Photo of Hillgrade NL sunset by Karen Richardson   Photo Twillingate NL sunset by Karen Richardson

I decided on a square format and started painting the sky and its reflection. It took many layers over the course of a week to build up rich colour and contrast between the glow of the sun and the shadows surrounding it. Shown below are 3 stages of this layering process.

The Golden Hour watercolour in progress by Karen Richardson   The Golden Hour watercolour in progress by Karen Richardson   The Golden Hour watercolour in progress by Karen Richardson

The resulting bronze colour scheme was not the original coppery hue from the photo reference, and the highlights were more globular than streaky, but I really liked the soft, soothing mood that was emerging. I looked through my photo archives for a new water scene reference and found the perfect one (shown below).

Photo by Karen Richardson

I took this early morning photo decades ago at the old Richardson family cottage on Big Cedar Lake in central Ontario. I used the iconic raft and far shore as references to complete my painting and the story became a quiet moment in cottage country.

Click here for more details about The Golden Hour.

I hope you have enjoyed this behind-the-scenes look at my latest creations, and a glimpse into how I translate photos from my travels into unique artistic expressions. My hope is that my artwork will welcome viewers like old friends, and draw them into the narrative deeply embedded in each painting.

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 and Their Stories

24 February, 2020 1 comment Leave a comment

 New watercolours by Karen Richardson

Shown above are the three watercolours I completed last month. They form an eclectic group, with each painting having been inspired by a different journey. The trait they share is that I have wanted to paint these subjects for a while, sometimes years, and I finally got around to it this winter.

Frozen Two, watercolour by Karen Richardson

The smallest painting, 'Frozen Two', watercolour on panel (no glass) 6 x 12" is shown above and pictures an ice falls that forms each year near Lake St. Peter, ON. I photographed the icy cliff while snowmobiling several decades ago (photo shown below) and always thought this scene would make a dramatic painting subject.

Photo of Ice Falls by Karen Richardson

I am drawn to the contrast of dark brown rock and light blue icicles, so I enhanced this colour scheme and value contrast in the painting. I added the deer to the picture to give a sense of scale and a spark of life. Shown below is me in my studio working on this piece.

Karen Richardson painting in her studio

Disney's latest cinema blockbuster, Frozen II was playing in theatres during the time I was creating this watercolour. I couldn't resist the play on words when I was searching for a title for this sweet little painting.

Click here for more information about Frozen Two.

My next two pieces are from trips to the East Coast of Canada. 'Reflections of Yesterday', watercolour on panel (no glass) 12 x 16", is shown below.

In the spring of 2017, my husband and I and several friends explored New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Prince Edward Island for two months in our travel trailers. I posted three stories showing the highlights of this fantastic trip ('Perfect Prince Edward Island', 'Camping in Beautiful Nova Scotia', and 'Top 5 Must-Have's for Travel Fun').

While exploring the quaint seaside village of Victoria in PEI, I photographed this colourful, weathered shed window from five different angles. The two views shown below are the ones I chose as painting references.

PEI shed window photo by Karen Richardson   PEI shed window photo by Karen Richardson

I liked the colours in the red window trim better in the left hand photo, but I preferred the reflection of the jellybean house in the right hand photo. One of the advantages of being a painter is that I can 'mix-and-match' my references.

Every inch of this painting was pure joy to create, from the cracks in the wood shingles, to the flaking red paint of the trim, to the distorted reflections in the old window glass. I am trying a new brand of watercolour paints this winter. They are made by Sennelier in France and I am 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 this piece.

Click here for more information about Reflections of Yesterday.


The next new painting, 'Yesterday's Dreams', watercolour on panel (no glass) 14 x 11", is shown above. I used the same three paints to create all the colour mixtures for this scene.

Last summer, by husband and I spent three months touring the island of Newfoundland in our travel trailer. You can read about key adventures and see highlights of the trip in these posts: 'Icebergs of Newfoundland', 'Top 14 Vistas of Newfoundland', 'A Whale of a Tale in Newfoundland', and 'Seeing Caribou and Moose in Newfoundland'.

While exploring the back roads of the Bonavista peninsula in northern Newfoundland, we came across this gas pump on its concrete pad, smack in the middle of a field of grass, in the tiny settlement known as Red Cliff (photo below)

Red Cliff Newfoundland, photo by Karen Richardson

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. I could imagine a story here about the folk who lived and worked in this beautiful place. I knew this would make a fine painting subject.

The grass was finicky to paint, using many layers of masking fluid and paint to achieve the effect of individual blades of grass. The rusty gas pump was an absolute joy to portray in watercolour. I used a magnifying glass and super fine Micron pens with archival ink to do the lettering on the pump.

Click here for more information (including a close-up photo) about Yesterday's Dreams.

The final new painting to show you today is a commissioned piece titled 'Summer Constellations' watercolour on panel (no glass) 6 x 12". The client had seen an earlier painting I did of this scene, fell in love with it, but was disappointed when it was acquired by another client. The problem was solved by my painting a similar version. The first painting, 'Evening Constellations', (2018) shown below, was the same size.

For more information about Summer Constellations, click here.

That wraps up my latest creations. I hope you have enjoyed this glimpse into how I translate photos from my travels into unique artistic expressions. My hope is that my artwork will welcome viewers like old friends, and draw them into the narrative behind the art. Stay tuned to see what old friends February brings!

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