For the last two months I have been working steadily in my art studio, completing the seven new watercolours shown in this post. During this late fall season, I have enjoyed making art beside my cosy fireplace, while daylight hours continue to shorten outside my window.
The series of 'after dark' paintings I began a year ago continues to intrigue me. It has been exciting to experiment with new pigment combinations and create these magically dusky skies. My latest batch of paintings includes scenes of twilight and northern lights.
The photo above shows the middle stage of my latest northern lights scenes, with the skies completed.
Painting skies was the most difficult part of the process, as layer after layer of colour was brushed on (with a day to dry in between) to build up saturated hues and gradual colour transitions. The darkest sky sections were achieved in the final few coats of paint. I would say each sky required five to eight layers to complete.
The foreground landscapes and trees were added once the paper was fully dry, to complete the paintings shown below.
Whispers in the Dark, varnished watercolour on 8 x 8 inch panel.
Sometimes northern lights are powerful and vast, and other times they are barely a whisper of light. In this night sky, the aurora provide just enough illumination to silhouette a few treetops.
Into the Night, varnished watercolour on 8 x 8 inch panel.
Standing silently under a canopy of starlight, these venerable pines in a northern forest look up into the night. They witness the vastness of the universe, bathed in the glow of northern lights.
I love the colour gradation from bright green to navy blue in this painting.
Dancing in the Dark, varnished watercolour on 12 x 12 inch panel.
Northern lights ripple across the night sky, reaching down to touch the horizon. A tiny island, cloaked in evergreens and nestled in mist, beholds the spectacle. It is as if the aurora are asking the trees to dance.
Night Magic, varnished watercolour on 9 x 12 inch panel.
The slim elegance of these trees hides an indomitable strength that allows them to withstand decades or even centuries of frigid northern winters. Their perseverance is rewarded on this spring night by a performance of northern lights.
The reference photo for this painting was taken by my Facebook friend Randy Whitbread of Flin Flon, Manitoba, and used with his gracious permission.
Aurora Fantasy, varnished watercolour on 9 x 12 inch panel.
In this dreamlike scene, northern lights illuminate the horizon with multi-hued rays, like nebulous curtains billowing across the universe. Ancient forests and a frozen river stand in awe of the glorious performance.
I had great difficulty with this painting. The icy river looked too dark initially and the aurora resembled a weird green sunset. I kept darkening the foreground until the river ice started to 'pop' and cropped off the upper sky so the aurora dominated. I love the result.
Starlight Lake, varnished watercolour on 8 x 8 inch panel.
In this simple northern lake scene, stars twinkle above rocks and trees, while the surface of the water seems lit from within by the faint glow of northern lights.
Starlight Magic, varnished watercolour on 6 x 12 inch panel.
This simple lakeside scene complete with Muskoka chairs for viewing sunsets was inspired by a photo taken by Lee Warner of Port Perry, ON, and used with her permission.
I look forward to lots of quiet painting days this holiday season and sharing the results with you. I have enjoyed delving into my northern lights series but feel like moving on to new subject matter. I wonder what that will be... Stay tuned!
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