Becky Joy

We asked Arizona artist Becky Joy to talk about her luscious, emotionally charged paintings and the way she uses brushes and palette knives to add important textures, as she will be doing at the Plein Air Convention & Expo (

“I often work in a color family in order to create a mood, bring more emotion to my paintings, and go beyond recording the details in a scene,” says Becky Joy. “I employ color and relative values to create dramatic lighting and glowing color. And I use subtle grays to make the rest of the colors seem bright and intense.”

Joy explains, “Brushwork plays an important part in my paintings because it gives them a spontaneity and dimension. I can create depth of field by adding a little texture in the background, and that makes a painting more exciting, plus I like adding playful brushwork in the foreground. I use a variety of flat and filbert brushes, plus a couple different sizes of palette knives. At times, I use brushes as if they were palette knives so I can create strong, thick strokes of oil color. I use techniques that lend variety to the brushwork to make a painting more exciting.

“I usually work on canvas panels, but sometimes I switch to gessoed panels as a means to have a variety in textures. Some scenes feel like they need to be more subdued and smooth, while others need more energy and texture, so I pick the painting surface most appropriate for conveying the mood. The worst thing that can happen is to keep using the same materials and techniques with every painting and, in the process, to become complacent.”

Step one: Start by defining the dark shadow shape

Step two: Keep brushwork loose while blocking in big shapes

Step three: Add purple to the horizon and resolve the foreground

Step four: Suggest detail by adjusting the textures, not using a small brush

Joy goes on, “I use a limited palette, with the addition of two colors and possibly a couple more, depending on the scene. My normal palette consists of cadmium yellow light, cadmium orange, cadmium red light, permanent alizarin, dioxazine purple, ultramarine blue, cerulean, and sap green. I added sap green for convenience and the dioxazine purple because it is a more vibrant purple than I could mix with the limited palette. I also use the purple to gray my greens.

“About half of my paintings are created outdoors, and the balance in the studio. I paint outdoors when traveling, and I try to get out at least once a week. However, I have to admit there are times when I work exclusively in the studio, using my plein air work as the basis of larger studio pictures. I also use the plein air sketches as a way to become familiar with a location.

“The Source,” by Becky Joy, oil, 9 x 12 in.

“I often rely more on my imagination than direct observation, but the imagined subjects come from what is familiar. There are times when I was hiking and saw something that I wanted to paint, so I made mental notes about the colors, values, etc. I re-create those scenes at home, sometimes using small parts of a photograph to spark my imagination. In those cases, I draw a part of the scene from the photo and then put it away.

“To help explain all of these procedures, I photographed a 24” x 30” painting I recently completed in my studio from a small plein air painting of the location [“Rock Shadows,” 8” x 10”].” For more information, visit


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here