Finger Painting Artist Celebrates Beguiling Beauty of the Desert Sky à la ‘Starry Night’

Iris Scott Desert Night Painting

“Sage and Time”

Throughout her career, artist Iris Scott has proven that finger painting isn’t just for kids. Opting for her digits instead of a paintbrush, her large-scale pieces offer an incredible and intimate look into how she sees the world: one that is full of color, texture, and energy. This is encapsulated in her latest painting called Sage and Time. The breathtaking landscape depicts a starry night sky as witnessed from a desolate desert that’s alive with pinks, blues, and electric yellow hues. It’s made even more magical when you remember that Scott did this all without the help of a paintbrush.

Scott works in northern New Mexico, a land known for its expansive views of the desert. “In the summer, we take our sleeping bags outside and cuddle up under the stars, no tents… they call this cowboy camping,” she tells My Modern Met. “Those first few cloudless summer nights, I was shocked to discover that all my life I had been wrong about the colors of stars…. oh my god stars aren’t just all white. They’re a complete range of reds, purples, blues, greens, yellows, and oranges up there just twinkling away. The little pinion and juniper trees are petite but ancient; the landscape is both harsh and welcoming. The desert is a bewitching place, and I’m head over heels for it.”

The swirling, and often beguiling, beauty of the night sky brought Sage and Time to life. “I call it Sage and Time because of the realization that the light from all these stars—some are millions of light-years away, others billions, or hundreds of thousands—are all flattened into one moment of observation here, above the sage (wisdom) plants,” Scott explains.

Like many of her other works, the new desert painting is large; it measures a staggering 84 inches wide and 60 inches tall. “I knew it needed to be BIG, to capture that expansive feeling stargazers love,” Scott says. “I tickled Sage and Time into existence over the course of a week with Holbein oils upon a Fredrix canvas. The sage took on an almost blue fire appearance, and the local pinion trees echoed our beloved Van Gogh’s touch. I leaned into the concept of paying homage to Starry Night, but chose instead a less stylized, and more realistic approach. 3 AM in northern New Mexico is trippy enough already, just trying to capture it was a surreal affair.”

The original Sage and Time painting sold within hours of being made public. But if you’d like to own a canvas print of this piece, Scott now has it for sale on her website.

To learn more about Scott's work and artistic process, listen to her episode of My Modern Met's Top Artist podcast.

Finger painting artist Iris Scott has created a beautiful homage to the desert and Van Gogh's Starry Night with her newest piece called Sage and Time.

Iris Scott Desert Night Painting

Iris Scott with “Sage and Time”

Iris Scott Desert Night Painting

“Sage and Time” (Detail)

Iris Scott Desert Night Painting

“Sage and Time” (Detail)

Iris Scott Desert Night Painting

“Sage and Time” (Detail)

Iris Scott Desert Night Painting

“Sage and Time” (Detail)

Iris Scott Desert Night Painting

“Sage and Time” (Detail)

Iris Scott Desert Night Painting

“Sage and Time” (Detail)

Scott has recently created more works celebrating the desert and the creatures that live within it.

Finger Painting by Iris Scott

“Canis Latrans”

Finger Painting by Iris Scott

“Canis Latrans” (Detail)

Finger Painting by Iris Scott

“Juniper Loom”

Iris Scott: Website | Facebook | Instagram

My Modern Met granted permission to use photos by Iris Scott. 

Related Articles:

Iris Scott’s Solo Show Features New “Cosmic Patchwork” Finger Paintings

New Large-Scale Finger Paintings of Vibrant Animals in Action by Iris Scott

7 Innovative Painting Techniques That Don’t Require a Paintbrush

Sara Barnes

Sara Barnes is a Staff Editor at My Modern Met and Manager of My Modern Met Store. As an illustrator and writer living in Seattle, she chronicles illustration, embroidery, and beyond through her blog Brown Paper Bag and Instagram @brwnpaperbag. She wrote a book about embroidery artist Sarah K. Benning titled 'Embroidered Life' that was published by Chronicle Books in 2019. Sara is a graduate of the Maryland Institute College of Art. She earned her BFA in Illustration in 2008 and MFA in Illustration Practice in 2013.
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