Paint The Northern Lights On Your Nails The Way I See Them: Through The Trees

Aurora Borealis nail art is even prettier with the silhouette of spruce trees.
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Aurora Borealis nail art is even prettier with the silhouette of spruce trees.

The other night, around midnight, my phone started blowing up.

“GO OUTSIDE AND LOOK UP!” urged about a dozen or so messages.

Even though it was -42F outside, I did what I was told. Because it’s always worth it.

courtesy of Brady Gross.

Courtesy of Brady Gross.

One of the perks of living in the Far North is that every so often, especially when it’s deathly cold, the Aurora Borealis streaks the sky.

Alaskans talk a good game--"Yeah, well I know a guy that lives in a shed, fights wolverines, and hasn’t purchased anything since 2004!” and all that--but no matter how many times you’ve seen it, the curtains of pale green, pink and violet are so mesmerizing that people pull over on the side of the road to watch them. They appear like ghosts, shades of colour washing over the horizon, or streaking and twisting across the sky, glowing bright on a clear, dark night.

There are many stories and explanations for the Northern Lights, so I asked a Gwich’in friend about it: "We believe it originates from a highly charged portion of the ionosphere from electromagnetic radiation strewn from the sun. Its interaction with atmospheric gases in a near vacuum give it the ability illuminate.” Thanks, Ed!

My parents said if you whistle, you’re inviting the ghosts in the sky to follow you, so that’s terrifying.

Ask any artist and they’ll tell you the Lights are hard to capture. They’re in constant motion, so it’s tough to pin down exactly what it is that make them, well, The Lights.

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I splurged on a pair of Black Milk leggings solely because they captured how the lights look from your average perspective--through the trees. I love how wizened and crooked the black spruce around my house are. And I’m pretty sure I might be the first person to do Picea mariana-inspired nail art!

I don’t generally do nail art because I have weird crawfish hands, and also I work so much with them that I quickly ruin it, so I wanted something simple. I decided to do a sponged ombre nail with the silhouette of black spruce over it, sealing the whole shebang with a top coat.

You will need:

● 3 colours of polish. You could use any colours you want, but I used Essence Grunge Me Tender, Rimmel’s Mintilicious and Sally Hansen in Limestone

● A few clean makeup sponges.

● Pilot brand Precise V5 Fine point pen.

● A good topcoat. I'm using NYC’s Matte Me Crazy.

Before beginning, I slathered my fingertips in coconut oil, taking care to avoid my nails. I knew I’d be sponging polish around my cuticles, and it was much easier to clean up the wayward polish.

I started with Mintilicious, which was actually more of a robin’s egg blue than mint. I wanted a thin coat so I could sponge on a few layers without it being too gloppy. The formula is a bit thin, and while it dried in 60 seconds as promised, it wasn’t very opaque.

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I’d never sponged on polish, but it looked easy enough. I waited until the blue was totally dry, as I didn’t want the polish I was sponging on to take off the base coat. 

After dabbing a bit of Grunge Me Tender--a translucent mint with a pearly sparkle--onto the sponge, I blotted it onto the base coat, taking care to blend the edges nicely.

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After a thourough drying,I sponged on some Limestone near the tips of my nails, again blending with the other two colours. I went back over them a few times, to even out coverage. 

Another lesson in super cheap nail polish: sometimes cheap things suck. Glitter polish? No problem. Pastels? I’ll spend more than 99 cents from now on.

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After cleaning up with a cotton swab and some hellaciously poisonous acetone, I drew on the trees. 

The Precise V5 is terrific for this; it’s a rollerball, so it grabs the surface nicely and is easy to work with. It’s archival ink, so it won’t smear when you apply a top coat to seal it in. It kind of opened a world of possibilities, honestly.

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Doing my other hand was a bit trickier, but using the pen was heaps easier than using a nail art tool or toothpick. 

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Have you ever seen the Aurora? Borealis? Australis? How do I wear these hideous leggings? What other office supplies work for nail art? More importantly: what else should I draw on my nails?