Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Jemez Moon

Jemez Moon, 8" x 10", oil is among the nocturne and sunset paintings included in my solo show, Twilight Skies, at Purple Sage Gallery in Old Town Albuquerque, which shows through the end of June.  This painting went through a major transformation from its plein air origins through the finished studio piece. Specifically, I've made the cloud and tree shapes more interesting.
Below is the early version, which is closer to the original plein air attempt.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Jemez Pasture In Moonlight

This nocturne, Jemez Pasture In Moonlight, 10" x 16", is a plein air piece that was completed in the studio. I set up along the roadside near Jemez Springs, New Mexico. The tall cliff walls of this canyon region reveal a different, but equally impressive subject in moonlight as in sunlight. In this case, drama of late afternoon light and shadow had given way to the magic and mystery of the moonlit night.

Traffic along the road drops off considerably at night, and it was just me, the crickets and the black, indistinct forms (cows) that moved slowly in my direction on the other side of the fence line as the night advanced. The light green foliage of spring on the cottonwood trees as well as the foreground grasses also offered a good bit of reflectivity. As mentioned in the previous post, even with the bright light of a full moon, it is still necessary to render values lighter than they actually appear in the subject. I had to make some adjustments in this regard later back in the studio.

When working with nocturne scenes, forms are reduced to simple shapes more easily than when painting the same subject in daylight. This also serves to simplify the composition as most smaller details disappear into the larger value shapes. With either night or day scenes, it is the few big shapes that are most important in the composition, and night time removes all the extraneous details, making the artist's work easier.

With regard to color, moonlit landscapes tend toward blue, bluish green or purple hues. Objects in the foreground are usually "warmer"  versions of these colors. I've noticed some of the dark (shadow), non-moon reflecting areas tend toward a warmer tone, particularly in the trees. Here I used dark  yellow-brown mixtures and some alizarin crimson and purples. Of course, these are general rules and can change depending on the type of light source (such as artificial light). The variety (particularly analogous hues) and richness of color is one of the most appealing aspects of this painting.

BTW, I did not include any of the curious cows in this painting. That's not to say I didn't want to...

Saturday, June 9, 2018

Mooney Rd. Bridge

Here is another painting, 14 x 18, oil, that started out as a plein air piece and was completed in the studio.

I was originally going to paint this bridge as seen from up on the road. But after exploring a bit, I found this vantage point down along the creek. I thought it offered more interest, particularly with the tree silhouetted in front of the partially obscured street light. The reflections in the creek contributed another element of interest and served to direct the eye into the painting.

I arrived early while there was still plenty of light. I had to analyze the relative positions of the primary light source, the street light, and objects in the landscape and make my best guess as to how it would look once it was dark. As it turned out, my guesswork paid off. Setting up early enabled me to start in on the drawing and have more familiarity with the subject before darkness set in. (By the way, once it was dark, I used a lamp to illuminate my palette and canvas panel.)

One of the first things you learn when you are painting landscapes at night is in most instances, you have to render the dark values much lighter. That was the case with this scene. I had originally made the darks way too dark, and even though it was truer to the real life scene, it just wasn't interesting. So, back in the studio, I adjusted the values upward a good bit, but left the darkest darks as they were. It is still a "low key" value overall.

Friday, June 8, 2018

Los Poblanos Moon

Los Poblanos Moon, 9 x 12 oil,  is one of 16 paintings I will have on display for a solo exhibition titled Twilight Skies: Sunsets & Nocturnes June 9 - 30 at Purple Sage Gallery in Old Town Albuquerque. Reception is 5 - 8 p.m. June 9, 2018.

This painting started out as a plein air piece and was later finished in the studio. It was my first attempt at painting on location at night using a new lamp attachment for my easel. Painting at night is different than daytime plein air painting. The environment seems quieter, but that might be a result of the fact that most everything is dark and there is a greater reliance on senses other than the visual. Different critters come out at night I noticed. A spider "parachuted" in from somewhere to establish a presence on my pochade box. I will post some other nocturnes with additional observations about night time painting in future posts.