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...

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