Wednesday, September 15, 2010

September 15 Nocturnes... Here's the 'Method and Materials' scoop!

I'm sitting here wishing I felt well enough to go out to paint tonight... just kidding... severe thunderstorms, heavy rain, lightening and hail, tornado warnings near by! Never mind!

So while I'm sitting here, and instead of wasting time, I thought that I'd post some info about what I use to paint, and what my approach to painting nocturnes is in order to answer a number of questions that I'm getting about this.

The Methods and Materials are really just about the same as I use during the day. Painting is painting and painting a nocturne calls for the same sensibilities to Drawing, Value, Color, Composition... Edges, Temperature and most important... Concept!

Observation is key, and painting what you see... not what you know... is essential. This is certainly true during the daylight situations also. But at night you really don't have a choice because much of what you 'think' you know about an object or situation is no longer valid. The darkness obliterates details, artificial lights can obliterate form, and the combination will leave you wondering just what it is that you're looking at. Don't worry about it, you don't need to know, if you're paying attention to putting down the correct relationships of the shapes, values and colors (with the accompanying attention to edges and the qualities of the colors... hue, intensity, value and temperature) that are before you. If you do that with a Concept in mind, you'll have a great time at this.

There is something freeing about painting at night. I suppose that in part it's because you can't see everything that is happening in the subject, or on your painting. The lights I use are great, but they're still limited and this is not like painting in good studio or north light! Even with the 'better' illumination with the LED lights, they're not perfectly color balanced. Your color mixtures will look pretty good, but they will still surprise you a little when you take the paintings inside and view them under good studio light. Painting a nocturne is always an adventure into the unknown.

All of these obstacles make painting nocturnes both a challenge and a thrill to do. And once it's dark, the light doesn't change unless the neighbor, whose house you may be painting, turns off the lights and goes to bed!

I prefer smoother surfaced panels at night so that the glare from the darker colors isn't as bad. That glare makes them hard to photograph for one, but also hard to see the painting once it's varnished.

Usually I tone the panel first with either a warm tone or a dark neutral like some black with blue and a little red mixed in. It's best to let that dry a day or so before painting on it. More and more I prefer the gray vs the warm tone.

I don't switch up my palette, though I may not use as much of the lighter value colors as I would in daylight. I tend to use more of the darker value colors like Transparent Oxide Brown or Red, Alizarin Crimson, Ultramarine Blue Deep and Viridian. I do add a few colors for catching the intensity of lights at night, like red, blue and green neon. I add some Pthalo colors... blue, green, turqouise. I also like a Quinacridone red or rose for the glowing pinks of some lights.

Here's the palette-
Titanium White
Cad Lemon Yellow
Cad Yellow Deep
Yellow Ochre light
Cad Orange
Cad Scarlet
Cad Red
Quinacridone Red or Rose
Alizarin Crimson
Transparent Oxide Brown or Red
Ultramarine Blue
Night add ons-
Pthalo Blue, Green, Turquoise

I use the 10x12 EasyL box.

This is the Mighty Bright LED Book light.

That's the scoop! Thanks.


Marian Fortunati said...

Your posts are always so interesting, Marc.

Hope you feel better soon.. (and the storms abate..)

Caroline Simmill said...

Very interesting Marc, and I love your nocturnal painting it is beautiful. Get well soon.

Pat O'Driscoll said...


Great post, very informative, thanks!

Caroline Peña Bray said...

Thanks for sharing, Marc. Very informative. I'm impressed that you use so many colours yet manage to retain such harmony in your paintings. It's a skill...mine usually end up looking messy if I go beyond 4 colours. There's so much to learn!

RUDHI Rüscher said...

Think even Whistler would like this Nocturne-Natural-Delight!

Daroo said...

Thanks so much for sharing.

I'm guessing that you tone your panels at about a 5-3 on the value scale... have you ever tried toning them to a 2 or 1.5 -ish?

I'm just curious -- I don't know what it'd buy you, except maybe "designing" the painting with light shapes instead of shadow shapes (that is, if you think of it in those terms...)

Marilyn R Miller said...

Thank you. I just finished giving the "...what you see, not what you know...." talk to a student.

Bruce Sherman said...

Hi Marc!.... Glad to see that the bug has departed!

These are two very colourful and dramatic pieces! I especially love the water treatment and current action you have created in the sunset piece!

Good Luck with the Nocturnals. Stay warm... and keep the Vicks Vapo Rub handy! Up the nose with a gob when you feel the bug hangin' about.... followed by a half hour soak in a hot tub... cold one in hand to restore body core temp after a long... cold outdoor session! It works for me!

Good Painting!
Warmest regards,

ladyheart said...

Artists who have mastered yourselves in the art of landscape paintings are special as they take nature itself and replicate it on the canvas.

Catherine said...

THANK you!! This helps me immensely! I'm trying to figure out what simple palette I can use for my attempt at a subtle night scene (you know me and color, I tend to go crazy), and this is just what I needed!