Sunday, May 25, 2014

Nocturne painting tips

Jason Sacran working on a nocturne in his workshop in Overland Park, KS.

The evening we painted the nocturne was a valuable workshop class.  Jason had loads of tips and ideas to help us have a successful experience.  The lists below are not directly out of Jason's mouth.  This is my list of which some of the items are also his suggestions.  

**Ideally you can find a workshop with Jason and get first hand experience with him on this subject.  Currently he does not have a nocturne workshop scheduled …but plans one in the fall of 2014!  Here is his web address and you can watch for upcoming workshops!

  • At least two LED book lights to attach to your easel above your canvas.  One LED light on your palette.  Note Jason has three attached to the top of his easel.
  • Appropriate clothing layers for cooler nights.
  • Mosquito spray if you are in the Mid West!
  • A flashlight to use as you are packing up (when it's REAL dark).
  • I suggest painting nocturnes with a buddy.  Lots of people stop to see what you are doing.  (Some of them have just left the bar.)

  • When painting at night values are very close together, so simplify your palette if possible.  Premix a nice rich dark sky color while you have natural light.  Just black or blue and black doesn't work well.
    • Choose subject matter that has the greatest degree of value contrast with the simplest compositional elements.
    • Study carefully what you’re naturally observing.
    • Make sure you angle your headlamp down at 45 degrees to avoid light bouncing back into your eyes.
    • Position your easel and palette so that they have consistent lighting: if your canvas is in light make sure your palette is in light. If your canvas is in shadow, make sure your palette is in shadow.  Working under a street light is ideal.
    • When mixing your palette at night, remember to make the colors slightly lighter than what you’re actually seeing because they will appear much duller and darker when viewed in daylight.
    • Use very little white.
    • Because most of the colors you will be painting with at night will be cool, use a warm underpainting to provide greater contrast and luminosity.
    • Use big brushes for better blending and to achieve the soft edges inherent in night scenes.
    • There is a warm halo of ambient light around the light sources. By exaggerating the dark values surrounding that with a chiaroscuro effect, you will create the illusion that the light source is glowing.
    • The farther away from the light source, the darker the sky’s value.
    • As the moon rises, its reflection will spread out wider over the surface beneath it.
    • The painting will dull when the darks dry.  I suggest a nice workable spray varnish like Krylon Conservation retouch varnish.

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