There’s nothing quite like painting in the dark. You can’t really see anything. What color is that sitting on the left side of my palette? I thought I put all my mid gray paints lined up on the left near the top. They sure look like blue in this head lamp.
It’s a total immersion adventure painting in the dark. I just get really comfortable trusting my values to do the work. Making sure I’m hitting my darks and lights right. And holding down the fort with midtones of the right temperature.
In this darkest time of the year up here in the north land I always promise myself that I will get out to paint after dark. It’s the perfect time to grab the sparkling lights and long lingering darkness of night that moves into our afternoons. At 3 pm it’s looking like dusk. I’m reminding myself that this is the mystery time, the time I love and it will be gone soon. I’d better grab it while I can.
On that note after an afternoon of painting in the studio I went out yesterday at dusk (3pm) and painted till dark (6:30pm) and I only stopped because it started raining and water was flooding my palette. My umbrella was packed away somewhere in the dark. Next time I’ll have it near me.
I love painting at night! It is one of my favorite times to paint. It takes me back to my childhood when we spent long summer evenings outdoors catching fireflies or going fishing.
It is so mysterious and fun to be outdoors after dark . Painting at night has the same quality. It’s outside the boundaries of “regular” painting times.
The owners of a fabulous, grand old house in town stopped by to visit me on the beach at sunset. They had just arrived in town and were excited to see painters were everywhere. I told them I was painting a nocturne and they offered to light up the whole house so I could paint it. When I saw it I couldn’t resist!
I sketched and laid in the painting starting around 9 pm. It was getting pretty dark by 10. The blue in the western sky was dim and the trees loomed huge and dark. The house glowed like a birthday cake. Passing cars slowed down to look. I laid out my colors so I could see them with my head lamp. I painted values in the dim light. It looked finished when I packed up sometime after 11.
Last week when I was out painting I toned a bunch of small canvases. I started to think about painting a big landscape on a small canvas. I want to paint a series of small landscapes of the big open spaces around me.
I often paint with a group of painters from Plein Air Painters of Maine. When I’m out painting with them I usually have a plan. I use the outing to learn something, paint subject matter I don’t usually paint or try out new things. My new thing is experimenting with different surfaces, treatments and approaches to applying paint. I’m painting on canvas, linen, paper, museum board and panel. Some of the surfaces are treated with acrylic gesso others are alkyd or oil and some are toned a medium value with a thin coat of oil paint.
I can see that I am painting very fast on these toned surfaces. The oil paint goes on easily and it looks great. I’m in a groove with these small ones. And I used to dislike painting small! Interesting how things change.
The Maine coast is a few miles from my house. I recently realized how much time I’ve spent near the ocean… walking on the beach, along the rocks or up the York River walk. Often, I would go for a walk every day after work. Before dinner was the time for my husband and I to get out of the office or studio for some fresh air and exercise.
During those walks I looked at the land, sea and sky. Not with focused concentration but enough observation to notice changes in mood and light every day… and the colors of things…
Sea Foam, Pen & watercolor. 6×8 on 80 lb. sketch paper.
When I started to sketch waves in en plein air I realized how much I was really observing those days I was walking. I know much more about a wave and what it does than I thought I knew. When I set up in a spot to paint them, they were familiar!
Marginal Way Rocks, Oil on panel 5×7
And when there is big surf I know just how connected it is to the recent weather that just blew through or is off shore…
Looking Toward Ogunquit, Oil on panel 8×10
This is the time of the year is when we often get a good amount of storms. I am delighted by them, place myself on the edge of the granite bluffs and get to work sketching and painting! I’m in my element. Would you believe long before I painted in plein air I would choose storms as the perfect time to go for a walk? Once when my sister and I were walking in a blizzard on York Beach (in runs in the family) a car slowed down to stare at us in disbelief… we were covered head to toe in white flakes ! It was great to go home to hot tea!
And who helps me with my storm/surf watch? Why its those guys in those dry suits….
MARGINAL WAY, 8X10 OIL ON PANEL