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Thursday, September 06, 2012

My Top 3 Tips for Painting the Night Sky with Pastels

'Island Moon'       11x14       pastel     ©Karen Margulis  $145 Paypal

I have been on a night painting kick lately. No I haven't been an intrepid plein air painter outside with my flashlight.  I have been painting from my photos.  I am drawn to the beauty and mystery of the night sky. But my photos don't always capture this beauty. I have learned to use them only as an inspiration.  I have to rely and what I have observed about the evening sky and infuse that into my paintings.

A collection of my Night Paintings
  Here are the top 3 things I think about when painting a twilight or night landscape.

  • Pick the right time to go out and paint or take photos.  The best time for night photos is actually just after sunset when there is still some light in the sky. Known as the 'Blue Hour' this is the time when the sky has colors such as rich deep blues and purples. After this blue hour the sky becomes an uninteresting inky black.  To read more about the blue hour, see my post here

  • Look beyond the photo... put color in the darks.  Typically point and shoot photos don't always do a good job capturing the colors at night unless you take time to find the right settings. Photos tend to be underexposed and too dark. If we try to paint what we see in the photo we might end up with an overly dark painting and paint the land black.  Colors are more muted and dull in low light but they are there! This is the perfect opportunity to use those dull browns and greens and purples in the dark areas. Avoid using black!

  • Pay attention to the values and designing with the lights.  In an evening scene you will be using colors that are mostly dark values and some very light values from a light source (moonlight, streetlights, etc).  If you have middle values these are present most often in areas that are lit.  It is important to pay attention to how you place the lights. You don't want them to appear spotty and since they will draw the eye due to the strong contrast against the darks, be sure to place them in places where you want the eye to travel. 


Lora said...

Thanks for the tip. I have been meaning to draw the elusive sunset for the longest time, but was not sure how to attack it.
Your pastel painting are gorgeous!

Karen said...

Thank you Lora! I appreciate it. Good luck with your sunset painting!