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Sunday, August 20, 2017

Tips for Painting The Night Sky

'Nightfall'            11x14         pastel         ©Karen Margulis
available $165
Eclipse fever is reaching a peak. In Marietta Georgia we are within an hour or so drive to the path of TOTALITY. I have family in this area and my plans were to take a drive and experience the total eclipse. Traffic is predicted to be terrible so I may just stay put and experience the partial eclipse at home. I wasn't able to get glasses either.  But with all the hype I decided to paint the sky today.

I started this beach sunset painting a few weeks ago but didn't quite finish. It needed a few stars and brighter light at the horizon. This was a sunset I shared with good friends several years ago in South Carolina. The sky was amazing!

I enjoy painting the night sky. The challenge is to give the sky a sense of air and depth even though it might be very dark. I have a few tips for painting successful night skies.


  • Observe the sky in the evening. Spend time just watching from twilight until total darkness. Make notes about the colors and values you see. How do they change? Soak it all in. These observations will help you when having to work from photos.
  • Take night photos at twilight. When the sun has set there is still some light in the sky. These deep dark and rich blues of early evening make for the most interesting night scenes. Even better is when the lights begin to come on. These little lights add even more interest to the night sky.
  • Avoid using BLACK pastel. We tend to think that at night the sky is black.  Even when the sky appears very dark painting it with black will make it look flat and heavy and dull.  Choose dark value blues for a more believable night sky.
  • There is often a gradation of color seen in the night sky. I like to use my darkest cool blues for the zenith (top) of the sky and gradually transition to rich warmer turquoisey blues closer to the horizon. Scroll down to see samples.


Black vs. Deep Blue. Which do you prefer for a night sky?


Starry Sky a sliver of the night  11x4 

A selection of beautiful deep blue pastels perfect for the night sky
 The next time you are inspired to paint the night sky see how beautiful it can be with blues!

6 comments:

blogberry tart said...

What did you use for the stars? thanks, Linda Ray

Karen said...

I used the tip/edge of a Nupastel. I prefer cream or pale yellow rather than pure white

Denise Van Balen said...

I love the way you layed out the pastels on your painting. It helps this visual learner! Thanks for sharing!

Kevin Quattlebaum said...

Karen, I remember your demonstration on alternate formulas for grays (the "Technicolor" grays) during the
Texas Hill Country workshop at Salt Lick BBQ this past Spring. You recommended purging your pastel
collections of gray, black, and the very dark browns. I did first time I sat down to paint afterwards - great advice! I haven't looked back since!

Beatrix said...

This is so beautiful and calm! Love it.

Debbie Gauger said...

Thank you Karen! You are such an ispiration to me and I really enjoy your blog, posts and paintings! Thanks for sharing! :)
Debbie Gauger