While editing and compiling a video such as this, I don’t actually ‘see’ whats going on until its finished. So, in a way, watching the finished video, ‘speeded-up’, is an education for me because while the overall painting is being considered the actual small steps are almost automatic. It is in the planning of the painting where this is most apparent, especially in the construction lines in the sky. I wanted to have a particular lighting effect caused by moonlight, but subconsciously the sky needed perspective and distance at the horizon. Its because the sky occupies such a large part of the painting (about 2 thirds of the area) that this is important here. So while I was preoccupied with sky colours, and how they could exaggerate the moon light, I placed 2 ‘ribbons’ of shapes running from above the head of the viewer to the distant horizon as a frame on which the clouds would hang. It helps to ‘map out’ something, especially when confronted with such a large blank area to be covered.
The end justifies the means might explain some of the peculiar early stages in a painting. Even at the end there are unusual twists and turns and so it was with the area around the moon. To me, at the end of the painting, it seemed too organised and contrived. So the area was ‘mashed up’ with daubs of thick paint to remove this regularity. When I read in Alissa’s Blog, “When Wrong Is Right”, – ‘these mistakes are exactly what makes a work true for the artist’, I was reminded of this.
I went for a quick walk with the dog after work. I was planning to paint a portrait later on and had all the preparations made. But just after sunset the clouds parted and the half-moon reigned supreme in the southern sky. This scene, more or less, presented itself and the portrait was abandoned. I’m a landscape person at heart. Figure painting, for me, is only to add a little extra to my landscapes.
This painting was slightly different in execution to previous work. The canvas was tinted with a dilute Cerulean Blue and allowed stand for an hour. Some parts of the canvas were not overpainted so the blue peeps through here and there. The idea was to paint a dark scene without the painting being dark or dull. In other words, the scene must immediately say ‘moon light’ and not daylight ‘gone wrong’. In northern latitudes, as in Ireland, the sky stays bright for a long time after sunset and if the moon is out the effect is magical.
The colours: Burnt Sienna, Yellow Ochre and Cerulean Blue. Raw Umber and Cobalt Blue were also used as were Black and White. When the painting dries I will ‘shave’ off the thick impasto of white around the moon. This will brighten the area by removing the shadows the thick paint produces. Generally, thick impasto isn’t a problem if the entire surface has a consistent ‘roughness’. It can look a little odd if it is in a small area of an otherwise smooth surface.
The process was videoed for a future post so you will see the painting method from start to finish.
Night scenes – you either love ’em or hate ’em. A true night scene should be, more or less, colourless. When light levels are low the daytime optical receptors in the eye don’t function and the night, or low light, receptors kick in. Rods and cones are the shapes of these two light sensitive cells at the back of the eye and I can never remember which shape is which cell. So a night scene painting is a work of the imagination, an illusion. We create the ‘feeling’ of night time in a picture which must have all the attractive elements of a ‘normal’ painting. The painting must be a painting rather than a picture which resembles a charcoal drawing and this means a spectrum of colour. The red, blue and yellow should be there. In this painting the red element was represented by Burnt Sienna and Raw Umber, the blue, Prussian Blue and the yellow Yellow Ochre. These were the only paints used plus, of course, black and white. An unusual item used in the painting was ‘Stand Linseed Oil’. This is a thick, syrupy form of the original Linseed Oil and by sitting this mix on top of the flat underpainting creates a luminosity which helps the moonlight effect. Linseed Oil will always add brilliance to your colours but is difficult to control and takes ages to dry. Liquin handles great and dries quickly but dulls the colour a little. I usually mix these two media, 50/50, and get the advantages of both.
In due course I will post the time lapse video (9 minutes) of the work, which took about 1 hour to complete.
P.S. A photograph of this scene would be a very different matter completely due to the limitations of the photographic lens. For a start it would be more of a silhouette against the sky and the moon would appear the size of a star unless a telephoto lens was used and that would create a whole different scene.