The word “nocturne” isn’t used much outside of art and music circles, but it’s what best describes paintings and compositions that are about the evening and night time.
I’m one of those people attracted to the evening and to the darkness of night. Not everyone is, but I find that the mystery of a partially illuminated world is very inviting. There’s more room for the imagination to roam in this less-defined realm, and I find it peaceful and welcoming.
So I’m inspired again to return to the evening hours for what may be a single large painting (or a series of paintings) that will be in the nocturnal form.
We have the good fortune of living very close to rocky sea cliffs overlooking the Pacific ocean, and at night they’re magnificent. I’ve recently devoted time to going out t0 these cliffs on strongly moonlit nights to study different effects, all in the pursuit of creating a beautiful night painting over the Pacific.
I find, above all else, that one must rely on eyes and memory to get things worked out. There’s no substitute for spending time in the actual presence of the moonlit waves, sea, rocks, and clouds. An hour or so on consecutive nights, when the moon is ripe, are spent simply sitting and observing the ocean. It’s too dark to draw or paint, and so my task consists of asking questions….what is darkest, what is lightest? What falls in between and in what order? How do the edges of shapes differ? How can I paint this experience?
And the greatest question of them all: what am I after…what is it that is compelling me to be here?
I do get a few pencil notes (although it’s too dark to see the paper I’m writing on), and what I manage is helpful.
The next morning, I get into the studio and begin to put visual shape to the prior night’s observations. I chose pastel for a memory sketch to simply start something going. It’s not much of a composition; choices about all sorts of things will need to be made as things progress, but for now, this small piece has the flavor of what I experienced.
It’s the beginning.
Later the pastel sketch led to making compositional decisions, seen in the thumbnail sketch below. One thing is becoming obvious, and it’s that night painting is about the beautiful interaction of shapes and values. The success of this painting will depend on making that aspect compelling.
From here going forward, I will take gradual steps to chip away at what will be many sketches and studies, searching for something meaningful to take shape.
There’s more to come.