Since the days are so short here in Zagreb (and I’m losing my mornings to language classes), I’ve been trying my hand at plein air nocturnes lately.
Last winter I tried one nocturne of the small bar around the corner from my house. The idea was to sketch the composition in pencil and then begin the lay-in on site. However, for the bulk of the work, I had the painting upstairs in my studio and in the evenings (when I would walk the dog around the neighborhood) I would stop and try to memorized the view and then run back upstairs and paint from memory. It was like sight-sizing from a block away. The idea was based on the quote by Degas about memory drawing:
“If I were to open an academy I would have a five-story building. The model would pose on the ground floor with the first-year students. The most advanced students would work on the fifth floor.”
This year I’m more prepared. These new clip-on LED lights work very well, and have a much cooler light than the ones you could buy, years ago, when I last tried plein air landscape painting at night. The brand I’m using is Mighty Bright from Santa Barbara, CA and I have the two pronged ones they make for orchestra conductors. (Edit: As Jerry Campbell commented, these lights can be slightly blue. I also found myself compensating to knock down the oranges. Pushing the light right up to the canvas warms it up a bit, but if anyone one has a suggestion for a more neutral plein-air-at-night lighting solution, I’d love to hear it).
A second set of lights would be great as I don’t get enough light consistently across the panels and have to move the light to where I’m working.
Painting in the snow at night can be really cold. I wrote a post last winter on keeping warm, which you can read here.
More to come. In the meantime, here are a couple more from the heavy snows we’ve had this month in Zagreb.