Lights in the Sky, Lights from the Land: Moonlight
October 27, 2020
This week’s challenge is the moon and its effects on the landscape. You may paint an observed scene or introduce something more imaginative. The works of Turner and Samuel Palmer combine large elements of observation with imagination. Much smaller than the sun its size is often exaggerated in paintings; look at Turner’s watercolour sketch of Shields Lighthouse, 1823-26.
Several of Turner’s works together with works by Samuel Palmer and the contemporary artists John Caple and Richard Cartwright and others feature on the Pinterest Board titled Lights in the Sky, Lights from the Land, section: Moon and Stars, Link below;
Another featured artist is the Victorian artist, John Atkinson Grimshaw of whom Whistler famously remarked “I considered myself the inventor of nocturnes until I saw Grimmy’s moonlit pictures.” This is unbelievably arrogant in the face of moonlit paintings by Turner, Palmer etc. years earlier. However it is really worth studying Whistler’s nocturnes of the Thames which we’ll look at in a couple of weeks time.
The moon’s light being a mere reflection of the sun’s light is less bright, but is most often depicted during the hours of darkness, so affords huge contrasts with the darkened skies. Because of the darkness the palette used for painting moonlit scenes is generally less colourful and may be depicted in near monochrome.
This week you may work in pastel which will work very well on a dark paper, perhaps a very dark blue or even a dark burgundy colour as in the demonstration piece below. If you are working in watercolour you may choose a white paper as in the illustration above, or if you consider working in gouache, or white added to your watercolours, again you may like to choose a dark paper. Pastel papers can be stretched in the same way as watercolour paper, or you could work in gouache on an off cut of mount board.
The images below show stages in creating a moonlit landscape based loosely on the Eden valley in Northumberland.
Below are a few suggestions for painting the moon in watercolour.
Whatever your medium, compared with the sun the moon is a tiny object though it appears a good size from earth because of its proximity. It sheds a much paler silvery light on the landscape which is very different from the vast range of hues revealed by direct sunlight.
Your challenge for this week is to paint a picture of a moonlit landscape with the moon visible in the night sky. This may take the form of a very imaginative scene as in the works of John Caple or Richard Cartwight or something more literal. Have fun!