Lights in the Sky; Lights from the Land; Street and City

November 3, 2020

Bradford: photo

This week we’ll consider street lights and other urban lights.  The principles are exactly the same as last week; huge tonal differences between the light source and its surroundings.

Last week you were invited to make a very representational painting or to use your imagination to invent a moonlit scene. This week you may consider a representational approach or look at the abstract patterns made by traffic and street lighting which would work very well in pastel on dark papers. A few ideas for working in pastel or watercolour are outlined below.

If working in pastel or opaque watercolour you may like to consider working on a dark or mid toned paper.  Often street lights are on well before the light fails completely and in this case a mid toned paper may be useful enabling you to easily make some areas lighter and others darker, perhaps using the paper as one of the tones/colours in your painting.

Bradford: photo
This photo could be interpreted as an abstract pattern of lights and dark.

When using pastel and a very dark blue paper, like midnight blue or even indigo, black will make that even darker for the very deepest tones but use it sparingly.  As last week you may need to place your shapes by working with a mid-toned pastel pencil before blocking them in and reserve your palest pastels for the light sources; light from windows, street lamps etc.

London, near Vauxhall Bridge: photo

If you are working in watercolour plan out your composition so that you can either reserve the lightest and white areas by painting around them or by using masking fluid.  Remember not to apply your washes till the masking is absolutely dry.  Then work as you would usually working first the pale areas, then the middle and lastly the darkest washes.  Your palest washes may be washed over pretty much the whole of your paper, lending unity to subsequent washes and you may like to drop in mid tone colours in some areas at this stage. 

London: Going over Vauxhall Bridge from the South

Do look at your reference carefully as there may be areas of reflected light and sharp edged shadows.

The photographic references include a dark night time scene from Bradford and some in London at twilight where the shadows are diffuse and there is less glare from each light source.

Try to avoid reflections in water this week as that will be the subject of the following week’s challenge.  Stick to street lighting, traffic and car lights, shops and window lights and even cafe lighting.  If you are feeling more ambitious try a floodlit building, sports stadium or building site. 

Albert Bridge: photo
Street Lamp: photo

Look at how the light is emitted from the light source.  It may appear as a round dazzle of light as round the sun or from a torch.  It may be directed as the floodlights illuminating a building or stadium.  You may even see “pools” of light on the ground. 

Torch: watercolour, something you may like to try just for fun!
Concentric rings of wet in wet colour were lifted while wet with a small piece of dry paper towel twisted to form a point. This was dragged from the centre outwards, making creative backruns.

Hope this gives you some ideas and there are examples of how several artists have tackled this subject on the Pinterest Board link below.

Works by John Atkinson Grimshaw, Frederick Childe -Hassam and Whistler are featured and also works by the Czech artist Jacob Schikaneder. I especially like his tramway scenes. These artists all worked over a similar period about 1890 to 1920.

Have fun and don’t forget to photograph/sketch some fireworks ready for the week 5 challenge.

Your paintings;

Front Porches
Acrylic by Malcolm
Bradford at Night
Pastel by Jane
After Childe-Hassam
Pastel by Jane
The Embankment at Night
Watercolour by Heather
City Lights
Pastel by Liz
Lamp Light
Pastel by Barbara
High Street Lights
Watercolour and Pastel by Maricarmen
Watercolour and Pastel
by Maricarmen
Rain, Lexington Avenue
Watercolour after Chin H Shin by sarah
Evening Lights, Lexington Avenue
Watercolour after Chi H Shin by Sarah
Night Lights
Pastel by Ann
Lamps at Sunset
Watercolour by Ann
Seoul at Night
Pastel by Shirley
Shanghai Lights
Pastel by John
Old High Street, Folkestone 1
Pastel by Jan
Old High Street, Folkestone 2
Watercolour by Jan
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