Thursday, February 26, 2009

How to Paint Nocturns

Painting at night, so called nocturns, can produce some of the most beautiful art work. Colors come out of nowhere are can be wonderful or catastrophic. The best way is to use a headlamp like miners wear. These wrap around your head and cast a light on your palette. The new ones with LED light technology are very good, well balanced. You must also know your color placement by heart in case you can't see well enough to dab the right color paint. A street lamp is sometimes useful but you can't count on it. The painting seen on the right is Carmel mission Nocturn. Sometimes I get up at 4 in the morning and paint so the colors can be very interesting. Good painting is good observation so it is important to capture light bouncing off the ground and close up on the wall toward the right hand side. These strong transitions make for interest and help invite the viewer into the rest of the painting. Notice also the cool greys to the left of the figures. These contrast well with the yellow light. Probably most famous for his nocturns is western cowboy artist Frank Tenny Johnson who blended cool greens and blues over yellow ochre and had drama; perhaps one small window that was cad yellow, the other 99% in cool greens and blues. Orchestrate your paintings to make one simple statement. For other plein air tips, see my friend Ed Terpening who has an excellent blog on all sorts of things in the plein air scene. The nocturn below was painted at Monterey and the pink boat against the green building provided a colorful red green contrast. I painted this about 9pm after dinner and a couple of beers. (Alcohol provided extra courage.) But note how all the boats point into the painting, keeping interest in the middle of the painting. The one in the right hand corner acts as a lead in to the strong light in the upper left corner. The colors are so much fun but the values must hold togther--that is make sense and read correctly. Once that happens, you can place any color you want.
In the example below by Frank Tenney Johnson, cool greys and blue greens are the primary colors. Very subdued yet the figure jumps out in contrast. Using a wash underneath the painting helps with harmony and keeps his value structure in tact such as yellow ochre or ult. blue. Hope this helps. Paint outside and practice. You can also work from memory but it is more difficult.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009


The Figure evokes different feelings and thoughts and has been a subject of mine for many years. My favorite figure painters are James Singer Sargent and Juaqin Sorolla. I loved the loose yet accurate rendition by these master painters. Also, especially in Mia in Light (posted in this blog) is the light and how the clothing helps the light to flow down throughout the painting. I did this last week with friends in Sacramento who meet once per week. I also enjoyed painting the window in cool light from the right, thanks to my friend Rob Sandidge who has mentored me for ten years. The mauves and blues in the shadow side of the dress were also challenging.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Future Shows

In April, I will be at West Portal in south San Francisco the 3rd, then Menlo Park the 17th, 18, and 19 and on May 3rd I will be in Saratoga. Also, Carmel art festival will be 14th thru the 17th of May with 70 of the best painters in the state. That is always a hoot. I went painting out with my friend Frank Ordaz who did a wonderful job of No hands bridge. I am also doing a large figurative painting from a scene in Italy at Cinque Terra with a priest and crucifix. Rather somber piece but I liked the red robe of the priest so had to paint it. The painting on the right is of Tuscany where the poppies grow everywhere. This is about 30 miles north of Sienna in the countryside. Very beautiful and scenes to paint abundant.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Silvio's Corner Latest from Artist Silvio Silvestri

What is Happening? Silvio just returned from the Coast after five days of painting. A brief trip resulted in some interesting art from Santa Barbara to points north including carmel, san luis obispo, and Monterey. The results are new paintings posted in my website at The ocean was very smooth, leading to colors in the water I rarely see. The reflections and green grass were brightly lit. Also, have continued my work from Italy where poppies were abundant and farm houses picturesque. I have been back for 7 months and am still perfecting my technique on rendering the distant hills. Tuscany has got to be one of the most incredible places on earth. Finally, the eastern sierra, Mammoth lakes area always draws my attention. The painting above is below Bishop showing descending light as it flows over the crest. To paint this beauty is such a gift and I hope this inspires you.