This is what I've been working on this week. All my talk about moonlight got me to thinking--hey, something has to!-- anyway, as I am a lover of history, I tried to imagine what it might have looked like back in the day when we got about by horse. (It's a little known fact that here in Maine, sleighs were used in the winter time well into the 1930's. Winter roads haven't improved much since then, but snow tires help). I also thought it would be fun to paint a nocturne.
So I quickly jotted down my idea:
I'll use any scrap of paper handy, I'm not proud. I thought this idea had some merit, so I made another sketch-- this time in my small sketchbook.
You know, if I can repeatedly draw an idea without a whole lot of changes, then I think I may have something. If every sketch strays away from my initial idea, it's almost certain the concept wasn't clear in my mind. Having a clear mental image doesn't necessarily mean it'll be a great painting, but it sure helps keep me on track.
Next, I grabbed a 12X16 inch masonite panel and went at it.
What intrigued me about this idea was how to portray the moon light. In my mind, the full moon is almost directly overhead, as it would be in December or January here in Maine. The challenge is to make the light right. Moon light is not just like the sun, only blue-green. It's reflected light, and it doesn't light up the shadows like the sun. So what isn't in direct moonlight is uniformly dark. It also washes out color. It can lead to a very monochromatic painting that lacks depth. So, the trick was in trying to balance the highlights against the deep shadows.
What I tried to do was put a shadowed form against a lighter surface, and a lighter surface against a shadow. Now for color. Like I said, moonlight doesn't show color. Only white light does that, so I introduced color by having a light in the window shining on the figures and tree. I used the lamp on the sleigh to light the horse. Having multiple light sources was also a fun challenge.
So there you have it. Is it a great painting? Nah. But it was great fun to do. I'll probably tweak a thing or two here and there, but this is basically it. You know, the great thing about painting is we can create our own little worlds. In this case, I got to go on a moonlight sleigh ride and never have to leave my nice warm studio!