"Night Dwelling" | 9" x 12" | Oil | Not For Sale
©2014 by Kim VanDerHoek
While participating in the Sonoma Plein Air Festival I took some time for myself one night to paint a nocturne. I began this painting with no expectations as to how it would turn out, I simply wanted to explore the subject and work on my nighttime plein air painting skills.
An interesting thing happens when painting at night, color becomes almost irrelevant because I can't see what paint I am mixing very well, even with my headlamp on and surrounding light. That might seem like an exercise in frustration but, it was quite the opposite. The painting became all about value (how light or dark each color is).
When I decided to mix a green, for example, it really wasn't hard because I knew exactly where each paint color is located on my palette. That's because I place them in exactly the same spot each time I paint. So when I wanted a green I was able to mix that color by dipping my brush into the right piles of yellow and blue.
The tricky part wasn't getting the correct color (or hue), like I said it was mixing the right value (how light or dark a color needs to be). Even with diminished light I was able to see well enough to tell when a value was off. That's because when the values were too similar to each other I wasn't able to see any edges or differences between the shapes, they all would blend together.
For example, if the gray on either building was too dark it blended right into the midnight blue sky in the background even though their colors are different. Now, I might see the color difference if I had been painting in daylight, but at night those value relationships are critical simply because I couldn't see the colors of each element at all.
It was surprisingly liberating to paint without worrying about what color choices I was making. Plus it's always a surprise to take a nocturne painting home and look at it under better light to see what I end up with. This time I was really happy with the result. I have to wonder if that is because I started the painting without any expectations, if it was because I didn't over-think my color choices, or was it simply because the stars aligned and everything came together for me in that particular moment? Either way, I really enjoyed painting this one, it's a great memory for me and because of that I am keeping it in my own personal collection.