I did my first nocturne painting in 2017. I signed up for the Paint Annapolis event which includes a nocturne painting event. So I had to quickly teach myself how to paint a nocturne.
As preparation for that event I did some research and did a practice session. I read on the internet that I needed to purchase at least two battery operated lights, one for my canvas and one for my pallet that produce a minimum of light (which is counter-intuitive) so that the light does not interfere with my subject or my own vision. I will need my pupils to dilate enough to see well in the dark and my canvas and palette lighting should not interfere with that.
I ordered a few book reading lights to experiment with and then put them to test painting at night on East 23rd Street in Manhattan. The painting that I painting that night is a view looking west on 23rd Street with the iconic Met-life tower lit in a light green color. The painting was challenging to paint, but it came out very well. It remains one of my favorites. One bonus is that the city streets are much quieter at night so my view was not blocked by people like it would be during the day. Another bonus is that the scene is simpler. Many items (details) disappear. In the distance are many trees that were very visible at 9 pm, and they gradually disappeared as the sky grew darker.
The following week, I was on a downtown street in Annapolis with the bay behind me, looking west toward the capitol building. The capitol building has a beautiful navy blue dome. At night it is lit with blue lights that turn the dome into a dome that appears to glow with a baby blue light. The streets in this historic part of town are arranged like spokes on a wheel, so my vantage point allowed me to see two streets at once. The streets are paved with bricks giving the street a warm color in the areas where it is lit. This painting came out very well and is very different from anything else that I have painted.
It takes just as long for me to paint a nocturne painting as any other painting, which means eventually I find myself on a completely empty street in the wee hours of the morning, completely exhausted. This is something I can only do during a vacation so nocturne will always be rare.
My third nocturne was done in Mineral Point on August 12th, 2021. The event began at 8 PM which was when the sun was beginning to set. In daylight, this building has locally mad brick that is a light red in color. As the sky darkened the red hues disappeared and the brick became indistinguishable from yellow brick. building has yellow colored siding. The color of that building did not change as dramatically when the sun set.
The store dates to the 1800s and its appearance has not been modified much. It has an interesting lopsided symmetry. About 3/4 of the first floor street facade is storefront and 14th is an entrance to the apartment upstairs. The second floor facade is unified and more symmetric. The main street is on a steep hill so the pedestal section of the facade is triangular shaped and there is a steep step up to the store’s main entrance. For a significant portion of the evening, a can blocked my view of that front step requiring me to guess the actual number of steps there. Here is a photo of the work in progress that also includes the building. The building facade is lit by single street light.
Here is the finished painting.