Nocturnes, Night Plein Air painting in London (No 2)

alla prima guerilla thumbox landscape london London Painter night painting nocturnes oil oil on board plein air plein air nocturnes Rosemary Brushes Trafalgar Square Urban Sketching

This is another nocturne plein air I have done in London. This particular one was done on 2, 10" x 8" boards. I started off the first one then I thought it didn't justify the scene, so I decided to add another 10" x 8" board to it.

Trafalgar Square at Night, 20" x 8", Oil on board

 These are some other shots of the painting session in progress.

The First session in progress.

As I must have mentioned before, painting at night is a brilliant exercise, the light remains constant and if you've got great surrounding light around from street lamps and possibly a head lamp- the job at hand would be made much easier!

At this point I had added the second board.
Some people have often asked how I get my pictures taken. Well, while painting in London, so many people stand and watch for hours while the painting is in progress, a lot of people love to take pictures too, especially tourists. It's from these folk that I politely ask for them to take me a picture too. I show them exactly what I want and they are always more than willing to help. When I don't see these guys, I basically keep asking until someone agrees. I have also devised a plan of taking myself, I used this technique while Painting in Bath but they normally make me look a bit foreshortened. But they are better than not having a picture at all.

This is the finished piece with the scene

The Pochade box I am using was made by Guerilla Painter, this particular one is the 6" x 8" Thumbox. It has some extensions that make it also useful for 8" x 10" work.


"Areas of light can occur as pinpoints in a night scene, such as streetlights or car headlights, or as a broad pane of light in the window of a house, so it is necessary to carefully compose using them. It is easy to end up with a piece that looks spotty, with points of light scattered in a disjointed way all over the painting. Design with the thought of how the viewer’s eye will move through the piece.

Remember that the area where the lightest light and the darkest dark come closest together will draw the eye first and become the focal point of the piece. Sometimes in a dark painting the largest area of light will become the focal point, such as a large window where the light pours out. Be sure that in either of these cases that the visual pathway formed by any other points of light compliments and reinforces this focal point, rather than drawing the eye away.

Light areas in a night painting are the perfect place to use exciting colors, such as the sulphur yellow and lime green of the lighted square in Van Gogh’s painting. The contrast of dark surrounding the light accentuates it, making it a special feature of your painting. Different kinds of bulbs cast light of varying hues. Incandescent bulbs are warm and yellowish, fluorescent light is generally cool and neon light is intense.

All bright lights at night have a slight halo, a softening of the edges where the light seems to hang in the air. The night air is somewhat moist and this vapor holds the light inside it. The larger the light and the wetter the night, the bigger the halo tends to be. Technically you can achieve this effect by saving an area in the dark plane where the light will be, then laying in a medium color, perhaps a red, and blending it slightly into the surrounding darkness. Then add a layer of a medium-light color, depending on the color of the light itself, and allow the color beneath to show at the edges. A final touch of the lightest color in the center, usually very light yellow or white, simulates the brilliance of the light shining in the darkness
."- From an Article on Night Painting (source not mentioned) (c) Deborah Christensen Secor

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