Painting Light Effects

Warm afternoon light effect

This painting is a good example of painting light effects when out plein air painting. At the end of a long day of plein air painting, my friend Myrrh and I turned down a dirt road and found this beautiful view to paint! After an incident with ants and moving our set up a couple of times, we finished our paintings, packed up the car (which always takes longer than expected) and pulled away just as the sun was setting.

This was a great opportunity to capture the warm late afternoon sun on the landscape. I’m paying close attention these days to the colors in morning light and how they differ from the light in the middle of the day and especially in the afternoon. It’s easy to understand why artists have painted the same scene over and over at different times of the day.

Different colors throughout the day

I love painting the cool morning light when the sky just above the horizon has a beautiful cool green tint to it. In the middle of the day the colors are warm and the blue of the sky is reflected on everything; grass, trees, all objects. The horizon is often a violet color before it turns to cerulean above that. Then as the sun starts to sink in the sky, everything slowly becomes illuminated with warm oranges and yellows. The horizon and clouds turn pink. The challenge is to capture colors before they change.

Monet and light effects

The artist that comes first to my mind is Claude Monet, he is well known for painting the same scene many times to study the effect of light on his subject. The three paintings above by Monet of the same subject are in different light. Very inspiring! The light is one of the reasons painting can be a lifelong pursuit! Every painting is a new . . . . um, challenge.

An exercise

It would be a great idea to paint some of our favorite scenes over and over in different light. Painting the same scene under various light effects would be very informative. Even in painting different scenes I can spread out a stack of paintings on my studio floor and easily group them by the time of day I painted them.

Hay bales! That would be the perfect subject to paint over and over. We don’t have hay “stacks” around here (partly because it’s 2019!) but there are quite a few fields full of large hay bales during haying season. Here’s a painting of hay bales I did a few years ago.

Ok enough about my big plans! Above is a photo of my set up, just after finished my painting. We took a couple of photos, then cleaned our brushes and packed everything into the car. By the time we drove off 20-30 minutes later, the light was gone and we had the beautiful sky below as we started the 2 hour drive back to Houston.

Yup, I know, I need to paint that too! It’s on the list.

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