Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Pastel Nocturnes That Pierce the Night

Today’s newsletter features the work of Christine Ivers, whose pastel nocturnes beautifully capture the warm glow that can only be seen at night. As you’ll learn in her following article, the technique she uses need not be mysterious to you. Read this, then preview Christine’s pastel painting workshops for free at There’s even an 8-minute demo of the topic she covers here–don’t miss it! ~Cherie

Painting Glowing Lights in Pastel by Christine Ivers, PSA-MP, IAPS/MC

It was by sheer accident that I stumbled across my love of painting night scenes. Actually, it was a rainstorm that precipitated that accident one night when I was eating at a restaurant. I had my camera and when we were exiting the restaurant I was fascinated with all the reflections and bouncing lights. I crossed the street, stood under an awning and shot many pictures of the street that night. Once I saw the photos I had to paint the scene, and I haven’t turned back since.

Painting pastel nocturnes | Christine Ivers,

Christine tells us that “Late Night Dinner” (pastel on Wallis Museum paper, 13×17) was her first nocturne. Click here to preview Pastel Painting Techniques Cityscapes at Night.

The more I painted the night, the more I learned about the incredible variance of illumination. Cool bulbs, warm bulbs and crazy colors in neon…From a simple interior fluorescent bulb lighting the interior of a building to the emanating rays of a stoplight saturating the darkness around it, I was determined to paint these images.

So I studied the lights. I took time to really look at what was happening and quickly realized that it wasn’t so much the color spectrum that made the magic (although so many of us love to play in THAT beautiful world of pastel). Rather, it was actually the value runs that created the dynamics of glowing light. And the astounding thing about that was that I only needed a total of three values to make the lights glow!

Painting pastel nocturnes | Christine Ivers,

Midnight Frosting (pastel on handmade textured Gator Board, 17×24)

Just look at the three “glowing” lights in the distance of Midnight Frosting (above). Three value steps created that illusion. Warm white, warm orange and a slightly cooler red made those lights sing! The same thing happens with the window in the right side of the painting. The source of this glow was a fluorescent overhead in a little beauty parlor next to my studio. Most fluorescent bulbs that businesses use emanate a bluish green light. I wanted to capture the interior, showing that I could see the ceiling of the room, thus the bulb is in the center of the window as I’m looking up and across.

The cast glow and shadows on the snow in the parking lot were made by lights shining off the back of the building and were very warm. If you look closely you’ll see there are many values that create that luscious warm-to-cool area of the painting. The transition to the coolness of the “glow” in the foreground parking lot then melts into the darkness of night. This is one of those paintings that painted itself.

Let’s look at a few close-up examples of different types of colored lights.

Painting pastel nocturnes | Christine Ivers,

This neon bulb glow is comprised on five values. You can see each step as it goes out into darkness. I chose not to go back and thoroughly blend the transitions. My final step was to reapply the soft cool white pastel pencil on the actual bulb. When creating neon glows be sure to have a starting point and an ending point. All neon light fixtures run on gas that is captured within the glass; they’re usually one continuous bulb going in and out of a background of metal to create the word or words for the sign. Since I wanted this glow to fade into darkness I chose the last color for the outer ring to be just one value step away from the black.

Painting pastel nocturnes | Christine Ivers,

In this glow example the illumination is coming from an overhead street lamp. There are many varied bulbs in city lamps and I love the green ones. This example also shows you how I placed the layers of value to travel out to the darkness. I could have used a few more value steps, as I did in the example above, but I wanted this glow to really pierce the night. The other technique used here is to paint the initial rings of color and then go back and forth with each value to blend the pastel. I only used the sticks to do this but you can use your finger or a stump to achieve a very smooth transition if required.

Painting pastel nocturnes | Christine Ivers,

No Smoking Allowed (pastel on Wallis Museum paper, 17×23)

In the painting above I was challenged with not only the glow of the exterior overhead lights but also by the refraction caused by the glass from the interior lights and reflections. In order to create the effect of that refraction I used random strokes that cut through the panes of glass so that the glows weren’t exactly round. Although all of the light sources seemed to be given off by the same type of bulbs, the painting had to tell the story of the interior versus the exterior lighting.

Painting pastel nocturnes | Christine Ivers,

Venetian Glass (pastel on handmade textured Gator Board, 18×24) PIN this!

The “stars” of this painting are the two glows in the foreground with one of them reflecting in the water. In order to make this work with the buildings I had to figure out how to paint the glows over the concrete and make the reflected glow in the water slightly less vibrant than the one above. Using the same methods as before, I just ran the outer rings onto the concrete. One was behind the building on the left so the light reflected on the building has a lighter value. The upper right glow obliterated the building because it was a light that hung off the side of the same structure. I purposely put two extra tiny glows in the back to tie it together.

I hope this gives you some insight as to how relatively easy it is to create the mystique of the night. ~Chris


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