The weather was not at all promising for clear skies but miraculously, the stormy weekend gave way to a clear Sunday evening. The full moon on November 21 inspired me to head down to East Beach to capture it rising over Montecito.
I've been asked many times about the process of painting outdoors at night. Here is a bit about the experience of painting nocturne en plein air. First of all, it is usually cold, windy, and if I am near the beach, damp. Often there are people around at night that make me more than a little nervous. Luckily I have painting friends that are as passionate about getting out there to capture the beautiful and mysterious night sky as I am. Thomas Van Stein, Dorene White, and Filberto Lomeli are three I can usually count on. Thomas has been a mentor for the rest of us, patiently teaching us the tricks of the nocturne painter's techniques. He has been a source of boundless information and inspiration.
There is also the challenge of proper lighting. When I first start sketching in the drawing of my painting, there is usually enough light from the setting sun to see what I am doing. Quickly everything changes, and I had better be ready with several book lights clipped around my easel to flick on when it gets too dark to see.
This is when the fun begins. I am painting as much with intuition as I am with experience gained from having painted dozens of nocturnes. The color palette that develops usually starts with a color I see in the sky. Some twilight hours are pink, others can be purple, the one here was momentarily turquoise. So I stuck with that color as a basis for the painting. But, of course, it all is happening so fast. I get my color palette mixed up, my composition laid in, and I fully concentrate on expressing the magic I am witnessing as the sky darkens and the moon rises. Two hours later, I am usually done. I might be too cold to continue, too tired to stand, or (if I am lucky) satisfied with my effort. I drag my tired self and my gear back to the car and hope for the best.
This 9 x 12, Hunter's Moon Over Montecito was a welcome sight when I woke up Monday morning. It, along with many other nocturnes are displayed on my website, cynthiaburt.com. The crescent moon is soon. I'll cross my fingers that the weather is cooperative. And I'll post pictures of my next adventure.