Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Painting in Morning Light

"On the Edge", Oil on Panel, 6x6 inches
Jerry Lebo, 2007


Today was my last day of painting in Santa Fe, so I thought I'd post one of the landscape studies I have been working on this week. Every morning we take a 30 minute walk around the area we are staying and most of the time we end up walking through the arroyo (sort of a drainage area--for those of you not familiar with the west). I have several times noticed how these pinon and juniper trees seem to cling to the top edges of the arroyo--slowly being pulled into the abyss. After a heavy rain you can sometimes find the losers at the bottom of the arroyo, as the steady force of erosion takes away their last piece of earth. This guy was still holding on--so I thought I'd do a painting of his plight.

You may notice that the basic color scheme of the earth and sky in this painting is a pinkish orange and soft blue hue. This is typical of the morning light in Santa Fe--and is quite different from the evening light. Which brings me to the point of today's posting, which is dealing with the difference between morning and evening light.

The first thing a plein air painter learns when painting outdoors is not to start a painting in the morning at one location and expect to come back in the evening to finish it. You will have to wait until the next morning to work on it again. Why? First, the light in the evening will be coming from the opposite side of the morning. Which means that in the above painting, instead of being cross lighted from the right, it would have changed to a cross light from the left--and slightly behind. It would be a totally different painting.

The second issue to keep in mind is that evening light is coming at a different angle than morning light. The result is that the colors you would observe in the same spot would differ significantly. To use Santa Fe as an example, the morning sky and ground tend to be on the pinkish and pale blue side. In the evening, the ground/earth is much more reddish and darker tone, and the sky a darker richer blue which tends towards a greenish tint.

I have always enjoyed painting mostly in the morning. The light is so mellow and receptive to a harmonious palette. The air is cool, and the hopes of the day are still at hand. Give me a good cup of coffee and a clear morning light and I could paint for hours.

I will miss Santa Fe, as I always do when I leave. But, there are more painting thrills and spills to be had back home in Washington. I am looking forward to some late summer and fall painting, and will keep you posted of the results. In the meantime, keep on painting--and feel free to send comments on topics or issues you would like to see discussed in my blog.

All the best. Sixtyminuteartist.

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