Sunday, June 28, 2015

The Lights Of Noyo Harbor Oil on Linen (UPDATED)

This painting was a learning experience, start to finish.  Unlike my first night scene of Noyo harbor, which had some fairly well lit boats and water-front buildings that could be painted with color and a little detail, this scene is from a greater distance.  As a result, all of the structures are shrouded in darkness and can only be suggested with subtle value changes. There's little or no opportunity for color notes except for a few places where the lights reflect on nearby buildings and other surfaces.  I've never painted anything with those restrictions.  It was fun learning my way around the concept.

I started with a small color study.  I am finding this a very important step when contemplating a lager studio painting that will require a lot of  time commitment.  The study not only helps to visualize the final painting, but it quickly reveals obvious problems and gives you an opportunity to think about them and eventually correct them.  The final painting is done on stretched oil-primed linen.  It was a very smooth weave.  I would probably opt for a little more texture if I had it to do over.  A lot of glazing went on in the areas of the water and more importantly in the hills.  It helped bring the values of the textures in the hills together to reinforce the lack of light, while at the same time allowing enough change to be able to keep the hills from being black slabs.  The final painting is 18" x 36".

This was easily the most difficult painting to photograph that I have encountered.  The surface is very smooth linen and it has a glossy varnish on top.  The hills do have value changes to suggest shapes and trees, but because they are still very dark, the camera wants to average them into the overall value.  Finding a way to capture the darkness of the painting yet also reveal the subtle value changes which give definition to the structures and the hills was a real challenge.  This photo comes as close to the actual painting as any I have taken.  I finally quit trying to put light on the painting and went in exactly the opposite direction.  I took this in a room with no lights on at all and with the blinds on the windows closed a tightly as possible.  I used shutter control and finally found the ideal at about a 1/4 second exposure, f/4.8, iso 400.  No 'adjustments' in photoshop were needed.  

The Lights of Noyo Harbor  Oil on linen   36" x 18"

Color Study Noyo Harbor 9 x 12
And this is the color study.  As you can see, I choose a more horizontal format for the final painting, which I believe captures the actual scene much more accurately.  I've mentioned many times before that a canvas size ration of 2 (W) to 1 (H) is ideal for painting almost any landscape.  It just seems true to the way we see such scenes. 

My Art Site: Bruce Hancock Fine Art


  1. Good work! You are very talented!


    1. Thank you for your good words, Britta....and thanks too for stopping by the blog!

  2. Very nice effect.
    A difficult painting to execute.
    It's frustrating to be unable to transfer the painting into an acceptable photograph. Sometimes the shifts are remarkable.

  3. Thank you Neil. I'm pleased with the outcome. This is the second 'nocturne' I've tried, so it has been a leaning experience every step of the way. I'm considering re-varnishing it with a matte varnish this time, since even in person the smooth linen, dark subject matter and a glossy varnish creates very strong light reflections. I have ordered a frame for it and once I have that in hand I'll decide what to do about the varnish.
    Thanks for stopping by and commenting.