Nocturne Notes - Christopher Leeper
In our 2020 Voices of Experience interview with Christopher Leeper, we noted his facility with multiple mediums—watercolor, oil and acrylic. He has used all three mediums in his nocturnes as well, but says that acrylic seems to fit the unique conditions of working at night best for him. Leeper sent us examples of his nocturnes in all three mediums along with his tips for artists wanting to explore night time painting en plein air. Visit our interview with Leeper to see more of his work or go to his website: Christopher Leeper Fine Art.
Christopher Leeper's Five Tips
This was a studio painting based on a photo. Since most of the values of the landscape were rather dark and similar, it was important to render the subtle color changes to show the depth of form.
This painting was done as a demonstration video on my YouTube channel. Many layers of a Indanthrone Blue/Permanent Brown/Raw Umber mixture were used to get the inky black of the sky and water.
Lakeside Nocturne is one of the quickest plein air nocturnes I have completed. The time painting was about 45 minutes. I like the brevity and economy of the brushwork. Sometimes less is more when it comes to night-time paintings. When you render too much detail, it can defeat the fleeting impression that our eyes take in at night and can create an unrealistic and stiff painting.
I had been painting all day as part of the Cape Ann, MA Plein Air event. I was hoping to finish the day with a nocturne. I started the block-in and then hit a wall. I stood there in a stupor and just could not make myself do it. All I could think about was going back to my host’s house and sleeping. When that happens, you pack it up and leave. It was finished later in the studio.
In 2016, I participated in the En Plein Air Texas event in San Angelo, TX. I found this great subject when I was wandering around in downtown San Angelo. When I saw this red bus sitting behind the Dead Horse Saloon I was thrilled. What an amazing subject! Little did I know that it would be the most memorable nocturne painting of my career. It turned out that the bus was owned by a Michigan-based traveling rock-and-roll burlesque group. They lived and traveled the country on this bus. As I worked late into the night, the barely dressed female group members would come out to the alley to see my progress. It was a surreal and fun evening of painting.
The two paintings above are older, studio pieces (2012-2013). They were based on extensive photography sessions in the Youngstown, Ohio area. I was intrigued by the reflected light of the city upon the winter sky. Most of the photos were shot on rainy, damp evenings that would create atmosphere and reflections.
Another older, studio piece based on my photography sessions in the Youngstown, Ohio area.
Many thanks to Christopher Leeper for providing his images and text on Nocturne painting. All artwork copyright Christopher Leeper.
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The Artist's Road Store
Filled with inspirational examples by the masters of nightime painting, this little book is sure to fire up your creative energies. Never tried painting at night? We show you how it's done with a step-by-step-oil demo and a tale of night painting in the wilds of Rocky Mountain National Park. The Primer on Night Painting - Nocturnes is a 7 x 7" PDF download with 40 pages of text and images. It includes a gallery of paintings by masters of the nocturne, information to inspire and encourage you in your plein air nocturne painting, an illustrated step-by-step demo and tips for working in pastel and oil. Also available in a softcover edition. Check out the tools and other products that we use in our own art and travels in The Artist's Road Store. We only offer things for sale that we enthusiastically believe in.