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Stairways to Heaven - Perspectives No. 108

Stairways to Heaven
Perspectives No. 108


The Afterglow by Frederic Church
The Afterglow                         Frederic Edwin Church

"Of the original phenomena, light is the most enthralling." - Leonardo da Vinci

   Crepuscular rays are those wonderful beams of light we see at the beginning or end of the day which appear to radiate from the single point of the sun and stream through gaps in the clouds or between other objects. Their name comes from the Latin word "crepusculum", meaning twilight, and refers to their most common occurrences during the hours around dawn and dusk. They have long been sources of inspiration to artists, poets and movie-makers, for they seem to inspire a feeling of hope and wonderment. It is easy to understand why these dramatic shafts of light are also known as Buddha Rays, Stairways to Heaven and God Fingers.

   Because crepuscular rays pass through the atmosphere at dawn and dusk, their path takes them through up to forty times as much air as rays from the overhead midday sun pass through. Particles in the air scatter the light from short wavelengths, such as blue and green, more strongly than that from longer wavelengths, such as yellow and red causing crepuscular rays to usually appear red and yellow.

   They can be surprisingly difficult to paint. Their edges are soft, and become more softened as they get wider and closer to the ground. They are usually uneven in density and widths. Because they are a very short-lived phenomena, a good photo is very helpful to study their effect. Trying to paint a background and then applying a thin glaze of tinted white over the top looks artificial and pasted on. To create this effect convincingly, each ray and everything it passes over or through must be painstakingly painted individually, with the lighted tones of each object in its path varying in chroma and value along the entire length of the sun beam. When painted masterfully, the effect is one of light emanating from the canvas itself. Painting the effect of crepuscular rays, or light beams coming through a mist is a great exercise to practice mixing correct values, colors and edges. It is difficult to get right, but definitely worth a try, and we guarantee that you will learn a good deal from the effort.

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A Primer on Night Painting - Nocturnes

Nocturnes - A Primer on Night Painting

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.

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About Us

Photograph of John Hulsey and Ann Trusty in Glacier National Park
We are artists, authors and teachers with over 40 years of experience in painting the world's beautiful places. We created The Artist's Road in order to share our knowledge and experiences with you, and create a community of like-minded individuals.  You can learn more about us and see our original paintings by clicking on the links below.
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