November Night

It’s November, and here in the midwest that can mean cold, rainy — or even snowy — nights. Last night we listened to the winds howling outside the door. The temperature was actually unseasonably warm, and those warm temperatures were meeting up with a cold front resulting in storm systems over much of the country.

I couldn’t resist hurrying outside to grab a few photos. I’m currently doing a lot of black-and-white studies, tonal value studies, and studies specifically about nocturnal paintings. So, grabbing a few reference photos seemed like a good thing to do.

Here’s what a November night looks like from our front porch as storm clouds move in.

NN 1

I’m going to love painting from these references. I love the deep blues, the blacks and grays, and oh, how I love that spooky Gothic-looking tree.

If you’re interested in painting nocturnes or moonscapes as they’re sometimes called, here are a few helpful tips:

  • If you’re painting en plein air, the best nights are those with a full moon. This provides contrasts of light and shadow which lead to dramatic, dynamic paintings.
  • Tonal values will be more limited in moonlight than in sunlight. Even the brightest lights should be a couple values down from white.
  • Moonlight is a cool light, often casting a blue or silvery-green hue on everything around it.
  • Artificial lights — campfires, street lamps, or lighting from buildings — will diminish the effects of moonlight.
  • Look for ways to use complementary colors. These should be subtle touches. Even an elusive whisper of color will impact the viewer.
  • With nocturnes as with daytime scenes, the rule is still the same: warm colors come forward, and cool colors recede.
  • The lightest values will be closest to you, and in a night scene will quickly recede down the tonal value scale as objects get farther away.
  • Light tone value elements in your painting (snow, pale sand, or white objects) will be heavily influenced by the silvery-green color cast from the moonlight.

Yes, I’m going to love painting from my November night photographs, and while I paint, I’ll also enjoy listening to a few of my favorite classical nocturnes. Here’s a link so you can enjoy them, too.

Top 50 Most Popular Classical Nocturnes

Music lovers, please note… John Field isn’t included in the collection! Not sure how his works were overlooked when this was compiled, but you’ll find many other beautiful, haunting “night-time” melodies.


    1. I love the photos! Right now I have a summer landscape scene, a sunrise, and 2 other paintings either on the easel or getting ready to go… so it’s going to be a while before I get to these paintings. Sometimes I wish I had more time for art, but realistically I know it’s good for me to keep a healthy balance between art and the rest of life, so I’m not pushing myself. But I am looking forward to painting those nocturnal scenes!


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