Tuesday, November 24, 2020

7:30 p.m., 6:39 a.m.


11/19/20 view across the street, 7:30 p.m.

Inspired by the recent nighttime sketches of Swagatika Panda and Marcia Milner-Brage, I decided to give it a try myself. Unlike hardy Swagatika, who sits on sidewalks to do her nighttime sketching, I picked a cozy livingroom window with a view across the street.

I’ve sketched in the dark a few times before, usually around the holidays or during the last total lunar eclipse, so I know how challenging it is. In addition to the subject being barely visible, it’s also difficult to see one’s sketchbook. I don’t have a head lamp as Marcia had suggested, but I do have a Mighty Bright XtraFlex2 book light that I’ve used at concerts and other poorly lighted venues, and it worked like a charm for this sketch.

Once my pupils had finished dilating, I was surprised by how many subtle differences in hues I started to detect in this scene that I would otherwise describe as colorless and, except for the porchlight and string of holiday lights, “dark.” The house, which is yellow in daylight, retained a warm tone compared to the clouds, which looked bluish (though I’m not happy with the messy look I gave them). I could even detect the gold/orange tone in the small tree next to the car. The pavement and sidewalk reflected more light than I expected, too.

11/22/20 7:10 a.m.
A few days later, I woke around 6:30 a.m. and looked out the window: Pitch black, of course. Even before I put the coffee on, I grabbed my black Stillman & Birn Nova sketchbook again. Looking slightly east of the scene sketched above, I started with what I could see easily – another lighted porch across the street. Within minutes, I detected the sky getting a bit brighter. Strangely, it was cool-hued near the horizon, then a bit peachy above that. . . and yikes, it was changing fast! Flat clouds drifted by rapidly as the sky got brighter and brighter. By 7:10, it was too light to qualify for “nighttime” sketching, so I called it good.

The only thing to look forward to about the long nights growing ever longer is that I’ll have more opportunities to sketch in the dark.


  1. Nice work on both of these! Sketching in the dark is a challenge. I bought a clip on music lamp that a friend recommended when she was giving a nocturn workshop. Of course I carried it in my bag for months and never used it so I took it out. I could have used it when I was sketching the lobster truck. lol I will be watching for more nocturns from you.

    1. Maybe just keep the lamp in your car for darkness that comes too soon...? ;-)


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