What’s the best way to depict a scene set at night?
Sarah Tilloite, France
Answer Ville replies
An important thing I keep in mind when painting night-time scenes is avoiding limiting my values too much. In paintings we have to account for the smaller range of values that we have to work with, compared to the huge range our pupils can perceive (by their ability to allow in less or more light, depending on the ambient lighting conditions).
I don’t necessarily go all the way to pure white or black, but I keep the value range broad enough for the form to read correctly. I also keep the colours fairly desaturated, especially reds, which appear much darker and less saturated under moonlight. This enables me to add details to the painting while still maintaining a night-time setting.
I restrict myself to not going overboard with adding details. Our eyes aren’t very good at seeing small details in low-light situations, so simplifying larger masses and using a lot of soft edges can help to sell the night-time mood. Put the details where they really count: the focal points
I start the painting by blocking in the main forms, keeping the values tight and nailing down the colour palette.
I add details around the head of the creature, which creates a focal point in the dark scene.