Le Nocturne Francais

I have always loved nocturnes, so it was a real thrill to paint one under a full moon in a beautiful French country village. This little painting was done right in the neighborhood of our home base at Le Vieux Couvent:

Plein air oil painting French nocturne landscape "Le Nocturne Francais" Oil on Multimedia Artboard, 6x8" Click here or on the image for more info.

This painting came about one evening after a full day of touring and painting in the Dordogne countryside, AND after a huge and delicious five course dinner. We were all winding down for the night and Mary, our fearless leader, came in from an after dinner walk she had taken with her husband. They had gone out to find a lovely evening scene just up the street, lit by a street lamp and a full moon. She was going to go painting, she said, and anyone who wanted to join her was also welcome. Well, as tired as I was, I couldn't resist, and neither could most of the other painters. "We're in France! We can sleep later," became the mantra of our time together.

Knowing how quickly things change in the night sky, I took a small surface with me and set up under a nearby streetlamp. While the fog painting posted earlier was a high-key close value painting, this was a close value low-key one. We really couldn't see our colors at all, so it is indeed a good practice to place paint colors habitually in the same positions on the palette!

Gradually my eyes adjusted somewhat, so I just concentrated on shape and subtle differences. After I got the large dark shapes down, the night sky and the window light were the first things I addressed. It was a good thing, as not very long after, the clouds had drifted completely away, and the homeowner had called it a night and turned off the light.