painting nocturnes
"Main Street Liquors" by Carl Bretzke

On painting nocturnes:

“I’ve always been a huge fan of nocturne paintings,” Carl Bretzke said. “As a kid, I hung a poster of Hopper’s ‘Nighthawks’ in my room. In 2010 during the Carmel Art Festival (Carmel, CA), my wife and I visited one of the local art galleries and saw a nocturne by Charles Rollo Peters (a historic California impressionist). I was so impressed that thereafter I committed to painting at least one nocturne in each of my plein air events. I continue to do so today.

“Just as a bright light in the darkness attracts a person’s attention, so too does a painting of something brightly lit against a dark background. The high contrast grabs your attention from across the room. On top of that, add subtle value transitions plus prismatic color transitions away from the light sources and you will have a painting that even experienced painters will appreciate.

“I’ve also discovered that nocturnes are not that difficult to paint since the dark areas typically don’t require too much detail and usually represent large areas of your canvas. Additionally, because you are not dealing with moving sunlight, nocturnes are similar to painting a still life where the light doesn’t change for hours.”

Related Article: Are Nocturnes Easier to Paint?

For over 18 hours of instruction on painting nocturnes and sunsets, be sure to check out Carl Bretzke’s workshops here. And learn from him live, in person at the 10th Annual Plein Air Convention & Expo, May 21-25, 2023 in Denver, Colorado!

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