Nocturnal Watercolor: Waiting for the Moon

Study for Waiting for the Moon 14×21 Watercolor & Pastel

I just finished this study for a nocturnal watercolor inspired by a solstice moonrise I watched from the chateau in France last month. A broad horizon, unencumbered by tall buildings was a perfect vantage point to watch the moon rise from the distant hills in Provence. The chateau sits on a hilltop, overlooking the valley, and it whispers details of history to you from fire scars on her 14th century stonework, and windows shaped perfectly by stonemasons to accommodate a bow and arrow taking aim at approaching intruders.

Beginning with glazing in watercolor washes

Painting nocturnes is challenging, and I think painting them in watercolor is particularly tricky. Taking the pigments dark enough to communicate dusk or night time, but keeping little points of light from distant buildings requires painting around the paper to preserve those whites, or using frisket or masking film.  I painted around the light, and used a wax candle resist in a few areas.

Adding layered color and texture with pastels

After the watercolor dried, I added pastel to increase contrast, saturation and textures. But I still missed the mark of what I had in mind by a wide margin, so I’m starting again today, this time on Yupo paper so there’s no need to paint around lights. The next version of this painting should be looser, less noodled in details, and more colorful, more confident, and closer to what I see in my mind – assuming I’ve left my mistakes on the study. 🙂

The same peek-a-boo view in the daytime at the chateau

When you struggle with a painting till you’ve exhausted every fix known to mankind, do you toss it in the Lessons heap, and start over, or do you try to beat the pigments into submission? Sometimes, AH-HAH! moments slap me in the forehead, and I realize I’m sweating to save a piece because of the time I’ve put into it.  Stacking more time to preserve the already-spent time? Duhh. That’s a futility-sandwich. The first pass was a lesson! That was an opportunity to leave my mistakes on the study (Yes, just re-title it “study” and Ta-Dah!, you’re free to move about the studio & start over.) Deep breath – my time was well-spent, after all!  I can start fresh and confident on the next version of that painting, as long as I do it right away, when those lessons are still zippity-doo-dah fresh in my art-making brain.

So, I’m off to get it done. Hopefully, I’ll be sharing the results in the next post. Wish me luck!

Happy painting to you today. Thanks for stopping by! (If you’d like to get these posts via email as they’re published, you can subscribe here.)


Art Quote

Vision, Uncertainty, and Knowledge of Materials are inevitabilities that all artists must acknowledge and learn from: vision is always ahead of execution, knowledge of materials is your contact with reality, and uncertainty is a virtue.

~David Bayles

5 thoughts on “Nocturnal Watercolor: Waiting for the Moon”

  1. Pingback: Watercolor: First Day in Italy (& #linklove on staying focused) - Belinda Del Pesco

  2. Hi Belinda,
    I love your blog! I’m always here, although I don’t comment every time.
    Your reflection about stacking more time to preserve the already-spent time in a painting is for me……Kkkk
    Thank you very much!
    your study is great, I’m looking forward to see the next version.

    1. Hello Cristiane! Thanks for the visit, and I’m glad the advise I’m writing to myself is resonating for you too! Here’s to jumping into a fresh start on the tough paintings a little earlier!

  3. Belinda, your blog is a treasure. Once again, thank you.

    I am working from a day photo and suddenly, once the painting was quite laid in, there was an urge for a moon, so now the whole scene is changing in time, in glazes – all in acrylic. Your ‘nocturnal’ is informing my imagination – as now I am working from imagination, which is not my forte. So – again, thank you.


    1. Hi Mary,
      I clink my coffee mug to yours as a toast to the moon. I hope your experiment is fun and expansive and a pleasure to look at.
      Thanks for the compliments. I’m glad our imaginations are keeping good company. 🙂

Write something.... pretend we're neighbors, and we’re painting watercolors together in the garden....