As an artist I am often distracted from a daily chore by something unusual, beautiful or simply amazing. I usually have my camera with me and often my sketchbook and paints.
This week the full moon was rising over the city as the sky was darkening. Light clouds moved slowly toward the moon and for only a few seconds, surrounded it, creating the illusion of an eye in the sky.
The setting below the moon was simply a rooftop with a satellite dish, but the artist in me knew this image would make a great painting in a different setting. Just a block away on the corner of Crestmoor Drive and Piedmont Avenue the city lights glowed below the dark blue sky. “Perfect!” I said to myself.
Instead of painting outside, I took some pictures of the night lights. I was hungry and dinner was waiting, so I went home. Later in the evening, the full moon moved into view, perfectly framed in the window by my painting table.
I chose oil paints because I am able to mix more brilliant colors. Also the glossy texture of the paints would enhance the visual effect of the iridescent city lights below the glowing moon.
I added extra walnut oil to my paints to make them even more shiny, but also to allow the colors to slide onto the canvas more smoothly. I mixed the colors with my brush and mixed them again on the canvas, blending the blues, whites, and purples into the sky.
With blue still on my brush I added new colors for the sweep of land across the bay, then a touch of white to lighten it for the water below.
I was into the flow of painting and forgot to clean my brush to get the dark foreground colors. Into the viridian green, naphthol crimson, and cadmium yellow I swirled my blue brush, then tested the colors on the canvas. They looked dark from a distance, but up close the greens, purples and blues shone through.
The dance of the city lights were painted in all my favorite bright colors. Some collected in rows and others were scattered randomly about. Music in the background gave a rhythm to my brushstrokes.
Then a slow jazz piece started playing on the radio. I washed the brush, mixed the paints to the music and painted the moon, like an eye in the sky watching me, while looking over San Bruno.
Janet Arline Barker is a San Bruno artist who specializes in plein-art painting. Her column appears biweekly on Sundays.