House across the street, Christmas nocturne, no.2

House across the street, Christmas nocturne, no.2, pastel, 30x25in., originally uploaded by ahtravis.


I painted it last night, in my dark living room, looking out the window across the street at my favorite subject, the house across the street. This time of the year, this huge, old house, formerly an inn in my little Catskill Mountain hamlet, is it’s most dramatic. The building is a relic of the days when we were a busy destination for tourists escaping the summer heat in New York City. This holiday season my neighbors put lighted electric candles in every one of the large windows, 16 on the two sides I can see! The effect is stunning! When it is not snowing the house looms dark against the black sky and the candles are like little light houses beckoning the traveler over the railroad tracks, around the curve, and up my road. I have admired the effect for years and last evening I finally painted it.

Painting in the dark is risky. One reason I recommend to my students that they always place their paint in the same order on their palette is so that one doesn’t have to think, “where is that cadmium red” in order to use it. That assurance that you know what you will pick up on your brush when you reach for it in the dark is essential to actually painting in the dark.

Of course, a nocturne does not actually have to be painted in the dark and I took my watercolor (see flickr photos) to the studio this morning and I used it to create the larger version above. What fun!

As I turned to leave the studio I happened to glance at another “nocturne” of sorts, at least I painted it in the dark.  I painted the interior of Chartre Cathedral,  in 2007 on my month in Paris. I had run across it recently and tacked it to the wall to enjoy. I painted it while sitting on the dark pews while an organ solo was wafting through the air. (see flickr photos)

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5 Responses to House across the street, Christmas nocturne, no.2

  1. Rachel says:

    there is something so appropriate about lights at this time of year. . . reminds me of sweden, where many keep lights in the windows every night, and there are even more in the dark of winter.while i was there another teacher showed me a book of a swedish artist who paints at night. i wish i could remember his name; they were fabulous.

  2. Phyllis says:

    Great! The only thing better was meeting you both last night!

  3. Ann Lee says:

    I love this piece! You really did capture the feeling of a winter holiday night in a special place one wants to be.

    Ann Lee

  4. elissa says:

    Wonderful Blog Alix. I found painting at night a big challenge too. Even with the lights turned off the reflections in the studio window obscured too much.

  5. Pat says:

    Your blog is inspiring! I love your work and am amazed by how much you accomplish. Thank you for sharing your ideas and beautiful work.

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