Dawn, Day, Dusk, Darkness

How a Watercolor Artist Paints Every Moment of the Day

Plein air artists are the first to tell you that you can go back to the same paint site over and over again during different times of day and it is like being in a whole new place every time. Light does that! It can turn a bright and sunny scene into a murky and mysterious place when it is taken away. It can crystallize colors so it almost feels like you are looking through a kaleidoscope.

Dean Mitchell’s Day

Dean Mitchell is especially skillful at creating a stark sense of daylight. The whites of his sky are almost searing. His colors are muted for the most part, which allows his palest washes to seem very crisp, although they will veer from the more chilly whites of winter mornings to the white heat of a hot summer day.

Watercolor artist Dean Mitchell's work. Southern Tobacco Barn by Dean Mitchell, watercolor painting, 15 x 9.
Southern Tobacco Barn by Dean Mitchell,
watercolor painting, 15 x 9.

Christopher St. Leger’s Haze

When I think of Christopher St. Leger’s work, it’s his lustrous haze of color that stands out. It’s almost like when all the heat and atmosphere of a day hovers right above the horizon and every object, every surface is heavy with color. But that assessment is a bit deceiving because St. Leger also has, in fact, a strong sense of bright white highlights in his work as well.

Watercolor artist Christopher St. Leger's work. Anbar Drag by Christopher St. Leger, watercolor painting.
Anbar Drag by Christopher St. Leger, watercolor painting.

Susannah Hart Thomer’s Suns

Susannah Hart Thomer is at her best capturing those times of day when the lights and darks are at their most extreme. Extreme but warm. Incredibly warm. Juicy and burgeoning with color and depth. I love that her darks have hints of red and purple; her lights tinges of green and orange. She really knows how color yields light.

Early Riser by Susannah Hart Thomer, watercolor painting.
Early Riser by Susannah Hart Thomer, watercolor painting.

With Soon Warren’s Painting Vibrant Watercolors, you can delve more deeply into the watercolor painting techniques that lead to expressive and energized paintings depicting any time of the day you’d like. Every page reveals unique points of process that are relevant to what you want to do in your own practice and how you want your watercolor paintings to evolve. Enjoy!

P.S. What’s your favorite time of day to paint? Leave a comment and let me know!

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Courtney Jordan

About Courtney Jordan

  Courtney is the editor of Artist Daily. For her, art is one of life’s essentials and a career mainstay. She’s pursued academic studies of the Old Masters of Spain and Italy as well as museum curatorial experience, writing and reporting on arts and culture as a magazine staffer, and acquiring and editing architecture and cultural history books. She hopes to recommit herself to more studio time, too, working in mixed media.   

4 thoughts on “Dawn, Day, Dusk, Darkness

  1. I love painting in the late afternoon…from around 3 to 7 p.m, Here in the Adirondacks, the light starts to warm up and the shadows grow long across the ground. The contrast of lights and darks, warm and cool tones, are then emphasized.

  2. I painted at night after the sun went down. My paint area was on the Florida room and it was to hot in the day time. I had good lighting and it was quiet and restfull. Now I’m in a house with central air and I paint anytime I feel like it.
    Gin Derk

  3. Courtney—

    Another fine article with excellent commentary. The work featured is by some of the best watercolor artists around.

    I am a big fan of Dean Mitchell. Much of his work has the haunting quality of Andrew Wyeth. Over the years, he has developed into one of the true contemporary masters of the medium.


  4. Do you mean what is the best time of day to physically paint or the time of day represented in your art? Either way it was a good article.
    I live a lot of months on an anchorage in the Algarve, Portugal. I see the days go by in all weathers with beautiful skies and reflections. The evenings I think are my favourite but mornings a good runner up especially sunrise.

    I recently finished a set of 5 round canvasses and the title of your article would have been a good name for the collection
    I based the central focal point on an old rusty railing by the sea. We have a sunrise a breakfast time a lunch… afternoon refreshments and supper time. All are based on a fantasy dream. All larger than life. The colours and shadows I think capture the time of day. I have a Fb page with my name above if you want a peak.