Light, Light, Burning Bright

Hopefully Blake will forgive me for that little rewrite, but when I see a painting that has complicated light effects or diffuse light that seems almost prismatic I can’t help but think of that adulterated line of poetry.

New York City, Winter 2006, The Storm by Nina Maguire, 2006-2011, acrylic on canvas, 30 x 24.
New York City, Winter 2006, The Storm
by Nina Maguire, 2006-2011, acrylic painting on canvas, 30 x 24.

It happens when I look at Whistler’s nocturnes and it also occurred when I look at the acrylic paintings of Nina Maguire. The latter’s art makes me wonder about the acrylic painting techniques she uses to get her surfaces to look almost like clouded glass–the colors are clear but they have an opacity to them as well.

The artist’s acrylic painting landscapes, especially her snowy winter scenes or firework pieces, show such sensitivity to how light reflects off of and spreads out onto the white reflective surface. The diffuse light changes color as it pools over different objects, going from bluish-white to gray, green, or yellow.

Bridge Nocturne V (Tappan Zee) by Nina Maguire, 2006, acrylic on canvas, 20 x 30.
Bridge Nocturne V (Tappan Zee) by Nina Maguire,
2006, acrylic painting on canvas, 20 x 30.

Maguire is also sensitive to how objects that “carry” the light–like snow in motion or clouds in the sky–can be depicted with acrylic paint. To effectively paint snow coming down at a diagonal she uses brushstrokes that follow the motion of the flakes. Car lights whizzing by are rendered as dabs and streaks of pigment. Painting this way allows the artist to create visual depth even though Maguire’s scenes are usually quite sparse and show a lot of open expanses of sky or sea.

Painting light is essential for any successful realistic landscape artwork, but that is just one element among many. For more ways to master light, form, and movement in acrylic painting, consider the Acrylic Painting Pack filled with expert painting resources and page after page of artful inspiration as well as the latest trending techniques in acrylics. Enjoy!


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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.