City Lights: night time sketch on black paper in mixed media

Lone figure, city night sketch, December, inktense, coloured pencil and white gouache on black paper, A5 ish

I've been meaning to try doing some sketches of the city at night for a long time.  I'm constantly looking at the lights vs the pools of darkness, mysterious shapes and often a feeling of loneliness and emptiness out there, as I drive.

This is a first attempt.  It's not a subject I've tackled before - but it's about the same thing that normally interests me - light, lost edges, a sense of place.   It's in a Derwent black sketch pad - another item they kindly sent me :>)  Coloured pencil sinks and loses intensity on black paper - but that's just what I needed to catch the sheen of light on the road, paths and buildings. the black paper flickering through the colour, helping to create the feel of light reflections over a dark surface.  The reflected light on these surfaces is made up of multiple layers of scribbled marks in different colours of pencil.

I started off with Inktense blocks, using water to create washes of muted colour.   These were intensified by scribbles of dry Inktense and  Artists coloured pencils.

It needed more light, which I was never going to build with pencils alone, so I put down Winsor and Newton white designers gouache where I needed more intense brightness, working over it when it dried with further inktense pencils  and coloured pencil scribbles. This gouache is so useful for regaining lights, mixed with watercolour it will give an infinite variety of pale colours to reclaim overworked dark areas or create a light opaque cover for this black paper.  Used dry, the inktense gave a stronger cover of colour than the coloured pencils.

The lone figure is simply the black paper itself, outlined in brightness.

Mixing media in this way gave me the marks and colour intensity that I needed.

It would be interesting to do some more of these, larger and better.   This was just a sketch, an experiment to find out how materials behaved and what I'd need to do to get the intense contrasts and the areas lost in darkness.


andrea said…
Really interesting post and, as a user of coloured pencil on black, thank you for expanding my 'repertoire'.
vivien said…
you are welcome :) and thank you
Jeanette said…
There is a wonderful feel of they mysterious dark/light in this, if that makes sense. Its difficult to get the right balance of colour and shadow, but this works very well.

I keep meaning to tackle a nocturne also. I have my eye on a lane in downtown St. John's, a long steep flight of steps and a single downcast lamp over one doorway.
vivien said…
that sounds wonderful
Margo said…
I hope you are enjoying doing these tests as much as I'm enjoying looking at them and reading about them. Honestly I didn't realize you could use much other than pastels on black paper. These posts are a wonderful tutorial, a good close second to going sketching with you.
vivien said…
thanks Margo :>) - I don't do 'rules' very well!!! so I'll try all sorts of media mixes :>)

I am enjoying them - and still can't believe the goodies I was sent! there are lots still to go.
Robyn Sinclair said…
Great picture, Vivien. Has a VG quality that I love.

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