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“Morning, Noon, and Evening Light”, Christine Debrosky, PSA, AIS, IAPS-Master Circle, APAA

“Morning, Noon , and Evening Light”,

Christine Debrosky, PSA, AIS, IAPS-Master Circle, APAA Distinguished Pastellist

One of the most exciting ways that pastel may be used is in the rendering the effects of dazzling sunlight and deep, nuanced shadows. Living in the desert Southwest, with countless hours of direct observation, I have learned that throughout the course of the day, the light quality and color changes as the sun makes its’ arc across the sky.

When the sun first rises, it casts a beautiful tangerine glow. The first splashes of light color the landscape in this warm hue, and infuses the violet shadows with increasing warmth.

“Morning Mesquite”, 11x14 was painted en plein air on bisque Canson to convey the overall warmth. Since this is such a short lived effect, it was done over the course of a couple of mornings at first light. The grasses, and the trunk of the tree have the orange coloring of the morning sun.

Once the sun is up at full strength, the light becomes bleached out. This can result in an uninteresting subject in flat lighting. However, I have found that utilizing a back light is an advantage.

“Mid Day Mistletoe”, 24x36 is an example.

At this time of day, there is a lot of contrast; a big difference in the values of the illuminated areas, and that of the shade. This is also the time of day when you can have glare spots, which can be seen along the tops of the cliffs and the face getting the direct light. Notice just how light this is, as well as the ground plane, which is getting the full brunt of the sun! In contrast, note how dark the upright recessed cliff areas are, where no light is reaching, as well as the bottom of the tree and scrub.

“A Hot Hike” is another example of a late morning to noon subject. Again, we have very dark recesses and almost blindingly light horizontals. Note how some of the rocks are very warm with the reflected light bouncing from the tops of the sun baked rocks.

As the sun makes its’ descent, the colors again become richer and warmer. Like many landscape painters, this is my favorite time of day to go out and paint, or gather references. The brief moments just before the sun goes down are colored with a rosy, coral cast. Photographers call this time “The Golden Hour”, but often the effects last only minutes.

“Technicolor at the Crossing”, 18x24 is at this time of day. The low, raking angle of the sun creates jewel toned shadows. As in the early time of day, the contrast between the lit areas and shade is much closer in value than at mid-day. I did deepen the color in the middle band of shadow for dramatic effect.

“Rabbit Brush”, 16x20 has an overall very warm cast. Note that the greens are greyed ; not at full chroma to enhance the overall warmth. The color of the paper,Pastelmat, which can be seen at the bottom was chosen to further enhance the feeling of infused warmth.

Making a practice of carefully observing the color of the light as the day progresses will help to convey a more convincing rendering of the time of day in your work.

Christine Debrosky is a signature member of the Pastel Society of America, and Master Circle of IAPS, as well as the new created designation of “ Distinguished Pastellist” for the Arizona Pastel Artist’s Association. Her pastel paintings have also earned her signature status with the American Impressionist Society, winning several awards. She has written articles on pastel for The Pastel Journal, and Pratique des Artes, and her work has been included in several books on painting.

She has come out with two new hand rolled soft pastel sets from Jack Richeson Co., “Sunlight”, and Shadow”, available on Amazon and through Judson outfitters.

In March, 2019, she is teaching a 3 day workshop for the Tubac School of Fine Art. “Getting the Desert Dazzle in your Work” from the 8th through-10th. Please visit her web site at for more information about this and other workshops.

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