Landscape lights – Choose the scene you will use for your painting. When you paint outdoors, locate your easel where there is street light or another available source to work with. If you prefer to work inside, photograph the scene with the camera in long exposure on a tripod. Look for a panorama with lights reflected in the water or lights of the city of different colors to create interest.
Use colors that evoke a night scene. This does not mean that you are restricted to a palette that is too dark. In one of his letters to his sister Wilhelmina, Van Gogh wrote: “It often seems to me that the night is even richer in color than the day, with its most intense violet, blue and green tones.” Nocturnal urban landscape lights will have a different color key than the same scene seen during the day. Use shades of colder colors to capture the meaning of the night.
Observe the sources of landscape lights in your nocturnal urban scene, and use them to convey a sense of reality in your painting. The light will come from the moon, the windows, the illuminated windows, the street lights and the headlights and rear lights of the cars. Observe how light reflects on different surfaces and use the effects to establish your scale of values. Use the qualities of light that shines and shimmers in water and other smooth surfaces or textures, to transmit the contrast of light with the darkness of night.