This is a post about the beautiful effects of artificial light photographed outdoors at night in New York City, one of the kinds of visual essays I’ve often featured on Drawing Life. It has nothing to do with the art I’m working on now. In recent months, I’ve been busier than ever with paid work as a projectionist, photographer, and videographer, and I’ve been using the improved cashflow to keep myself busier than ever with drawing and filmmaking. I’ve been doing consistent experimental figure drawing work in my studio with a few wonderful model-collaborators, pursuing fresh developments in the practice – but I’m not ready to show this work yet. Nowadays people tend to share every new thing in their lives immediately on Facebook or Twitter, but I think there’s something to be said about the old approach of laboring in obscurity and then going public with something fully-formed. I also have new video projects in the works, also not ready to share. In the meantime, I’ll keep the blog going with the kinds of posts you’ve come to expect, with new posts a little less frequent than they have been in the past. The new work will come out when it’s done.
So for now, please join me on an urban nocturne. Let’s go for a night drive.
The Sun, when it’s up, is such an alpha dog that all other lights are wheezing three-legged omega chihuahuas at best. But at night there are billions of light sources, and all of them coexist in a Milky Way of rough equality.
All these little lights make their own pools and shadows, vie with each other and merge with each other. If the Sun is God, all the little lights are like God’s creatures, tiny emanations or embers of the Great Fire, mobile and competitive, transient and ephemeral.
The beams of night shine in a world of swirling particles.
Daylight is objective in its distance. Daylight shadows are orthographic projections – every beam of light that forms them comes from the same direction. Shadows formed by artificial lights at night have perspective – they expand with distance from the source of light.
Light sources at night often strike surfaces at oblique angles that reveal texture.
Nearby light sources sometimes impart a looming quality to architectural forms that would look stolid and stodgy in sunlight.
At night, reflective surfaces make beautiful landscapes out of the multitude of little light sources, and light shining out of interior spaces gives simple boxes a magical aura.
The sheen of reflective surfaces overcomes the surface details that might dominate our perception in the flat light of day.
In the daytime, buildings are external structures, but at night they turn inside out, light revealing the life within.
A city comes alive at night when light makes the insides of buildings more prominent than their outside forms.
A sufficiently long-exposure photograph of a landscape taken under moonlight looks barely different from one taken under sunlight. Artificial light, though, comes from various different directions and has many different colors. A long exposure taken at night under multiple artificial light sources is a kind of light painting.
Colored lights, in the form of neon signs and tinted bulbs, make the night psychedelic.
In the daytime, a hole in the ground is a black void, but at night, lit-up interiors and exteriors coexist and interpenetrate. A thousand tiny lights equalize space.