Nesting the Light

posted in: Blog, Classes, Composition, Painting | 11

Across time and the globe when making pictures artists have considered where to place the light. This isn’t only because the light attracts our maximal attention, nor only because it offers a goal, a destination for our mind’s eye, but also because the nest of light potently radiates concentrates and illuminates the story of the picture.

Consider Rembrandt’s painting Flight into Egypt of the mid 1600’s (Example 1). We see the family huddled within a small glowing shelter. Threatening darkness surrounds them. Here is our nest of light. Consider William Merritt Chase’s pastel of a canal (example 2). The light aggregates at one end of the bridge. We follow the canal path to the light nesting there. In the mid 20th century Andrew Wyeth finds a nest built around a tide pool of light (example 3) using watercolor. And, in the 21st century Kiyoshi Nkagami builds his radiating locus of light using acrylics, pigments and powdered mica (example 4).

Example 1, Rembrandt, 1600’s.

Example 2 William Merritt Chase, late 1800’s.

Example 3. Andrew Wyeth, mid 1900’s.

Example 4. Kiyoshi Nkagami, 21st century.

I have set your mental anchorage to be ready to see other examples. In my first personal example “Riverbank” you can spot my radiating nest of light down in front. Nowhere else within the image is there a similar concentration of light.  Yes, there are spots of sparkle and, yes there are other areas with soft amorphous glowing. But, the location and intensity of my nest of light creates theatrical prominence and priority (Example 5).

Example 5. “Riverbank” oil on Dibond, 24×24.

In the painting “Riverbank II” within two steps you see how I developed a concentration of light from a more diffused initial design. Example 6 presents an early stage with indeterminate forms and diffused light. Example 7 presents a later stage. Here the image has acquired more specific edge information. These new shapes are arranged to create a loose arching frame around the most luminous area, the nest of light.

Example 6. Step one of “Riverbank II”, oil on Dibond, 24×24.

Example 7. Step two and current state of “Riverbank II”.


I invite you to visit Susan Powell Fine Art at 679 Boston Post Road in Madison, Connecticut to see my exhibition, Luminous Adventures opening on Friday, June 5.  There will be no formal opening reception and, only 2 or 3 people may visit the gallery at a time due to Corona Virus restrictions. If you prefer a private viewing then call the gallery at 203 318 0616 or, see the show online at

I hope you can join me in one of my online zoom classes with demonstrations of various techniques, new and old as well as illustrations of historic and contemporary masters and, discussions of the biology of vision and, how to use science and history to your advantage.

You can register for my online classes at this website, or at You may want to check out my new article on how to build a painting in the current Artists Magazine.  My work is also featured on the cover and inside the new issue of American Art Collector magazine.





11 Responses

  1. Patricia Scanlan

    O! So beautiful. I love the contrast and the idea of a nest of light! Hope to see the

  2. Suzanne Gisinger

    Step one and step two are actually my favorites even though they are not finished. The final picture is also beautiful. Hope to take a class some day. Enjoy all your teaching films.

    • dd_admin

      Suzanne, thank you. Maybe you could join me in an online, Zoom class. I offer them at this website and at
      Best, David

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