As neurobiologist, Margaret Livingston observed Claude Monet built his wondrously luminous paintings from the principle of equiluminance. In his early and famous “Impression Sunrise” painting (example 1) we see the blue grays are the same value or brightness as the red sun. In a black and white photo of the painting the sun disappears. But because the colors are complementary (opposites) with equal values the image appears to radiate a soft glow.
19th century scientists from Michel Chevreul (Principles of Color Harmony and Contrast) to Ogden Rood (Modern Chromatics) measure and test to develop principles for making colors to appear luminous. The German Bauhaus school under the tutelage of Johannes Itten describes color arrangements for luminous color effects. Faber Birren in his Principles of Color offers the handiest book for explaining and implementing successive and simultaneous contrast effects. Light color with blurred edges juxtaposed against complementary colors of equal or similar light value will generate a condition of glowing luminosity.
You can see the contemporary abstract painter Gerhard Richter employing these effects here in example 2. Or look at the array of vibrating color complements in Wayne Thiebaud’s landscape in example 3. And, consider the vibrating shimmering color effects in the wavelets of Gustav Klimt in this detail from one of his landscapes (example 4).
With these principles and artistic examples in mind I created two cityscapes. In my first example (example 5) I use an assortment of soft complementary pastel colors in this 36×36”oil on Dibond. This example is still early in its process but, it demonstrates glowing luminosity of light colors paired with their complements.
In my final example (example 6 and 7) you see a sampling of the development of this cityscape in the rain. The subject of rain or wet streets provides a narrative opportunity for glistening effects. Glisten effects rely on broken light areas crossing darker areas as well as the use of simultaneous contrast effects.