A two hat dark sky night
It was a cold, frosty evening, a two-hat dark sky night in Killadoon. The Atlantic waves were barely audible below me. There was no wind to bother me or blow my pastels away. With a red headlight on, I set up a small easel, drawing pastels and gel pens. Then, I took a few steps back to look at the magnificent night sky to choose a section to draw. With every dark adaptation minute that passed, more and more details leapt into my field of view.
Before going outside, I tested grey, blue, and white pastels for adding part of the Milky Way to the drawing. This planning was vital because I needed to give the constellations room to be recognised. Lots of white made even bright stars like Deneb vanish. Blue didn’t look right, and grey looked messy. As a compromise, I went with the concept that less is more. Then, as delicately as possible, I added less white pastel and tried to keep the dark lane dark while shaping it as it appeared to my eye.
Days before starting this drawing, I debated with myself about using a landscape or portrait drawing. There is so much detail to cover with potentially overlapping areas. That evening, I used my paper in landscape, or should I call it skyscape 🙂 However, because my fingers were getting numb, not everything visible to me ended up on the page on this occasion. The image above is cropped from a 16X12 inch page because there was nothing added in the rest of the space.
It was a challenging task for several reasons. Which constellations will I draw, and how many can I fit on my page? What size will I sketch them at.? How will I make the constellations stand out in the myriad of stars and dust dominating my view? I decided to draw Cygnus and Lyre because they were over the ocean and at a comfortable height to look up at without too much strain.
My white gel pens are in various point sizes to mimic the magnifications of stars on view. I exaggerated the main stars so they wouldn’t vanish in the Milky Way as they almost do to the eye at times. Then, I had to hold back on my Milky Way application so the stars I drew didn’t vanish in the abundant stellar display. At the same time, letting me reveal the dark lane. A balancing act. Shortly into the drawing (19:34), a beautiful drop-shaped meteor dived towards the Atlantic.
This sketch is all I got as my fingers were numb—a must-try-again experience to get it right. That was a two-hat dark sky night that I would like to repeat and use what I learned to improve future drawings. The meteor was added when I came inside; I tested various ways to show it in paint. Joking to myself that it was ‘drop technology’, I eventually decided to drop the paint using a cotton bud and drag its tail out with a silicone-tipped brush. It was the closest reconstruction to what I saw earlier.