Autumn Light

In autumn you can feel time passing. You can feel the days draw in and the year fold upon itself. As each shorter, chillier day comes to a close you're reminded that this is a season of change, of transition from a time of warmth and sunshine to one of cold and darkness. This realization adds a poignancy to the season that some feel as a tinge of melancholy, and others as a surge of energy and invigoration after the indolent days of summer. And if you're an artist you try to capture this changing mood, the last glorious blaze of the foliage, the lengthening shadows, the particular warm glow of the fading light.


Tom Chesar painted the rosy glow of an autumn sunset on the water.  He says of his work, "The sunsets in Maine over the water can be spectacular and I just had to try to capture this at Ash Point. The words that come to mind about autumn are its crispness, golden light and pleasant temperatures; a totally unique season.  The use of light is an integral part of my paintings.  Light and shadow create compositional direction, mood, texture and volume…The slanting light of morning or late day, the illumination at night of towns and the natural lights in the sky all fascinate me."


In Kathy Kimball's stain painting “Whirlygig” she captures the cyclical nature of the season as well as the frenzy of activity before we finally settle in to the sleepy days of winter. “Each painting needs a balance of light and dark. Light is my favorite half of the two. In Whirlygig my thoughts were with summer passing, local fairs and slowing down as the leaves and light changes. Soon long days of light will be gone and covered with clouds and needed rain. Celebrating the light and activity as we know it now is part of the painting. Sometimes I use a sheet of red film to view the art as it is getting close to being done so I can see the values without the colors. This tells me if the balance is good or if it needs a bit more light, especially in this time of year as the light changes to fall and winter.”


Kristina Thalin’s mixed media work “Marrow” suggests a glimmer of golden light in a world becoming increasingly pale and grey, filled with subdued hues. "The artwork is inspired by images of bone cells, using the same weaving technique applied when creating a dreamcatcher net. I'm fascinated by the fact that repeating a simple shape can create unique and complex-looking forms, similar to cells multiplying and forming an organism. The materials in the work were actually "harvested" or recycled from old works of mine. Autumn is a time of harvest and transformation, and I believe this work transforms the manmade, recycled materials into a work that reflects nature. I was also born in the fall so I've always felt a close connection to the season. 

 As for painting light, in order to illuminate a work there needs to be a certain depth to the painting, whether it is through different values of layers, or height through a buildup of texture, or through color juxtaposition...a color can be darkened or illuminated, brought to the forefront or hidden in the background depending on the color you paint next to it."


“Dreams Come Late,” by Natalie George seems to glow with a light from within the autumn leaves. “When I did this painting, I was in the middle of exploring the idea of dreams and how color reflects a dreamlike mood. The image is actually a reflection of trees in water with light gleaming through the leaves. The autumnal colors make me think of sunlit, warm-colored leaves and a particular experience I had visiting some old friends. I was driving home afterwards and the sun was just lighting up these yellow leaves like crazy, and they were falling so slowly.  It was mesmerizing.  I had to force myself to concentrate on driving! To me, autumn light is connected to memory, reflection, and to dreams, as seasons revisit and remind us of the past.”  


 “Woods out Back” by Pia De Girolamo, is a riot of colors that suggest summer giving way to fall. “This mixed media work on paper was one of a series that I called "Wild Places," that was mainly based on observations of my backyard. Though summery greenery and long sunny days wane in the fall, autumn mixes up its own rich palette and goes down blazing before winter comes. For me, painting light usually means also painting the contrasting dark, or using a cool color near a warm one to enhance the brightness of the warmer hue. Sometimes painting a glaze of a warm color over a cooler one gets that glow going, especially orange over blue. In autumn, even blues in the morning sky or in the evening have that intense glow. Autumn colors seem to touch a deeper place in my consciousness, liked stained glass windows in a cathedral of nature.”

Autumn is an end of things, a time of closing in and falling, but this ending is part of the cycle that will bring new life in the spring, growing even now under a layer of dried leaves. And while the days dwindle, we can appreciate bright bursts of color, and the glowing autumn light that illuminates them.


Thank you to everyone who sent work for consideration for this article. I enjoyed looking through the submissions, and I’ve included all of them in a collection called Autumn Mood. If you’d like me to add your work to the collection, send it to me at [email protected]