Skip navigation


I posted this painting in an earlier post. It was a black and white sketch of an image that I wanted to eventually paint in color.

Since that time, we have discussed composition in our landscape class.  I realized I had not payed particular attention to where I had placed my center of interest which I wanted to be the Empire State building and the lit space that separated it from the other buildings that I took to be a street.

Knowing there are “sweet spots” located in each quadrant of my format I went back to the original reference photo and cropped it so as to place the Empire State building where I wanted it.

Image showing "sweet spots"

Image showing “sweet spots”

I divided my paper into three sections vertically and horizontally and circled where the lines crossed.  These areas are called “sweet spots” and are good places for a center of interest to be located in a painting.

The painting, in color, came out like this.


There were other considerations that went into this final painting, as well. I chose the sweet spot that ran from the lower left quadrant because the rays from the sun seemed to lead to that area and  created a rather nice pathway for the eye to follow. I was also intrigued with the long pathway of artificial light running across the dark back drop of buildings that curved around and led to the street running next to the Empire State building. The strong diagonal lines in the water in the foreground led the eye to the city, also. Prior to having studied composition, I would just select pretty photo references I wanted to paint and paint them as they were. I really had little understanding of creating a pathway for the viewer’s eye.  This is but one element of composition to consider but has made quite a difference, for me. I always examine my reference material for the best placement of a center of interest.

Other considerations for this painting were a primary color scheme and accentuating contrast (to enhance depth).

My techniques were use of liquid frisket, color washes, and using the primary colors to render black through wet-in-wet applications.

This was painted on Lanaquerelle 140 lb rough watercolor paper.

Thank you to Wet Canvas reference library for the photo used as reference for this painting.


  1. This is amazing, Leslie! I especially love the glowy gold that floats among the foreground lights! It’s just PURRfect!!!!!

    • Thank you, Beth. That was one of my favorite things that came from this painting, as well. That happened when I dropped mixtures of aureolin and naples yellow into the wet-in-wet primary colors I was using to create the blacks in the buildings. The opaque of the naples yellow and the strength of the aureolin bled outward. Happy accident I hope to be able to reproduce in other night paintings in the future. You made my day!

  2. Hey, Les, thanks for the lesson on composition and color contrast for depth. I really need to look at this when I select a photo referance.
    I love this cityscape, your best, I feel. The light is exquisite and I love the reflections on the waves. Great job!

  3. Wow! This is so interesting. Thanks for sharing.

  4. Very beautiful, Leslie. The city is (to me) magical. Thank you so much for your explanation.

    • …and it is I who has stared in wonder at your dragons and fairies. You honor me with the word magical, Hannekekoop.

  5. You recreated the magic of light so well Leslie.. amazing to study this work after reading about the technical points, I will keep this post in mind.

  6. What a great result, Leslie. I too love that thread of cloud…giving me a feel of early morning. The white space beside the Empire State Building is so welcome. But then, the whole piece draws me into a fun bit of exploration.

    • I like your description of “exploring a painting” . That is what I do when I look at art work. I view the whole image and then go on a little journey, sometimes going up close and then backing off to see it from a distance and I travel through every bit of it. When I was younger, I remember just looking at the whole. Rarely did I wonder how it looked up close or from a distance or how each detail may have been painted, etc. Thank you, Amy.

  7. I really like both versions, Leslie. I love that band of mist too. I never think about composition or placement either. Well not quite true. I do think of the composition but only insofar as it pleases me. I’m selfish that way! LOL

    • I painted for a couple years without paying attention to composition. I learned technique, first; enough to give me the feeling of some freedom. Then, I went in search of composition and understanding color, as well. That journey has not ended. I am always on the hunt to learn more. You are listening to your own “drummer”. 🙂 Nothing wrong with that.

  8. I think my usual preference is black and white, but I really like the color in this one. I think it’s the light and that shimmering fog that draw me in to the picture even deeper than the monochromatic version. 🙂 Always happy to visit.

    • Hi Yousei,
      That is interesting about the black and white. I like viewing black and white or monochromatic work, also. The fun part about the color one is that there is a feeling of the monochromatic in the buildings but the color creeps in through the sky, water and mist. Thank you, Yousei!

  9. I undertook a 3 month teaching position of an evening, which is now drawing to an end. Proportion and technique have been the two key aims of the course, so your composition is well received and very much appreciated. I will endeavour to send my students to view your wonderful blog. Hope you and yours are all well. Love the snow 🙂

    • I like the snow on WordPress, too, during the month of December. Thank you for sending your students my way. That is such an honor. I hope you have enjoyed your teaching experience. I learn so much from my students and feel the teaching is something I need to continue to do.

  10. Love that cityscape in colors.

  11. Eek, I get so behind in blog visits! I just love the yellows, particularly on the far right side across the tops of buildings, and then that great swath of light across the water. Wow! Then add the twinkling windows and that great sky – beautiful!

    • Thank you, Cindy. This one was a challenge for me. Something new to work on.

  12. How did I miss this? A beautiful painting of my beautiful (sometimes) City. I LOVE that pathway of light you’ve created. It takes my eye right across the water and down 34th Street. I also love how you did all the lights of the windows. Thank you for showing us your black and white version as compared to the color version. I like the dark buildings, and the blues reflecting in the water.

    • Thank you for letting me know what street that was. In the black and white, I became confused with some of the patterns, so cropped the photo I was working with and tried to do better on getting dimensions and such correct. 34th Street. That’s pretty cool. Thank you, Carol.

  13. The light and shadow in this are just amazing, Leslie! Beautiful! (I particularly like the sky to the right and the water reflections.

  14. Thank you !

    • You grew up in New York. I remember! Thank you for this thank you!

3 Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. By Windswept Winter Tree | Leslie White on 03 Nov 2013 at 1:50 pm

    […] within a long and narrow format or a square.  This means they need to be mindful of their area or center of interest.  It is my hope that this exercise will inspire them to reach for an interesting crop with their […]

  2. […] and ask my students to look for potential areas to work toward a center of interest on or near a “sweet spot”. In the above painting, it is that area that is so dark near the upper right sweet spot. I wait for […]

  3. […] I glued some torn rice papers on the surface with glue made from one part water and three parts acrylic matte medium. You can also make a mixture of water and PVC glue or acid free Elmers glue. All three work for these. I waited for the glue to dry and painted some more. As I work these stages, I prop the painting up on my mantle and move away from it and study it as I wait for it to dry, sometimes overnight. I will turn the painting all different ways and search for imagery in it, especially areas where I can develop a center of interest. […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: