Create Your Own Tour: COLOR

Art Ambassador Highlight: Nick Hadfield

A night time scene on a tree silhouetted against a full moon. The moonlight shines from the center of the canvas, casting light throughout and reflecting on the water below.
Ralph Albert Blakelock (1847-1919), American, Silvery Night, ca. 19th century, oil on canvas, Gift of Marion Sharp Robinson, conserved with funds from the Ann K. Stewart Docent and Volunteer Conservation Fund Museum, UMFA1953.013

Read Transcript

Hey! My name is Nick Hadfield and I’m an art ambassador at the UMFA. My tour is centered on comparing our own experiences and memories with artworks in the museum. By creating our own works of art and exploring our perspectives, use of color, and emotions we gain a deeper connection to art and ourselves. 

For this audio tour you’ll need something that you can draw on. You can use colored pencils and paper or draw in an app on your phone.

First, close your eyes and remember the last time you saw the moon. Was it full, or was it just a sliver? What was going on that night? What else do you see in this memory? How does the moon illuminate the scene in your memory?

Now, pause this audio guide and take a few minutes to sketch your memory, as simple or detailed as you want. Your drawing doesn’t have to be perfect! The rest of this guide works just as well if you compare the work of art to the memory in your mind, but the drawing helps us distill our memories to what was most important.

Today we are exploring Silvery Night by Ralph Albert Blakelock. Take a moment to look at this work of art, paying attention to Blakelock’s use of color. How similar are the colors you used in your drawing or simply remembered to the colors in the painting? What do you like about this painting? Is there anything you dislike about the piece?

Silvery Night is a painting I always come back to because of how it is a play on the archetypical painting of a vibrant setting sun over water. While at first it seems monochromatic, traces of greens and yellows appear the closer you look at the painting. Blakelock mixed tar into his layers of paint, developing a color palette that is dark, rich, and surprisingly harmonious. Do you like this particular mix of colors?

Silvery Night was painted a few decades after transcendentalism swept across the American West. Transcendentalism focused on the glorification of the natural world, portraying grand, sweeping vistas of mountains, valleys, and rivers with dramatized spectrums of color. Silvery Night stands in contrast to transcendentalism, which is based on Blakelock’s own memory of a scene rather than a picture-like dramatization.

Look back to your artwork, how do you think it reflects the emotions you were feeling? In the process of drawing our memories it’s normal to take a few liberties to fill the gaps in our mental images. I’m sure Silvery Night is not a picture-perfect depiction of Blakelock’s experiences, because, really, who among us has a perfect memory?

Hopefully this audio guide helped you learn a bit more about how we construct the vignettes of our memories. There is no single correct way to remember, but sometimes the act of illustrating or simply pausing to reflect upon a memory can help us appreciate our past as we create new experiences.