Cathe J. Ladner is quite new at painting nocturnes, but she bravely delved into painting neon at night, and here, she shares what she learned. 

The Chicago painter reports that it helps to know what the sign looks like when it is off. She did know, in this case, because her daughter gave her a photo of it taken in the daytime. “The sign is yellow, but at night it appears red due to reflecting bulbs,” says Ladner. “I used multiple layers to get the primaries to pop on a very dark background.”

Ladner says she was led to paint the sign by a realization she had during a plein air workshop. “I loved the experience, but painting barns, trees, and the like wasn’t as satisfying for me,” she says. “After painting an old mill, I looked around and saw a speed limit sign that someone had personalized and thought, ‘I wish I would have painted that instead!’ I came to realize that there are quirky still life options outside! I love our local Dog n Suds, which has been operated by the Miller family for decades. We enjoy their car shows and live bands during the summer months, and I always wanted to paint there. I had never tried to capture the effects of neon, so I thought this to be an artistic challenge. It is one of my favorite pieces and has inspired me to paint other signs in my travels.”



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