Morning Light

We are lucky to live in a place of sublime beauty. Navajo people have a prayer chant where they wish that you may “walk in beauty.” May beauty be before you, behind you, above, below, and to your sides. How true, how wise, how kind to wish beauty upon others. Morning light gives credence to this chant. It envelops you from the moment a new day emerges from the night. Morning light rains kinetic showers of warm pinks, peaches, yellows, crimson reds, purples, and grays across the blue sky, on what would be the world’s grandest abstract canvas.

We are seeing a continuously changing assembly of atmospherics. Heat, condensation, moisture, particles, clouds, objects, reflections, highlights, washes, gradations, and shadows are all building into a crescendo that peaks with the sun’s appearance.

Morning light starts in the middle of the night, when the sun’s penumbral rays start to dispel the dark night sky. As Earth rotates, bringing our location on the globe closer to those rays, the sky lightens and morning begins. Each minute as we get closer, morning light collides with atmospherics and intensifies silent celestial fireworks.

When the sun finally appears, it often announces itself with bright beams of gold shot between clouds to signal exactly where it will emerge. Soon, there is a blinding, brilliant blade of searing light that cuts a line between the horizon and sky. Drivers reach for their window sun-flaps, then their Ray-Bans. That direct light just traveled ninety-three million miles from our sun in about 500 seconds at more than 670 million miles per hour to enter our retinas and wake up our brains.


Many days begin and end with awe-inspiring skies. Sunrise starts with a beauty that can inspire our productive hours with creativity and meaning. Sunsets, at day’s end, settle us down for evening hours, meals, pleasure, rest, and dreams. Morning light is a wake-up call of excitement and drama. It sends light to the side of a form, texture, or pattern. Objects become sandwiched between intense, warm light and deep, cool shadows adding depth and volume. Morning light increases visibility by accentuating dimensionality. The use of warm and cool light together draws a wider range of emotional responses. This broad spectrum of colors enhances both what is in focus and the surrounding aura. Natural and built worlds are made more vivid and emotive by this light. Artists, including Rembrandt, Raphael, and Rubens, used a similar light quality called chiaroscuro to heighten appeal for their work.

Many metaphors are drawn from morning light and mornings. They permeate the arts and humanities: painting, sculpture, music, poetry, literature, philosophy, psychology, and cinema. Morning light signifies many qualities of life. New beginnings, restarting, refreshing, reviving, replenishing, recovery. “Things will be better in the morning.” “There’s light at the end of the tunnel.” Each morning provides a new chance to redo and renew, the opportunity to be better, be more, or just be.

“Each morning provides a new chance to redo and renew, the opportunity to be better, be more, or just be.”

The quest for improvement and realizing positive outcomes is essential for our personal and evolutionary progress. Mornings and morning light symbolize hope for betterment.

Emotions are fueled by sensations. Morning light clearly sets the stage for our daily lives, experiences, and dramas. It also cues the transition from night sounds to morning sounds. There is a quiet nightly dissolve from the crescendo of cricket choruses to the gentle cooing of doves at daybreak. Morning light further signals the end to night sounds and the start of human and urban cacophony.

What are the flavors of morning light? Fresh as oranges, lemons, or mint. The crunch of an apple, crisp as cucumber, or the tart, pure flavor burst of pomegranate seeds. Mornings are cool, clean, and as subtle as the flavor of fresh chilled water from a stream. Morning light is the flavor of fine, smooth, cold saki.

As morning light activates temperature and pressure zones, it draws the mountain perfume scents of meadows and forests to lower elevations. Prevailing winds carry scents farther. Fresh oxygen just extracted from forests, meadows, lakes, rivers, and glaciers energizes us. We breathe deeply of the crisp, clean fortifying mountain air, scented with pine, spruce, and wildflowers, that accompanies morning light.

Vincent van Gogh was drawn to the distinct quality of light he found in Arles, France. He was inspired, as was Gauguin, to capture its colors in his paintings. The morning light of the mountains stimulates our desire for beauty and the sublime. The clarity of morning light feels tangible, visceral, as though we are looking at something cast into a clear crystal cube.

Morning shadows

Morning light throws the longest shadows, which become abstractions of their sources. These shadows move as silent serpents would over land, leaving no trace. Shadows are cool, often painted in violets, while their origins are warm, colored by the full beam of sunlight.

Winter morning light on frosted plants sitting in mounds of soft snow creates a sculptural garden. Beautiful tableaux can be found everywhere. A patch of crooked dried brown stems emerging from a rolling base of pure white snow with extended blue shadows makes a perfect composition. Morning light invites exploration and curiosity just when our day is beginning and before the midday sun reduces shadows, melts forms, and erases what the winter night has gently placed for our discovery.

Morning light reinvigorates an experience with dynamic and stimulating sensations. Visually dazzling crisp, clean air, fresh scents, soothing sounds make a compelling day’s start. Morning light gives us a dose of beauty, meaning, and connection, just at the right time. △

Richard Foy

Richard Foy, former art director for Charles and Ray Eames and founding partner of CommArts design firm, has designed many brand identities and places worldwide, including Madison Square Garden (New York City), O2 Dome (London, UK), Pearl Street Mall (Boulder, Colorado), LA Live (Los Angeles, California), as well as the branding for Spyder Sportswear, and Star Trek — The Motion Picture.