When you go out on a moonlit night, away from streetlights, can you see the cracks in the sidewalk? How about the blades of grass, the clapboards on a house or the small twigs and branches?
Unless you’re a cat or an owl, these smaller details melt into the larger shapes. Everything has blurry edges. The reason visual acuity drops off at night is because the central point of vision where we see small detail is filled with photoreceptors that only work best in bright light.
James Perry Wilson, the artist famous for his diorama backdrops, conveyed this subjective experience in this architectural rendering. He softened the edges and suppressed the detail everywhere except in the brightly-lit windows where the light levels are higher.
Assuming that he wanted to simulate this perceived effect, this rendering by Edward McDonald is not quite as effective because he kept all of his edges too sharp.
If you use night photography as reference, remember that the camera doesn’t see as the eye does, and you have to make this adjustment if you want to suggest human vision.
Related GJ posts:
James Perry Wilson, Part 1 and Part 2
Why moonlight is blue.
Day for night shooting.
Images from "Color in Sketching and Rendering" by Arthur Guptill. It's a book on watercolor rendering, mainly of architectural subjects, with lots of color plates, one of Guptill's best books.