Monday, February 2, 2015

Art Tip: How to paint a Sunset

One of my most popular 1-day workshop subjects is "How to Paint Skies." I teach my students how to paint a variety of different atmospheric conditions in skies, such as different types of clouds, sunny weather, rainy skies, stormy skies, fog, etc. My students always enjoy painting sunsets, which are the most difficult because of the multiple colors introduced to the wash.

The most common mistake that watercolor painters make, is layering colors or letting the wrong colors mix on the paper, resulting in the odd colors. For instance, both yellow and blue can be found in the sky during a sunset, but if the yellow and blue are layered or mixed on the paper they will result in green -- a color that is not found in the sky.


(Sunset, 9x12 WC, $85)
The second biggest mistake artists make when painting sunsets, is not painting the colors in the order of the color spectrum. The colors in a sunset (or sunrise) follow the same spectrum order as the colors in a rainbow. The color closest to the Sun is yellow, the next color is orange, then red, with violet being the color that appears furthest from the light source. The sky might be dark blue or light blue depending on the position of the Sun. Values will also deepen as they get further from the light source, with the lightest value being the light source, itself.

The third mistake artists make, is not realizing that sunset colors only appear on clouds. The sky doesn't reflect the colors -- the colors are reflected on particles of water, which is why the colors appear on the clouds.

In this demonstration painting, I started by painting a wet-on-wet blue wash for the sky, and blotted out the edges of the clouds. Then, starting with the Sun's position in the center of the horizon, I used yellow ochre and worked my way outward using cadmium orange, permanent red, and dioxide violet. Some of the colors overlapped each other, which is fine because the overlapping colors are analogous so the order of the color spectrum is still maintained. A few more cloud layers were blotted out while the colors were still wet. To create the reflection in the water, I did the same thing but without the blotting, and I kept the water movement horizontal in appearance.

I teach this in workshops pretty often, so keep an eye out for a workshop near you!

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posted by Annie Strack @ 2:52 PM   2 Comments

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