Thursday, February 3, 2011

The Sky’s Dual Gradations

You may recall this painting of an oak tree, below. It is painted over a 'sky panel', a prepared sky gradation recorded from observation on a previous day.

If you take a section of color from each corner of the sky, you can see how the sky is created with four different starting colors. The sky gradated in two directions:

1. From top to bottom, as a result of “horizon glow,”
2. From left to right, “solar glare.” The sun is to the right in the painting, so the colors are lighter on the right swatches.

Both gradations are going on in this landscape by Jean-Ferdinand Monchablon. The sun is also coming from the right in this scene.

Here again, Monchablon gradates his sky both ways. His paint is very thin, probably stippled with the end of a brush.

Monchablon’s skies retire back from the plane of the canvas, allowing the viewer to travel into the painting for miles and miles. This is a great and very difficult achievement. It’s easy to make a sky look like paint. It’s hard to make it look like a radiant veil interposed over infinity.

For more on painting skies, pick up the new Feb/March issue of International Artist magazine, where I begin the first of a ten part Masterclass series on atmospheric effects.
Previously on GJ: Sky panels, Sky Blue
International Artist magazine
J.F. Monchablon on ARC


Unknown said...

i know you hear this a lot james, but you keep me engaged in art with genuine excitement. thanks!

Darren said...

Nicely observed James.
This is also why it's quite hard (nigh almost impossible) to shoot a wide angle with a polarizer on the lens.

Steve said...

"...a radiant veil interposed over infinity."

Yowza! Great phrase. Great paintings, too. Thanks!

My Pen Name said...

whenever i try to do that with watercolors, i end up with green :)

Unknown said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Tyler J said...

Perhaps someone could enlighten me with some thoughts about the second Monchablon painting. The ground looks blown-out, something about it looks very unnatural.

There aren't any cast shadows to speak of, and that doesn't help. However, it looks almost as if it were a model that was photographed with a very diffuse white light overhead.

Agapetos said...

A beginner's technical question: In Color and Light you write that it's good to prime canvas with warm underpainting. Did you prime your canvas in the oak tree painting as well before painting the sky gradation?

James Gurney said...

Thanks, everyone.
Tyler, no clue on what's going on with that blown-out lighting.

Agapetos, As I recall on that one, I used an oil primed board that was tinted a warm color. Then I went in with the blue sky colors and let them dry before attempting to paint the tree.