Saturday, July 23, 2011

Tips for Painting Sunsets from Observation

The new issue of International Artist magazine continues my series on atmospheric effects with a feature article about painting sunsets. It includes the following tips on painting sunsets from observation.

1. To paint an oil plein-air study of a sunset, you have to premix the colors before the moment arrives, anticipating the effect you want to capture. You’ll probably need variations of background blue sky, clouds in shadow, and illuminated cloud colors.
2. When colors reach their peak, the light on your palette will be fading, so remember where those premixed colors are.
3. Use a separate brush for each family of colors to save wasting time washing out your brushes between mixtures.

4. You can also use a small LED flashlight to illuminate your palette area. The LED lights are good for this purpose because they give a reasonably white light. You can clip booklights to the brim of your hat so that they shine in the direction that you’re looking.

The new issue also has a "Day in the Life" of Everett Raymond Kinstler and a feature on Dennis Nolan, teacher at Hartford Art School and illustrator of many children's picture books.

International Artist
Color and Light: A Guide for the Realist Painter
Dinosaur Dream  by Dennis Nolan
Dinosaur Dream


Anonymous said...

Is there any possibility of eye damage from staring into the sunlight?
How do you deal with the light being so bright you cannot properly see what you are painting?

James Gurney said...

Jiie, I'm glad you mentioned that--yes, there is a danger! If the sun is too strong, you definitely don't want to look right into it. I try to wait for sunsets where the sun is veiled by enough layers of clouds to weaken its impact. Those sunsets are more fun to paint anyway. Usually the best sunsets to paint are the ones that are on rainy, very hazy, or cloudy/foggy days.

Unknown said...

Great method Jim, I'll remember to pre-mix colors next time I do a sunset. You are in great company in the magazine. I had Dennis Nolan at Hartford- he's a great teacher also.