Most every evening, when there were clouds on the horizon, a group of us would get together on an empty lot at the top of a hill. We sarcastically refer to it as Mosquito Plateau. After a good shower of bug repellent we set up to paint the sunset. Some would just do one sunset and others would paint several. I attempted to put myself into the latter category.
There are a couple of tricks to painting sunsets en plein air. The first is to premix your colors. I used mostly a set of very chromatic colors. Indian Yellow, Alizarin Crimson or Perelyne Red, Prussian Blue, and occasionally a green. Occasionally, I found it helpful to mix some Indian Yellow into my Cadmium Orange ahead of time too, it seems to intensify the color without changing it too much. The second trick is to not premix them too lightly. Part of painting the sunset is maintaining the chromatic intensity of the light reflecting back at you. Which means the third trick is to paint at a somewhat lower key than you think is necessary. Because you are looking directly at the sun while you're painting, your eyes may think that you are painting more darkly and intensely than you really are. For me, the fourth is to work very small. I divided my paper up into 3-4 sections using tape well ahead of time and confine myself to working at that very small scale. I also liked to work on an untoned white surface, so that I could utilize some of the glazing possibilities that I have with a white surface. The fifth might be preparation. An early arrival, about 20 minutes ahead of the painting start time is helpful, as is premixing. I also liked to check the weather reports earlier in the day to see if there would be any clouds in the area.
These were ideas that I found useful. Others preferred to work on a single panel the whole time, work in a different color palette or a different size. James Gurney was also kind enough to feature my sunsets and my weary face on his blog when he visited the fellowship.
Here are a number of them that I did during the fellowship. A number of these are sequentially from the same night. I will be making these and others available on Etsy soon.
They are up on Etsy.com as of the 21st of November.
|Or if the sunset isn't very interesting, sometimes you can turn and paint the moon!|