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Friday, August 23, 2013

3 Tips for Painting the Magic Hour from Photos

'They Call it Magic'           9x12            pastel         ©Karen Margulis
painting available $145 on Etsy
They don't call it the Magic Hour for nothing. You know, that wonderful time of day when the sun is low in the sky....ready to set...and sets everything on fire with warm color.  Photographers love it. Artists love it. But it is often too fleeting to capture it in a painting on location.

The light changes so quickly and often so dramatically that it is a challenge to paint fast enough to capture the glow. (technically the Magic Hour last more than an hour and is a great time to paint outside but when the sun is about to set or has just set this is a time of rapid change)

Photos can help but sometimes even photos fail to capture the magic of being there.  Have a look at my reference photo for today's painting. It doesn't come close to capturing the wonderful orange glow that I remember. It hints at it. It reminds me of what it felt like to be there at the edge of the marsh on that evening. But I know I will have to exaggerate things in my painting. Read on for my tips.

my reference photo

reference, small color study and underpainting

During the Late afternoon Magic Hour the light becomes very warm. This warm light imparts the orange glow you see.

  • The first tip is to take time to study the light and color changes during the magic hour. Go outside and sit in one place for awhile. Pick out a tree or something in the landscape and watch the color shift. Make mental notes or jot down your observations. Consider making color swatches of the colors you see.  The time you spend observing will help you better interpret your photos. Sorolla said that painters need to be truthful cameras...to be able to see colors as they actually are and not what we think they are. For example a green bush at sunset can look orange not green. We have to be able to see this and not just use the known local color of the object.  Actual observation will help us see better.
  • Consider starting the painting on a warm toned surface or doing an underpainting with warm colors as I did for my painting.  This puts down a warm color that will tied the whole painting together. Allowing bits of the underpainting peek through helps give the sparks of late afternoon glow.
  • When you see a color at the Magic Hour feel free to exaggerate it.  This is the time to use your pure reds. oranges and yellows.  Even colors in the shadows can be more vivid.  
You may be interested in my post about the magic hour here.  Thank you also to Robert Genn's weekly letter about the magic hour for these thoughts.

1 comment:

Anthony said...

I love to use complimentary colours in my "magic hour" paintings!