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Tuesday, November 04, 2014

Choosing the Sky Color in a Landscape Painting

'Autumn Warm Up'             8x10            pastel             ©Karen Margulis
 Which comes first, the sky or the land?  Do I choose the sky color and key the land to fit? Do I paint the land and then choose a sky color to work with the land?  When working from photos I have the freedom to interpret the  landscape however I see fit.  I could make it sunny or perhaps I want a moody feeling. This is why I like bad reference photos.

Bad reference photos give me permission to make changes.

A bad reference photo often has problem with the exposure. Often the lights are too light or the darks are too dark. Especially when there is a big contrast. Cameras don't always do a good job exposing both the lights and the darks in the same scene.  I don't mind overly light overexposed (blown out) skies.

my bad reference photo with an overexposed sky
When the sky is overexposed I can choose the sky color to suit the mood I would like to portray. If I want to be true to the photo I can recall what the sky might have looked like. There are always visual clues in the photo to help. Take the photo for today's painting. The brightly lit distant marsh suggests late afternoon. The sky would not be cloudy or even overcast. It would have warmth and perhaps be a soft gentle blue.

I decided to use a pale blue with some light warm peach and yellow at the horizon since the sunlit grasses were going to be a warm orange-yellow. This ensures a relationship between the sky and land.

  • Whether you choose the sky color first or develop the land first make sure there is a relationship between sky and land. I usually make sure to relate color in land and sky. I want to be sure I don't look like they would be two separate paintings. 


robertsloan2art said...

This is beautiful. It's fun painting from bad photos, everything can change and it still comes out all right! Memory or imagination comes in.

I got surprised at how many good pastel paintings have a pink or orange sky but they work, they look natural even if the scene looks full color - that late end of dawn or early sunset can work. After a while I got used to them.

Took lots of cloud pictures today because the clouds got varied and fascinating, changing several times over the couple of hours I was stuck waiting. At the last I got some sunset photos and could play a lot with color on those considering the changes I saw.

gideon sockpuppet said...

I was intrigued reading your comment about using bad reference photos. I was just having a conversation about this last week with an artist friend. She recommended using the best possible photos in order to really see what was going on in the picture, especially where there were complex shapes (in my case, many dead trees sticking up out of a swamp or falling over). But I like your idea about poor photos giving permission to improvise. Hmm. Something to think about.