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Thursday, May 12, 2016

When Photos Lie...Painting More Authentic Sunsets

'Canyon Country Magic'       11x14       pastel       ©Karen Margulis
available $175
I am a sunset chaser.  When I travel I find out the sunset times so that I can arrange dinner around sunset and the surrounding magic hours.  Before I painted I took photos. I had the whole 35 mm set up with filters and several lenses. I even shot slides. I learned how to take sunset photos that were properly exposed (not always successful)  So I tend to be extra critical of my point and shoot sunset photos. They don't always make good references for painting. Take the example below:

My point and shoot reference photo
Unless you can adjust the settings most point and shoot cameras on auto don't do a good job at capturing the sunset. It is hard to get the proper exposure for the bright intense sky and the dark ground. Either the ground is properly exposed and the sky is too light and 'pastelly' Is that a word?  Or the sky is exposed for the bright intense colors in the sky and the ground is too dark. In fact the ground is often so dark it can print black.

If you paint from one of these reference photos and you don't pay attention to how the photo lies...then your painting will be missing the truth.  Take an underexposed foreground for example.  If you were standing there in real life in front of the sunset you would realize that you would be able to see lighter and more color in the foreground. It won't look black to your eyes.

Avoid using Black in a Sunset Painting!

closeup of my foreground showing the colors I've used
The colors in a dark 'sunset' foreground will tend to be dull colors. of a middle dark to dark value....not black.   I don't use much brown in a painting but this is a perfect time to use those dull colors....dark yellows, dull greens, grayed purples, rusty reds, dark blues and burgundy. These are some of my go to colors for a dark foreground.  It is much more interesting than using black silhouetted shapes. I will occasionally use a super dark pastel such as Terry  Ludwig's dark eggplant but only in small areas for accents.

1 comment:

robertsloan2art said...

This is beautiful. Great lesson and I love the example painting, especially that little inset. I've used black in some sunset paintings but usually it's because the ground isn't as important, using deep colors allows it depth and form.