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Wednesday, August 10, 2016

What Happens When the Sky is White? Sky Painting Tip #3

'All is Quiet'     8x10      pastel    ©Karen Margulis
available $145
It seems like an odd question. Is the sky ever really white? It sometime appears to be white on foggy or overcast days. But a closer look will reveal subtle and light colors. There is no substitute for real life observation to help with sensitivity to color. The more you look the more you will see color in a white sky. But sometimes the sky is really white....in photos!


the reference photo with an overexposed sky

When the sky appears white in a photo it is overexposed. Another word used is blown out or washed out. This happens when the camera has trouble recording detail in all areas of the scene. When a photo is overexposed the highlights or bright parts of the scene are washed out and appear white. It happens a lot with skies. This doesn't mean the sky was actually white. The camera just wasn't able to expose all areas of the scene properly.

So what do we do when we have a reference photo with a  white sky? I celebrate! A white sky gives me freedom to experiment and try some unexpected sky colors. If I remember what color the sky was and want to be true to the scene that is my starting point. Then it is time to play.  For a better result I have a suggestion. Before starting the painting, make some quick Color Samplers.

Very quick Color Samplers
 Using a piece of scrap paper (same color and type that you will use for the painting) make several color samplers. These are very quick and simple blocks of pastel marks with the colors you might use in your painting. Choose the main colors. For my color samplers I wanted to see what different sky colors would look like. I put down marks for the ground, trees and flowers and then tried different sky colors. I put a black box around the samplers so I could see them better.

It was easy to see how the sky color worked in each sample and in the end I decided to use the green sky at the bottom. I felt it would be an interesting choice to represent a mysterious overcast day.

The best thing about the color samplers is that I have four more choices for my white sky. I love the possibilities a white sky gives me!

A wet underpainting with Derwent Inktense Sticks and water

2 comments:

Susse said...

Hi Karen, love your sky lessons: please explain what makes you choose violet underpainting under the trees this time; often I have seen you choose some kins of red as underpainting for greens.

Karen said...

Hi Susse, Thanks for writing. Underpainitng colors are fun because there is no one correct choice. Every color choice results in a different result. Trial and error teaches you what a color does.I used dark blue under these trees to give me a strong dark value. i chose not to use red since I wanted the trees to stay cool and moody.