Visit my Patreon Page for more painting instruction and Paint Along Videos!

Friday, August 14, 2015

My Favorite Tip for Painting Sunsets

'Unexpected Beauty'        18x24          pastel           ©Karen Margulis
click here to purchase painting $375
"O setting sun! though the time has come,
I still warble under you, if none else does, unmitigated
adoration. from Song at Sunset, Walt Whitman
Sunsets...hard to capture in a painting. Even photos don't always do them justice. But there is something about them that compels us to preserve our experience through pictures, poems, songs. In a recent post I lamented about the difficulties of making a sunset painting believable. Today I would like to share one of my favorite tips for painting an authentic sunset.

It begins with careful observation. The next time you are privileged to witness a sunset do not take photos. Instead be present and pay attention to how the sunset unfolds. Look at the colors. Not only the colors in the sky but what is happening on the ground. Ask yourself what colors and values do you really see. This is important!

close up detail of the colors in the dark areas

Now that you are armed with careful observation of a live sunset you will be better prepared to interpret your sunset photos. Very often photos of sunsets underexpose the foreground /ground area. Objects on the ground are often dark silhouettes. Sometimes the camera makes things so dark they appear black, especially in our printed photos.

Look at the photo above. See how dark the beach and palm tree look? When I printed the photo these areas were rendered as black. It makes a dramatic photo but in real life I saw much more color and light in these areas.

For a more authentic painting I need to adjust the values and colors in the dark areas. Instead of choosing black pastels (or even the wonderful Terry Ludwig eggplant) I chose several sticks of a dark value dull colors such as navy blue, purple,brown,and green. Layered together these colors form more interesting dark areas. Pure black tends to look flat and dull. Layering dark values is more lively. And after all the sunset is very much alive!

'Sanibel Time'          5x7        pastel          $50

Pastels used for the dark black!

'Under a Sanibel Sun'          5x7           pastel           $50


Veri said...

Nice article, drawings are nice too:-) I like the colors.

MS Warrior said...

Beautiful paintings! Thank you for this blog today, you made some points I really needed to hear and I'm very grateful. I'm grateful for all your blogs, but extra grateful today for this one.

robertsloan2art said...

This is so true! I've stared at sunsets all my life and no camera comes close to true colors in them. They can look good, yes, but not true color. In person there's always that cool mid-dark range of greens and blues and browns and violets and deep reds. Tiny black accents maybe in the very deepest darks but only where I'd use that TL eggplant by day too.