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Mastering Sunsets 1 (of 4)
 

Demo Painting

"Sunset Colour Study 1" 10x8" Oil on Canvas by Richard Robinson

 

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This Month's Challenge

Mastering Sunsets

So many people have asked me to make a video on how to paint sunsets I thought it's about time I got around to it, so here we are (and the next 3 workshops after this will explore the subject more deeply).

Why do we love sunsets so much? Well they're beautiful aren't they!? But why are they so particularly beautiful to us? Maybe it's because they are rare and fleeting - they don't last very long and so they're precious. Maybe it's because the strong contrasts in color are exciting for our eyes to look at. Perhaps our strong feelings towards sunsets are the echoes of our past, from a time when sunset meant the approach of the sacred night, a time to keep the fire bright to ward off predators and a time to share the evening rituals of eating, sharing stories around the fire and the other pleasures of the night. Maybe it's all of those things rolled into one, but whatever it is about sunsets, they continue to draw us to them, and for painters like you and I they are an exciting and elusive source of inspiration.

Workshop Challenge

Project 2 : Value Study (Don't worry, I'll tell you about Project 1 later).

Demo Painting

"Sunset Value Study" 10x8" Oil on Board by Richard Robinson

Oh, boring! Well, value is one of the first things we tend to get wrong when we're painting a sunset. The object of this project is to help you with that, and it will also give you a chance to focus on your brushwork and edges before things get trickier. So get your paints out and here's what we're going to do - paint a simple sunset sky using just black and white. Sounds pretty easy and for some of you it might be a little bit too easy, but I find there's always something to be learned when we get our paints out.

Feel free to follow me step by step in painting the same scene or use the photos below or your own resources to design a piece that is more your own. You can paint this any size or shape you like using any medium. Either way the main learning goal for this workshop is to focus on learning more about the value structure of a sunset. Once we've done that we'll have a little look at glazing, and THEN we'll paint the same sunset 'alla prima' - with the wet in wet technique. Happy painting!

Click image to enlarge.    
Resource Photo - click to enlarge
 
Resource Photo - click to enlarge
'Australian Outback Sunset'. Photograph by Kerry Heffernan   Converted to grayscale
     

Colour Locator Diagram

Take a good long look at this colour locator diagram. It's a great example of how the colours we think we need to mix for an area of a painting are often very different from the colours that are actually there. For example the bright orange in the clouds at 'B" dulls down to dark pink at 'C' and the 'blue' sky at 'A' is actually a purplish grey.


Here's a video explaining how to analyse colour and value with a colour checker:

Can't see this video? Watch it on Youtube here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kVny7BswdqY

Get The Ultimate Painter's Tool here: http://www.livepaintinglessons.com/ultimatetool/index.php

 

You can learn more about using Greys here.

Note: If you can't see the videos on this page (above) or on Youtube, I can't help with that sorry - there will be something wrong with your computer settings, but I'm no computer wiz. You would need to contact a computery person to fix that problem.

Extra Materials for Acrylic Painters
Painters using acrylics can do all the same techniques presented in these projects, but the trick for them is to keep their paints wet on the palette and on the painting itself, which just means using one or all of three things to help with that - a stay-wet-palette, a water spray bottle to spray the palette and the painting every few minutes, and a retarder medium to slow the drying time of the paint. It also pays to mix twice as much paint as you think you will need.

 

Project 3 : Glazing

Demo Painting

"Sunset 1 Glazing" 10x8" Oil on Board by Richard Robinson

Some paint colors are transparent by nature, some are semi-transparent and some are opaque. The label on the tube will tell you which is which. If you are wanting to achieve the most luminous effect possible with your paints you'll need to use transparent colors in thin glazes over white. These thin transparent layers of paint behave like stained glass windows, allowing some of the light through the paint layer to bounce off the white ground, back through the color again to our eyes.

TIP: If a finished sunset painting just lacks a little punch in the highlights you can paint over that area with white, let it dry completely and then glaze over top of that with a transparent color - something like Indian Yellow, Transparent Yellow, Transparent Orange - those are colors in the Chroma Archival Oils range, but just check your own tubes of color to see what you've got. If it's not transparent or even semi transparent you can still use it in a thin glaze (using lots of painting medium) but it won't be quite as vibrant as a transparent color.

Let's try glazing over our first value study, just to see what happens. I've let mine dry for a few days first - it wasn't very thick paint. Usually with oils you'd want to wait about 7 weeks to avoid cracking, but this is just a study so I'm not too worried about that, plus these Archival Oils from Chroma actually stay permanently flexible so you don't need to worry about cracking like with normal oils.

Here are a few great artists who have used the glazing technique to achieve beautiful glowing sunsets...

"Sunset over the River" by Albert Bierstadt

"Sunset over the River" by Albert Bierstadt

"Sunset" by Joseph Mallord William Turner

"Sunset" by Joseph Mallord William Turner

"A Sunset Bay of New York" by Sanford Robinson Gifford

"A Sunset Bay of New York" by Sanford Robinson Gifford

 

Project 4 : Alla Prima

Demo Painting

"Sunset 1 - Alla Prima" 10x8" Oil on Canvas by Richard Robinson

Glazing is definitely a great way to get your colors glowing, but for myself I prefer to not to have to wait that long for the paint to dry so I really love the immediacy of the Alla Prima technique, translated roughly from Italian as 'at once', otherwise known as wet in wet, technique.
We've done it in the second project with the value study, and now it's time to try it out with color, which is a much trickier prospect because we'll be dealing not only with value, but also with hue and chroma at the same time and you might see just how easy it is to make a muddy mess, but hopefully you'll learn from those mistakes and avoid them the next time round, or the time after that.

 

Gallery of the Month's Workshop Challenge Entries  



Painting Critiques

 

Student Painting

"Almost Night" 8x10" Oil on Canvas by Roberta Murray

Great glowing effect. Interesting details in the landscape. The three main clouds share a similar size, shape and spacing which makes them look less natural.

 

Student Painting

"Project 3" 7x7" Acrylic Glazing by Sharon Repple

Dynamic design! Achieving a good glowing effect with punchy colour.

 

Student Painting

"Fire in the Sky" 8x10" Oil on Board by Roena King

Nice to see so much palette knife work creating a great shimmering paint texture. Beautiful organic cloud shapes. I like how the sun glow is eating away the landscape. The light grey swish in the middle of the dark cloud seems out of place.

 

Student Painting

"Sunset Part 3" 10x12" Oil on Board by Dorothy Debney

Good glowing effect. Starting to form interesting cloud shapes although it looks like you're not quite sure yet how to transistion a cloud from the light side to the dark side. If a cloud's light side is orange it's going to get slightly redder as it turns over to become more purple or blue on the shadow side. That's a gross generalisation but the point is that there is often a soft transition between the light side and the dark side of a thick cloud.

 

Student Painting

"Algow in the East" 9x12" Oil on Canvas by Sharon Casavant

A good glowing effect and good gradations of colour. The glowing effect in the land would have been more pronounced if you had gone more orange instead of green or grey with those areas close to the sun. Similarly the grey cloud obscuring the sun may have looked more dazzling painted a light warm rather than a cool. The strong blue and red on the right side might be more realistic greyed down a little.

 

Student Painting

"Dance of Colors" 5x5" Oil on Canvas by Pandalana Williams

It's great that you've taken this to abstraction Pandalana. If that was your intention you succeeded beautifully, especially seeing that your usual work leans more to descriptive realism. Very exciting!

 

Student Painting

"Sunset Over Castle Park " 22x24" Acrylic on Board by Pauline Le Merle

Love the composition Pauline and all the interest in the sky which looks quite abstract - a beautiful counterpoint to the crisp realism in the landscape. I'd like to see you paint this alla prima as well to see what the difference would be.

 

Student Painting

"Sunset Alla Prima" 40x50cm Oil on Canvas by Elena Sokolova

Very powerful colours there Elena and some beautiful shapes in the clouds which I know is not easy to achieve what with everything else you need to think about while painting a sunset like this. From a distance this works extremely well. Up close it looks a like you could have spent had a little more care with some of your brushwork.

 

Student Painting

"Glazed Sunset" 10x13" Acrylics by Silvana M Albano

Fantastic cloud shapes Silvana with a great sense of perspective. Good work.

 

 

 

My final paintings

Demo Painting

"Sunset Value Study" 10x8" Oil on Board by Richard Robinson

Demo Painting

"Sunset 1 Glazing" 10x8" Oil on Board by Richard Robinson

Demo Painting

"Sunset 1 - Alla Prima" 10x8" Oil on Canvas by Richard Robinson

 



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Get the Demonstration Video
(Only available in the complete Mastering Sunsets course)



click for info
Mastering Sunsets
The Complete Course for Oils or Acrylics, Beginner to Advanced
 
Sunsets are one of the most alluring subjects for painters, but also one of the trickiest to get right. Learn the keys to painting successful sunsets in this comprehensive and inspiring course with New Zealand artist Richard Robinson.
 
2.5 Hours of easy to follow tutorials
7 Complete painting demonstrations
30 Student critiques
*80 Pages of printable lesson notes
Online colour harmony tool
Bonus online content
 
Running Time: 2.5 Hours
Format: DVD or View Online/Download
 
 

 

 




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