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Mastering Sunsets 2 (of 4)

Demo Painting

"Sunset Beach 16x16" 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 2 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 5 : The Glow

Demo Painting

"Sunset Beach 16x16" Oil on Canvas by Richard Robinson

The previous project introduced us to the colours and forms in a sunset. Now it's time to take those concepts a little further in a larger painting. I want to look a bit closer at the glowing effect of a sunset - the way objects close to the sun are infused with the warm light, also called a colour corona. I also want us to have a look at how to add even more colour into a sunset foreground and see how that contrasts with what a camera does. As well, I want to show you how we can invent a scene from various resources and how the larger canvas gives us more options for exciting brushwork. That's all going to happen in this project.

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. Happy painting!

Click image to enlarge.    
Resource Photo - click to enlarge
Resource Photo - click to enlarge
Ruakaka Beach   Sunset in my street
Resource Photo - click to enlarge
Resource Photo - click to enlarge
Photograph from -   "Evening Clouds" 10x8" Oil on Canvas by Richard Robinson
Resource Photo - click to enlarge
Resource Photo - click to enlarge
"Pataua" 20x60" Oil on Canvas by Richard Robinson   Colour Studies 4.5x4.5" each.

Colour Locator Diagram

Cloud diagram as explained in the demo video. Points to note: We see more of the bases as the clouds get closer to us.
The colours get warmer closer to the sun. The sides in shadow are cooler than the bases they are on.

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:

Get The Ultimate Painter's Tool here:


You can learn more about using Colour 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.


Gallery of the Month's Workshop Challenge Entries  

Painting Critiques


Student Painting

"Sun Sinking, Dying Light, Winter" 30x30cm Oil on Board by Julie Cross

A lovely painting Julie and it generated a lot of helpful suggestions from other members on the site which is great to see. I'll just repeat what Michael Severin said in that the hard line of the river bank could be softened by adding the reflection of the bank into the water which I thought was a good idea. I took the liberty of photoshopping your painting a little to see what that would look like and I also gradated the reflection of the sky in the water and added a slightly brighter colour corona around the sun and warmed and lightened the landscape in front of the sun to aid with the glowing effect. I also put the foreground into shadow which I feel makes the light reflection in the water more intense and provides a stronger base for the overall design.

Student Painting   Student Painting
Julie's Original   Fiddled in Photoshop



Student Painting

"Dors Workshop 26" 16x16" Pastel by Dorian Aronson

Beautiful colours Dorian and a soft edged ethereal feeling to the whole painting. Great stuff!


Student Painting

"A Captive Audience" 12x16" Oil on Canvas by Michael J Severin

Great work Michael as always. Fantastic glowing effect and a solid composition. I like the depth of colour you have in the top blue clouds and I've made a note to head in that direction with mine with glazing at the end of the month.


Student Painting

"Twilight Serenade" 11x14" Oil on Panel by Karen Meredith

Really interesting work Karen (and I do mean that in a good way). Such a beautiful arrangement of colour - especially all the broken colour in the ocean, it inspired me to have a look through your website and I'm glad I did - love your work! My only reservation with this one is the colour and forms in the cloud arch over the sun because they seem to me to have gotten just a little muddied and not thoroughly finished unlike the rest of the work although that's to be expect in an intricate warm/cool light/dark area like that on a small painting. Love how you've used large to small brushwork in the water and softening in the foreground as well to give us some perspective. Beautiful work! Thank you.


Student Painting

"Passages" 24 x 26" Oil by Luba Robinson

That's quite some glowing sky you've got there! Very subtley painted colour transition from warms to cools. The intricacy and dark sharpness of the foreground is a nice counterpoint to the soft sky. It's easy to see all the work and thought that's gone into this - great to see. My one reservation would be that I would want slightly thinner, flatter bottomed clouds closer to the horizon to help with the linear perspective, and because the roof of the building is well above the horizon we should be able to see the underside as a very thin eliptical shape - that's why it's currently looking a little flat.

Oh and you know how all the books say don't place things smack bang in the middle of your canvas vertically or horizontally? Well rules are made to be broken, right? Centering the sun as you have and having the sky fairly symmetrical is giving this piece a balance and radiance that reminds me of a meditation mandala. In fact I took the liberty of taking the idea further in Photoshop.

Student Painting

The Photoshopped version.



My final paintings

Demo Painting

Sketches 2.5 x 2.5" Pencil on Paper

Demo Painting

Colour Studies 4.5 x 4.5" Oil on Canvas

Demo Painting

"Sunset Beach 16x16" Oil on Canvas by Richard Robinson



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



Workshop Signup



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