Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Sunrise, Sunset ... more plein air paintings

I don't typically paint sunsets. There's a good reason for this and that is that the moment they live in is so brief it's hard to get the paint down before it passes. I wanted to give it a try though because it was so striking on our evening walks near Lake Ocqueoc. I chose a small canvas (6" x 8") and started at 8:30 pm. I finished by 9:15 pm but during that 45 minute time frame I mixed more colors and observed more changes in light than I ever had before. The final painting is a culmination of those minutes and probably represents the image the way it appeared to me around 9:00 pm. After that I was painting from memory. I couldn't look directly at the sun of course, so I was just glancing in the general direction of where it was slowly sinking behind the horizon.

A lot of artists will tell you they don't "do" sunsets. Their reasoning is that a camera can capture that brilliant color more accurately than paint can and in just a fraction of a second. I used to think like that, but I learned some things from painting this sunset. I discovered that the water can change from a cool blue to a tangerine orange in less than a minute.Ultramarine blues mix nicely with cadmium reds when you don't have a lot of time to be choosy. Violet clouds look more violet when they reside next to pink. In other words, I learned a lot about color and how it affects other color. Valuable information to an artist who is concerned very deeply with color effects.

There will always be artists who take a picture of a sunset and then proceed to try to reproduce the brilliance of their photograph in a painting. I will not be among them. I will be the painter who puts on her polarized sunglasses, sets up her easel in front of what God created, and tries to capture that moment as it actually happens. It's just a lot more exciting for me. And it's more fun. At this stage in my life I've resolved not to paint anything I don't enjoy painting. Why? Because life is short!

6" x 8" oil on canvas over panel (Pintura ™)

A sunrise gives you a bit more time to experiment. This is the same lake viewed in the morning with the sun behind me. Notice how the long  horizontal canvas emphasizes the size of the lake. This is why I love painting outside. It's the same view, but a different time of day and a different format and a completely different viewpoint. Nature is always the best teacher.

6"x12" oil on canvas

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