Tips On Painting A Sunsets
Ian Coate LogoThere are so many ways of painting a sunset.  Each artist will have their own technique.  Below is my way of tackling a sunset.  The follow art example 'Drover's Sunset' is painted with oil paints on canvas, but I generally use the same technique with  my watercolours and acrylics.
Step 1. Choosing your Photo:
Australian Sunset Beautiful Sunset Red Sunset Camp Draft Camp Drafting
Over a period of many years I have created my own photo library.  Whenever I see an interesting sky I try to take a snap of it.  I go to events like camp drafts and rodeos so I can add to my library.  I use these photos as references to paint the sky and create a silhouette to paint in the foreground.  I do advise you to use your own photos for references; this will save you future embarrassment.  You don’t need a fancy camera – you can start a photo library using your mobile phone; these days they take amazing images.
Step 2. The Browning Stage:
After preparing my canvas (you can buy pre-primed canvases ready to go), I dilute a brown oil paint (burnt umber) with Medium No. 1 so it is in a liquid form instead of a paste.  I then go wild painting a maze of squiggles that will form the dark areas of my clouds.  I paint and wipe off with a cloth just as much as I do with a brush using the canvas texture to best advantage.
Step 3. Adding in Yellow:
Once the browning stage is dry, I dilute a yellow paint with Medium No. 1 and glaze over the brown.  This will be the cloud highlights.  Again, I rely heavily on a cloth to smooth the colour into the brown and give a transparent effect.
Step 4. Hills to Add Depth:
Once the Yellow Stage is dry (which shouldn’t take too long) I tackle the hills.  Start with the furthest hill.  Wait for it to dry then start on the next.  You can do multiple layers here.  Remember, the further the hill – the less detail you should show.  When we look at hills in the distance, they usually have a blue haze caused by our atmosphere.  At sunset these hills may have a more purple or orange hue.  Use your discretion.
Step 5. Add Blue & Orange:
Now it’s time to add your blue background and orange mid tones for the clouds.  Dilute your blue with Medium No. 1 and glaze it into those appropriate areas.  Smudge it ever so slightly into the clouds’ brown edges as to give the clouds’ edges a look of transparency.  I also work the blue into the hills.
Wait for the blue to dry before starting on the orange.  I dilute the orange only a little; most of the time I paint it straight from the tube and smudge it in with my cloth.
Step 6. The Silhouette on Top:
Now it’s back to the drawing board.  Hopefully by now you have you have come up with a theme and using your reference photos created a unique silhouette.  You may have already lightly drawn the outline of the silhouette on the canvas before you started painting (hopefully you can still see it through the layers of paints). If not, wait until your canvas is dry and lightly pencil it in (I use a dark brown pencil instead of a traditional lead pencil).  Once you are happy with the outline fill it in (don’t paint over the lines now).  I find an indigo blue or Vandyke brown mixed with black preferable than just black itself when filling in the silhouette. Black by itself tends to look flat and lifeless.
Well, that’s it in a nutshell. Below is the finished product of my ‘Drover’s Sunset’. I hope this technique helps to bring out the best in your sunsets.
  
Drover Sunset an Australian Sunset
Drover's Sunset (Oil on Canvas)

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