“How to Paint Skies” • Pastel Journal, June 2011 (Partial Article) Comments Off on “How to Paint Skies” • Pastel Journal, June 2011 (Partial Article)

“How to Paint Skies” • Pastel Journal, June 2011 (Partial Article)

Fall Splendor, Pastel, 16 x 20

Here is a pastel with a low horizon. It’s summer and the sun has just dropped below the horizon and there is a slight reflection of it at the horizon. Most of the painting is of the sky and how it affects the foreground colors, thusly harmonizing the entire pastel. This is a bit of a complicated pastel in terms of getting the general harmony of colors for both the sky and the foreground. Also, notice how the line of the mountain varies, and at one point the sky seems to be drifting in front of it.

Evening Light at the Taos Crevice, Pastel, 12 x 15

Evening Light was painted in Taos, NM facing east after the sun had gone down. The rich dark blues of the sky with the drifting clouds as compared to the warm yellow ochres of the chamisa contrasting with the dark green bushes all added up to a wonderful composition. The first line I established was the horizon line. Then I compared the turquoise blue of the sky with the dark greens, and went from there. It was painted within an hour’s time.

Lavender Hills, Pastel, 14 x 15 SKY AND EARTH INTERTWINED

Here is an example of sky and earth intertwined, slipping in and out of each other. It’s not clear where the sky begins or where the mountains end. This type of weather condition usually has a dramatic quality to it. Here in New Mexico, there’s often a build-up of clouds in the afternoon, and the heavy-laden clouds just can’t get over the mountains, which are around 12,000 feet. So, this condition is seen often here.

Monterey Sky, Pastel, 14 x 15 Private Collection

Here we have a low horizon and a large sky. In this pastel the low horizon consists of the dark and lighter greens of the golf course at the base of the pastel, which take up to close to 1/5th of the composition. The rest is the sky with its soft floating horizontal clouds. Because of the greens I add a touch of pink to the clouds, which adds color contrast.

A Blustery Moment, Pastel, 11 x 15 TREES AND SKY INTERTWINED

Here the tree and sky are inseparable. This gets tricky. The only element not moving is the tree, so I start by placing the tree where I want it in the composition. I then paint the tree, and only lightly suggest the sky. For I know when I start dealing with the sky it will be entirely different, realizing that the top 2/3rds of the tree is basically a silhouette in front of the sky, and it is dark in color. That was the clearest and thusly easiest part to paint so I pastel it first. That was very important for later I related the colors of the sky and clouds to the dark silhouette of the tree. This then allowed me to focus in on the movement and different colors of the sky. Also notice that the movement of the clouds from upper left to lower right helps create a sense of looking up.

Drifting Clouds, Mixed Media, 10 x 14

Drifting clouds – which for sure weren’t sitting still –just grabbed me. Where to start? I covered the surface immediately using watercolor. The colors I used were Cobalt Blue, Ultramarine Blue, and a bit of reddish purple. The watercolor colors all flowed into each other. The watercolor dried quickly. I then painted using pastel. I picked out a grey for the clouds that was the same value as the blue of the sky (notice the top dark greys of the clouds at the top of the pastel). Then I picked out the pastel blues that were to go over the watercolor washes and I went from there. This is another one of those sky pictures that took an hour or less to paint. Are you getting the idea that when painting these skies from life they are quickly painted? I hope so.

Suddenly, Mixed Media, 10 x 14

This was a storm that blew up from nowhere while I was visiting and painting in Palm Springs, California. I dropped everything and started anew – just painting as fast and as well as I could. Notice the vibrancy of that sky. Also realize that the different colors that make up the sky are very close in value and have faint or no edges. Notice how the colors of the sky also effect the colors of the ground plane, which is the complete foreground, giving the entire pastel an overall color harmony. This was painted within 45 minutes.

Morning Light, Watercolor and Pastel, 16 x 17

Here we have a high horizon (the top of the rocks). The painting is basically about the rock formations and the area for the sky is approximately 1/7th of the composition, and is behind the mountain. It’s also a small shape and makes up the negative area of the pastel. The colors of the sky are a combination of a rich Ultramarine Blue plus a cool mauve. Both colors are identical in value. As I apply both colors a vibrant effect is established. Also part of the sky on the viewer’s left starts drifting into the rock formation, helping to tie in both areas and adding atmosphere to the pastel.

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