A Winter’s Sunset is based off of a photo reference taken near my home at my children’s school football field. The West setting sun was gorgeous and illuminated the snow on the field beautifully. I knew I wanted to paint it but chose to edit out the house roofs and also the goal posts of the football field.
Don’t be married to your reference photos! Focus on one element (this time I focused on the sky) as the focal point. I blocked in the basic shapes and then quit looking at the photo except for the occasional glance to make sure the mood and feeling I wanted to capture were present.
Paint what the painting needs, not what the photo says.
I have a million and one photos like this on my phone. So many beautiful colors and skies here in Texas. I am thankful I have my phone to help capture things I want to try in my work. I make color notes in my sketch journal and do a ton of daily observation. In my busy-mom schedule I don’t often get out to plein air paint in the evenings so I rely on these notes, photos, memory, and observation to help.
The pastels I used are a variety of Terry Ludwig, Unison, Nupastel, Great American, and a Rembrandt. I also used charcoal for the trees and the beginning pass of the foreground. The paper is Uart 500. I use Uart 400 and 600 occasionally…Uart handles tons of tough treatment and is my go-to paper.
The correct values are always key in any painting. I step back from the paintings a lot….squinting my eyes or “unfocusing” to read the shapes and values. I used rubbing alcohol (surgical spirits) to wet the charcoal and make sure that it didn’t get lost in the clouds. I also re-applied it throughout the painting process to correct small mistakes. The palette knife comes in handy for this, too! It’s important to note that the light looking blues (snow) in the foreground are the same colors in the sky. In one area they are used as lights, in another they appear darker. Value is relative and so is color. A value will appear lighter or darker depending on what it is next to. Same for warmer/cooler, etc. Use this to your advantage to create color harmony and cohesion in your work.
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