Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Putting a Sky into Perspective

Hi Everyone!

I just had the most interesting conversation with my friend Paul Seymour on Skype. Right now we are both painting landscapes. Paul is working through Dave's landscape series and I've just started one from one of my favourite photos.

We were talking about the sky and how to paint it into perspective. When the sky is an important element in the painting it is really useful to spend time on it and develop it in a thoughtful, logical manner.

When painting a landscape the sky at the top of the canvas is generally a more saturated or intense (usually slightly darker in value too!)than the sky at the horizon line. Take a look the next time you go outside. Lock your eyes on the horizon and observe the value and intensity. Next tilt your head way back and look at the sky directly above your head. This is the 'richer' blue you will find at the top of a canvas.

The blue at the horizon is the sky that is the most distant from your eye, it will contain the most atmospheric perspective. The angle of the sun's rays bouncing from the ground and the amount of pollution or dust in the air will dull the blue and lighten it in value compared to the sky overhead.

Next pay close attention to the temperature of the sky. You may have a warm or cool sky depending on the mood and the weather in your painting, BUT it will be cooler at the top of the canvas and warmer at the horizon.

When painting an alla prima sky, decide how much movement and interest you want and then choose your brush accordingly. If you are looking for lots of movement and interest, choose a small brush, less movement = larger brush (fewer brush strokes!) I LOVE the Global Art Bristle filberts. Right now they are my favourite brushes of all time and if stranded on a desert island would be my first picks!

I spent a lot of time on my sky today. Maybe a bit too much, but I was learning and experimenting with a few things. I found that working into wet paint was wonderful for creating clouds.

I began by laying in a mass tone for the cloud that was a mid value. I used my brush on its side and really coaxed and pushed paint around to create shapes and tonal differences. I added a grey shadow tone to the bottoms of the bigger closer clouds. Gradually I worked up to pure Titanium White tones using thicker and thicker viscosity paint as I got lighter and more detailed. Often I would go back to deep sky tones and dance a little into a cloud that was getting too 'thick' to help break it up and help lift the light values up.

I have a class tomorrow so this painting will have to simmer a little while Anyone else painting a landscape? Any thoughts and observations as you go?



  1. Your sky looks great already Georgia. I love painting my sky and clouds wet on wet.

    Look forward to seeing the finished landscape.

  2. One comment on skys, you should never use "blue" straight out of the tube for skys. Add some red if you want it warmer, or gambouge if you want cooler, I like to use something close to a turguoise color for my skys when I have a field of wheat. The purplish colors are very nice for mountain scenes. Have fun painting!

  3. Hi B4painter! I paint with Heritage Multimedia Acrylics and they are a highly pigmented artist quality paint. All of the colours come from the tube in a beautiful clear pigment. You are right, painting a sky straight from the tube would be BRIGHT! LOL, brush mixing and moving and creating tones is so much fun. Something we can only do with quality paint.

  4. Thanks Hazel, I can finally get back to it today!