Sunrise and Sunset Paintings – painting with the wildest colour and tone in the world.
The symbolism associated with light, colour and the sun itself runs through every core belief of our species and makes creating sunrise and sunset paintings much more than a technical exercise.
Any good landscape or sky painting to me is a form of spiritual exploration but sunrise and sunset paintings have an added element to them – a wildness of colour, a strange, stark light, distinct layers of tone, an apparent re-arrangement of clouds as the sun illuminates different segments of the sky in turn and…of course…. the pure sheer glory of sunrise and sunset in nature.
Close colour harmonies observed during a sunset.
Pleine Aire painting of sunrise seen from Tayport in Fife
Sunrise 17th May
15th May – a simple, beautiful dawn. An outdoor painting.
Dawn 15th May
An outdoor study of the sunrise as it occurred over the River Tay on May 6th
Sunrise 6th May
A sunset study
Colour Study – Sunset
A Colour Study of the sunset on a windless night.
Sunset Study 6
All stages of a sunset (and sunrise) are compelling to observe but the sensous rich reds which are seen quite commonly under certain atmospheric conditions have to be my own favourites. Probably these evenings create the widest range of tone and colour that can be seen in the natural world….they are certainly a challenging subject to paint.
Oil painting – Sunset over Tayport
Oil painting – Red Sunset
Oil painting “Nocturne River Tay”
A painting of a June Sunset – a still evening in the Sidlaw Hills
Oil Painting – June Sunset
Oil painting of the sunset on oil primed artists linen.
Sunset Study 4
Events like this occur most mornings over the North Sea when the sky is not completely overcast.
North Sea Dawn Study
A small studio painting based on an earlier outdoor oil sketch of sunrise painted at Broughty Ferry Castle.
In the Sky That Morning
An outdoor painting of sunrise finished later in the studio.
Sunrise from Tayport
“Sunrise paints the sky with pinks and the sunset with peaches. Cool to warm. So is the progression from childhood to old age.”
Vera Nazarian, The Perpetual Calendar of Inspiration
Oil painting 18x24ins. – Red and Gold Sunset
A small study of the sunset using a mixture of oil techniques.
Sunset Oil Sketch
“Now the wren has gone to roost and the sky is turnin’ gold
And like the sky my soul is also turnin’
Turnin’ from the past, at last and all I’ve left behind”
Not the easiest subject an artist can paint, as it changes so quickly, but it must be one of the most exciting. I can think of no other subject that allows an artist to work with such extremes of tone, brilliant light and colour.
Colour study of a yellow sunset over the moors – Yellow Sunset
“…Come watch with me the shaft of fire that glows
In yonder West; the fair, frail palaces,
The fading alps and archipelagoes,
And great cloud-continents of sunset-seas.” Miracles – Thomas Bailey Aldrich
Sunset painting – View of a Sunset
“Artists can color the sky red because they know it’s blue. Those of us who aren’t artists must color things the way they really are or people might think we’re stupid.” – Jules Feiffer
“…Huh” – Ken Bushe
Small oil painting – Colour Study – Evening Light
I sometimes go to the exactly the same places to observe and paint my sunrise and sunset paintings. The fact that so many paintings of sunsets and sunrises can be done from the same spot without similarities or repetition becomes a statement in itself .
Sunrise painting – Sunrise from the Castle
This is another outdoor painting from the same spot as the one above (“Sunrise from the Castle”). I’ve been doing sunrise and sunset paintings “live” for many years now. While I’ve learned a few things that help me work, I have no “method” of painting them so each one is fresh and they are always challenging to me….always difficult, always exciting.
Painting sunrises and sunsets, on the spot, in real time inevitably stops an artist from feeling too self important!
“Many religions have attempted to make statues of their gods very large, and the idea, I suppose, is to make us feel small. But if that’s their purpose, they can keep their paltry icons. We need only look up if we wish to feel small.” ― Carl Sagan, The Varieties of Scientific Experience: A Personal View of the Search for God
Painting of sunrise – Dawn Study 7
One of the few clear sunrises in a long progression of bad weather during the winter 0f 2013/2014.
Painting of Dawn – Dawn from Broughty Ferry Beach
This painting is used for the cover of “Songs for a Summons” – a new book of poetry written by David Guterson (author of “Snows Falling on Cedars”) published by Lost Horse Press
Study of Sunset – Colour Study 7
A larger painting of the setting sun from the Sidlaws, a range of hills just north of here.
Painting of sunset – Setting Sun
“We have seen that when the earth had to be prepared for the habitation of man, a veil, as it were, of intermediate being was spread between him and its darkness, in which were joined, in a subdued measure, the stability and insensibility of the earth…. Between the earth and man arose the leaf. Between the heaven and man came the cloud. His life being partly as the falling leaf, and partly as the flying vapour”. – John Ruskin, “The Cloud-Balancings”
Sunrise painting – Sunrise in Mist
“There are landscapes in which we feel above us not sky but space. Something larger, deeper than sky is sensed, is seen, although in such settings the sky itself is invariably immense. There is a place between the cerebrum and the stars where sky stops and space commences, and should we find ourselves on a particular prairie or mountaintop at a particular hour, our relationship with sky thins and loosens while our connection to space becomes solid as bone.” Tom Robbins, Skinny Legs and All
Sunset oil painting – Tay Sunset
“….when we look up, it widens our horizons. we see what a little speck we are in the universe, so insignificant, and we all take ourselves so seriously, but in the sky, there are no boundaries. No differences of caste or religion or race.” ― Julia Gregson, East of the Sun
Sky painting of sunset – The Dimming of the Day
With sunrise and sunset paintings it’s often necessary to create an illusion of light within the canvas. As the work progresses it becomes almost like painting with light and use of the best quality artists’ oil paints is essential. The strength of colour available to the artist in the very best paint is amazing and another aspect of the quality means that the colour will be as fresh in a few hundred years as it is today.
Painting of sunset light – Light for the River
Or those war-clouds that gather on the horizon, dragon-crested, tongued with fire;—how is their barbed strength bridled? what bits are these they are champing with their vaporous lips… John Ruskin, “The Cloud-Balancings”
Sunrise Painting – Sunrise in October
A small outdoor colour study on board, painted “live” with thicker oil paint.
Painting of Sunrise – Dawn Study 5