Sunrise oil sketch - 26 Feb 2010 - Eileen (Eibhlin) Eilis Morey, artist

The Sun is Back

The sun is back!

When I woke up this morning, the skies and the weather map looked like the sunrise would be dismal.  I wasn’t sure I’d be able to paint en plein air. (Of course, I had a Plan B ready.)

Instead, the clouds broke and the sun came through the clouds, at least for awhile. (A snowstorm is moving in.)

So, I moved my easel to the sliding glass doors (for “plein air” lighting) and started painting while the sunlight — and the colors — were brilliant.  The contrast was dramatic, and the clouds were a great peach-tinged color next to a lavender horizon. The scene was a visual delight, and I captured it in this oil sketch.

This painting is on a 9″ x 12″ canvas board, underpainted with cadmium red.  The landscape emerged over about a 25-minute period, before I said “It’s time to stop, before I spoil it.”  (My husband – HT – agreed, I was starting to “fuss” with it.)

Painting in sequence

Detail - oil sketch - 26 Feb 10At left, you can see a detail from the painting.

I started by roughing-in the foreground and the sky, all with the same mix of pthalo (turquoise) blue and white.  Then, I scrubbed in some of the hillside, first with some cadmium yellow and cadmium orange, mixed.

After that, I worked on the sky, to capture it before it changed too much.  I wanted the lavender horizon, the pale turquoise of the sky directly above us, and the mix of heavy peach and white clouds.  There’s a hint of yellow in the clouds, as well.  (I’m looking to the west as I paint; the sunrise is directly behind me.)

Then, it was time to add the deep pthalo blues (dark blue-green) on the hillside, plus the touch of spring greens highlighted by the sun.

From there, I worked on the foreground.  Keeping a canvas balanced is generally a good idea.  Oh, there are times when that’s impossible — such as when just one part of the painting will be very detailed, and/or a layer of paint must dry before more work can be done in that area.

However, it’s smart to keep the canvas well-balanced.  Otherwise, there’s a sense of uneasiness, the more you paint.  One thing I learned when I studied with Larry Gluck is: Whatever you think is wrong with the painting when you’re deeply immersed in the work… the issue is probably on another part of the canvas.

It’s important to remember that, in a painting, everything works together.  It’s about relative light and dark, and the way the colors play off each other.  The viewer’s eye will be drawn to where the greatest contrast is… light/dark, bright/muted, or works/doesn’t work.

As an artist, it’s essential to choose your contrasts.  However, sometimes we get so immersed in the work, the hyperfocus distorts importances.  You can either take a break or get a second opinion.

My mother has always turned her canvases upside down.  That’s how she gets a fresh view of what’s going on in the work.  Sometimes, I do that, too.

Anyway, I kept working on each third of the canvas (foreground, hill, sky) and finally added the whites and pale yellows of the vivid sunlight.

I’m very pleased with this painting.