Sunday, 21 February 2010

My Skies Look Bland in My Paintings

An oil painting containing skies could end up looking featureless and lifeless if the sky element is poorly observed. The colour blue looks artificial and unconvincing; idealistic cotton wool clouds ruins an otherwise good landscape painting. How can the artist make the sky look realistic within the painting?

The Causes of a Bland Sky Painting

The following practices are often the culprit of a sky sketch that fails to convince the viewer, and which may contribute to an idealistic landscape painting:

Overuse of the blue pigment Ultramarine
Using only one blue pigment with varying amounts of white for the whole sky
Painting with presumptions about the sky: the sky is blue, clouds are white, etc.
  • Not treating the sky element with equal importance as the landscape
  • Using only pale tones for the sky, resulting in a washed out sky
  • Painting the sky element lastly when tired, which will result in a rushed sky that looks completed as an afterthought
  • Lack of awareness of opaque colours and traslucent colours
Tips on How to Paint Skies with Realism

The following practices and thoughts will help improve sky painting, and will in turn help create a more interesting landscape painting:
  • Skies can contain the most bizarre colours, such as violets, greens and crimsons, which can be seen in sunset paintings or mackerel skies
  • Again, skies are not only pale, but contain contrasting tones
  • Complete a series of paintings with only the sky, which will improve awareness of the sky
  • If a sky looks boring, look for an alternative photograph as a painting resource which contains interesting clouds. Ensure the angles and lighting conditions are consistent with the landscape
  • Use larger brushes than would normally use, to give the sky an impressionist feel
  • Consider using impasto medium, which will add body to the paint, adding a textural element to the sky
  • Resist the temptation to brush out any colour streaks on the painting. Allow brush marks to remain, which will add life to the sky painting
  • Observe the sky sensitively before putting the paint down
Essential Art Materials for Painting Skies

Fill Your Oil Paintings with Light & Color
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Although ultramarine is an important colour, and can often be seen on the zenith of a summer sky, other blues such as pthalo blue, cerulean and cobalt can be seen near the horizon, and will provide interesting additions to the artist’s palette. Bright colours, such as permanent rose and cadmium yellow can be seen in sunsets. Burnt sienna, ultramarine and varying amounts of white often make a great colour for cloud bases. Good quality bristle brushes and impasto medium will create an Impressionist sky.

External Links on Painting Skies

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