Avoiding Hokie or Gaudy Sunsets, Sunrises

Too often a sunset or sunrise can become corny or hokie -- or cliche with tons of gaudy colors. Here's a hint that I used in a recent sunrise I created.

14x 11 pastel “Sunrise over the Lake” available

Avoid Gaudy Colors

It's easy to over do the many colors in a morning or evening sun scene. While I have seen successful paintings done where the actual round sun is in the image, most fail when the sun is depicted as a sphere in the picture plain.

The sun rises and sets and the sphere is often present, but I decided I was going to focus on the cloud formations and the highlights in the clouds, thus eliminating the problem of how to make the sun sphere look convincing. Afterall, it was the colors and the clouds that were the attraction in this sketch.

I used the center thumbnail sketch

The Tunnel Design Composition

I drew three sketches. If you draw thumbnails, the sun will set or rise long before you begin painting. But I could do three quick sketches like above in just a couple minutes. Then I can use them in the studio. Notice none of them try to capture the colors or even the clouds -- I used my memory.

The right an left sketches are the compound curve or S curve designs. It was the center one that attracted my attention first. As it turns out, it was a tunnel design with near silhouette images of trees in the foreground.

What I learned.

  • One of my biggest discoveries was to select a limited set of colors for the sunrise. This forced me to only paint in a limited range and then fade it into the blues/violets of the non-affected sky above the horizon.

  • The silhouette works well with the tunnel composition design and low-light environments like sunsets and sunrises.

  • I found I could use my memory to add the details long after seeing the sunrise.

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