If you haven’t been keeping up with my daily notes, then you may also be unaware that I’ve dubbed March 2023 a month called #mARTch and am planning on drawing, sketching, painting, and otherwise being squwetchy all through the 31 days of this month,
As I write this, the first day of March is essentially three quarters over, but I’ve fulfilled my end of that bargain and already produced a not-terrible watercolour.
In my planning for thirty-one days of drawing I have been reminded of previous drawing-streak challenges I’ve given myself and recall that a big chunk of the actual challenge comes not from doing the art, but in finding inspiration: something to draw and devote a chunk of time to bringing to life on the page. As such, I’ve been snapping photos of random objects downtown and around the neighbourhood, and one of those was a reasonably lovely sunset… obstructed by a bunch of trees and buildings, otherwise known as a silhouette.
sunlines & silhouettes
Sunsets and sunrises are essentially an opportunity to paint light directly. Sure, every colour is either light or reflected light or refracted light or implied light or maybe just lack of light, but a sunset is sunlight transmitting through the atmosphere across a distance that is essentially no different than any other time of daylight, except that the straight line between the sun and your eyes at dawn or dusk cuts through a whole bunch extra air due to the curvature of the Earth. The result is that much of the shorter wavelengths of light start to get filtered out as the light cuts through that little slipping fraction of sky at the cusp of that transition zone, all the violets, blues and greens more likely to be hitting dust particles or other molecules in the air and vanishing from the spectrum, leaving reds and yellows and oranges behind in a blur of colours we recognize as a sunrise or sunset. Painting light is a delicate effort, building up those red and yellow colours without leaving muddy messes behind, filling the space with a wispiness that implies clouds and air and light and reminds us in utter simplicity of what it's trying to be.
I’d love to make sunrises and sunset part of my signature style, but they have been one of the toughest things I’ve encountered so far to paint: blurring and blending and merging colours in a darkened sky.
I started with a wet-on-wet technique, laying down some generously moist yellow lines just above where I supposed my horizon to be. After about ten minutes of letting that seep softly into the page, more wet-on-wet with some alternating reddy-orange streaks, all of it just trying to touch but with enough room for each colour to hold it’s own on the page. As that started to dry and set, I tried to find an optimal time to fill in the space around it with a very diluted deep blue, and added slowly compounding layers to the rest of the sky and slowly, carefully and deliberately pulling the grey-blue tones into the red and yellow spaces.
The silhouette was a little more chaotic, and I roughed it out with a fine-liner & brush pen before using a dilute india ink wash to deepen the blacks and add some speckling to imply some detail and dust.
As always, the photo included doesn’t do the final painting justice and I think it turned out vibrant and balanced.
Now, just 30 more daily paintings to go.