Advertisement: Click here to learn how to Generate Art From Text
In this post, I’ll walk you through how I painted Fraser Island SunsetOil paints are applied with brushes and palette knifes. It shows a stunning sunset seen from the jetty. The scene is filled with warm, brilliant lights, ambiguous shades, and shimmering waters. It took three and a quarter hours, spread out over several sessions.
I also published a YouTube video on this painting Here is a link to the articleYou can watch the video if you prefer.
Below is the reference image I painted from. I took this in May 2023 during my last visit to K’gari in Queensland, Australia (formerly Fraser Island). Chontele and myself got married on this trip.
What I Used
Here’s what I used for this painting:
- Various BrushesYou can also find out more about the following: palette knives;
- Ampersand Gessobord, 12 by 16 inches;
- Paper towel
- French easel;
- Glass New WaPalette;
- Odorless solvent
- TabletYou can view the page by clicking here Reference photo); and
- Oil paints in titanium, raw umber and transparent red oxide. Also available are ultramarine blue, cobalt green, magenta, yellow ochre (cadmium orange), yellow ochre (cadmium light), cadmium deep yellow, and cadmium light yellow.
Refer to the supplies pagePlease see my full list of products and services.
Surfaces that are stained
I begin by staining my surface with a dark color. As this is a relatively dark subject, I want to begin with a darker foundation and then work my way to lighter colors.
I then use paper towels to lift the paint off the surface and map some of the main shapes. I also use my fingers to loosely sketch out the subject. I don’t go into much detail. I concentrate on capturing the jetty and jetty lights. I also focus on the clouds and horizon line. Whilst I’ll eventually paint over this sketch, it’s still important to get it right, as small mistakes here can compound into critical mistakes later.
First Color Strokes
After about an hour of letting the paint dry, I begin adding color. I use timid strokes, as I don’t want to commit to any particular direction just yet. I just want to get a sense of the subject and see how the colors look on the surface.
The sky is the focus of the painting. It needs to really “pop” and showcase all those brilliant sunset colors.
The colors are most intense on the left side, where the sun has just dropped below the horizon. I used mostly cadmium deep yellow and a few touches cadmium Orange here.
As we move away, the colors become weaker and cooler. I am careful to notice the gradual transition from the bright oranges and yellows to the pale yellows, purples, and pale blues. Then to the stronger and darker blues at the top right corner. I keep my brushwork relaxed to convey an atmosphere of fading light and a hazy atmosphere. I also paint the clouds in darker purples and shades of blue. The clouds act as a contrast to the surrounding sky colors. Darker, cooler clouds will create a greater contrast with the bright colors of the sky.
Using Broken Color as the Water
The water is tricky because it’s partly reflective and partly translucent by nature. Some areas reflect light from the sky, and some don’t, allowing us to see through into the water. It’s important to convey both of these qualities in my painting.
My strategy is building up layers of broken colour to capture the shimmering water. I weave together light yellows and oranges to suggest reflected light and dark blues and greens to suggest areas where we can see below the water’s surface.
The broken color technique can be done in a few simple steps. I pick up the color on my brush, and make a few strokes. I then pick up another colour and make a few strokes. I repeat this process until I have a nice color patchwork.
Painting the Vague Persons on the Jetty
The people walking along the jetty seem vague and ambiguous. I need to paint them accurately. The heads, shoulders and torsos of the people need to be placed in the correct places and proportions. Mistakes here tend to stand out, whereas, say, with the clouds, you probably won’t care if I make them too big or small or a different shape. This is a great lesson for any painting. Consider which parts of the painting you can make mistakes with and concentrate on those parts. You can relax in other areas.
The vague people should also fit the impressionistic style. If I painted them in too much detail, they would look out-of-place. This is one of those times when it’s good to depart from the reference photo. In this instance, the photo contains too much detail. When I’m standing there on the jetty, I’m not focusing on the jetty and the people; my attention is on the sunset and its brilliant colors. Everything else is slightly vague and out of focus, so that’s how I should paint it.
I spend a lot of time on the right side of the water. It’s difficult to get the right color. It’s a deeper and more solid blue than the rest of the water. It also acts like a negative space for the vague figures on the jetty. It means I can use the jetty to better define people by carving them out with the water.
I also work the negative space between pillars of the jetty. I can also use the negative space to help carve out and define the jetty. I experiment a lot to get the edges, colors, and negative spaces just right. I know how I want the painting, but it takes a lot of experimenting with different techniques and colors.
The painting is almost complete. All that’s left to do is add the green lights along the jetty and the green reflections on the water. These small details are what make the painting come alive. For the color I use viridian plus titanium white. These jetty lights are fairly weak, so I don’t want the color to be too light, just light enough to appear as a light source. I also scumbled some of the green paint on the jetty, to add more of that soft glowing.
Signing the Painting Complete
I sign off the painting in the bottom-left corner using a small round brush in magenta. I’m quite happy with this one. I think the sky, in particular, really “pops” and the painting says what I want it to say. It will be a nice reminder of the wedding with Chontele.
Here’s the finished painting alongside the reference photo:
Thank you for Reading
Thank you for reading this post. Please feel free to share this post with your friends. If you’re interested in learning more, I recommend that you start with my Fundamentals course.