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Painting Skies with Graham Webber

Posted on Tue 26 Sep 2017

Using the sky to aid composition

I believe the sky is the starting point in a painting and different elements can be used to great effect. Observing a sky change over the course of an hour or so will help to identify interesting and unique plays of light, shape and tone, all of which can help the composition of your painting, whereas a photograph captures only a split second of time.

There is nothing wrong with artistic licence and I tend to think of the subject in front of me as the starting point. This way of approaching a painting helps you loosen up and allow the painting to take you on a journey. It also helps you to interpret the subject for the viewer, rather than copy it for them.

Using perspective

Both linear and aerial perspective can be applied to the sky. Making the most of these factors will help to give depth and structure. Cloud formations can be exaggerated and contrast boosted to help lead your eye around the painting. Hard and soft edges are also a good way of directing composition. Towards the horizon the sky is further from the viewer and is seen through a greater layer of atmosphere. This has the effect of softening contrast, desaturating colour and often cooling down colour, although there are some exceptions, depending on the position of the sun.

In the painting East Coast Sun (see below), I exaggerated the line of the clouds to lead into the highlighted area of beach. The sky is also more saturated in colour towards the top of the painting, which is closer to us and fades, becoming cooler into the distance.

East Coast Sun, oil on board, (30.5x40.5cm).

The diagonal of the land is echoed in the sky, creating a strong sense of compositional direction towards the boats on the beach.


Read more from Graham in the November 2017 issue of The Artist

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Painting Skies with Graham Webber

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