'This photo of a beautiful tropical sunset was taken in Fiji,' says Elena Parashko.

'I am amazed at how every sunset is completely different with never a repetition of colours or cloud patterns. I really liked the shape of the palm tree and the foreground in silhouette, and thought it would make a great composition for a painting.'

Your reference photograph for this project: a tropical beach scene at sunset

Considerations before you begin

I decided to intensify the sunset colours in the sky as I had witnessed bright orange and gold sunsets on other occasions. I also wanted to make more of the sun’s orb visible so I simplified the cloud banks by not including so many.

I also eliminated the high layer of wispy cloud to create a smooth blue backdrop for the fronds of the palm tree. Removing the fussiness of too much detail in the sky helped to strengthen the dramatic impact of the sun and palm tree.

To achieve the beautiful smooth blend of changing colours from the top of the sky to the horizon and the continuous sweep of cloud banks, it is easier to paint the whole sky first then draw and paint the palm tree on top later once this background is dry.

The danger of drawing the tree first then painting the sky around it, is that there will be a disjointed effect from one side of the tree to the other and great difficulty in painting the background in between the palm leaves.

How to use transfer paper

After painting the perfect sky, it can be scary to draw the palm tree in the right position without ruining the background.

This is when I find transfer paper to be a very useful tool of the trade.

So, instead of drawing the outline of the composition on canvas, draw it onto paper the same size as the canvas. This allows you to trace parts of the composition at different stages during the painting process.

Simply tape the drawing to the top edge of the canvas then slip a sheet of transfer paper face down under the drawing onto the surface.

Use a ballpoint pen to trace the parts of the drawing that are needed.

Transfer paper works on the same principle as carbon paper and comes in black, yellow and white.

Use black transfer paper over a light-coloured background and use white transfer paper over a dark background.


Using complementary colours

When mixing paint for the sky, make more than you need so the surplus can be used to reflect the sky into the sea.

The blue and orange sky colour can also be mixed together to make a lovely colour for the clouds. This demonstrates the principle that, when opposite colours are mixed together, they produce grey. These are opposite (or complementary) colours: blue and orange; yellow and violet; and red and green.

Demonstration: End of the Day

End of Day, oil on canvas panel, (61x46cm)