Monthly Display - April 2021


Soft Colours in the Western Sky Before Sunrise

73 cm x 39.5 cm, unfixed pastels on paper.
Date produced: March 2017 - April 2018.

This is a combination of a sequence of hand-recorded studies from direct on-site observation, creating an overview of the changes in the soft colours observed in the western sky of a clear day, just before ‘sunrise’. These subtle patterns of soft colours in the sky are amazing spectacles that feel to me to be both emotionally calming and inspiring at the same time. Recording these soft colours from direct observation is important because the light and colour is extremely subtle, and photography can't easily capture the full colour and nuance of tone that is observed.

A similar sequence (but in reverse) occurs in the eastern sky of clear days just after sunset.

I suspect that these patterns of soft colours are the result of refraction of sunlight through our planet’s atmosphere at these special times.

The location for this pastel is West Beach in South Australia. I lived at West Beach from 1982 until 1986, and did a number of studies of the pre-dawn sky when I lived there. The quiet, wide, natural beach views at West Beach seemed highly appropriate for the pre-dawn skies. It is a fantastic place to experience these spectacles, along with the gentle 'white' sounds of small waves crashing in over the shallow beach. The idea of combining several stages of the pre-dawn sky as a series of vertical strips, to show how a rainbow of colour reduces in height, but increases in intensity as the sun gets closer to sunrise, came to me just a couple of years ago. I tried a number of layouts to see how I could most appropriately show the way that the patterns of colours developed, and I settled on this layout that uses vertical strips of individual stages that were decreasing in width (which I felt gave a sense of change over time, and also a sense of quiet acceleration leading up to a climactic event - the sunrise).

I was very pleased to come up with the ideas for this piece, and present the ideas this way. This pastel was entered in "The Waterhouse Natural Science Art Prize for 2018", and was selected for the exhibition as a finalist. During the exhibition, I was notified that my pastel painting had been sold.



Detail 1:

The beach is West Beach, in Adelaide, South Australia.



Detail 2:

The vertical strips represent times that are just a few minutes apart. I needed to record the colours very quickly, and adjust them a little afterwards, from memory. I then needed to check them again on future mornings, and make further adjustments, etc. When you work directly from real world events like these, you realise that the sunrise times change systematically by several minutes over the course of several days, and that any clouds in various regions of the sky can make big changes to the colours seen in the sky at these times.



Detail 3:

The colours within each vertical strip are very subtle, and needed many fine adjustments, and many checks with reality. I am proud of the accuracy I was able to achieve.


Monthly Display - April 2021