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Soft Colours in the Western Sky Before Sunrise


Soft Colours in the Western Sky Before Sunrise
73 cm (w) x 39.5 cm (h), 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

Soft Colours in the Western Sky Before Sunrise - Detail 1

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

 

 

 

 

Detail 2

Soft Colours in the Western Sky Before Sunrise - 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

Soft Colours in the Western Sky Before Sunrise - 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.

 

 


 

Another related artwork:

 

Soft Colours In the Pre-Dawn Sky


Soft Colours In the Pre-Dawn Sky
84 cm (w) x 61 cm (h), oil paints on linen canvas.
Date produced: 1985, while living at West Beach, after my first exhibition (1984-1986)

This was painted directly from on-site observation, from West Beach, just before ‘sunrise’. I remember needing to get up very early to get dressed and take all of my needed equipment out to the beach to set up ready for the colours seen before dawn. I was interested in the subtle bands of soft colours in the sky that are seen in the western sky above the sea, just before sunrise during clear mornings (without clouds). These subtle colour bands are amazing spectacles that feel to me to be both emotionally calming and inspiring at the same time. I know from many observations, that these soft bands of colour do change their size and intensity quite quickly, so I needed to be well organised and record quickly, around a certain time just before dawn. The actual time did change as the weeks passed. I needed many sessions (mornings) of similar clear sky conditions to record the spectacle I was after.

Recording these soft colours from direct observation is important because the light and colour at these times is extremely subtle, and photography can’t easily capture the full colour and nuance of tone that is observed.

A similar sequence of soft colour bands can be seen 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.

West Beach was a fantastic place to experience these spectacles, in combination with the gentle ’white’ sounds of small waves crashing in over the shallow beach, the lovely smell of sea sand, and the quality of the fresh air coming in off the water.

I was very pleased with the subtlety of tone and colour achieved in the painting, using oil paints (as opposed to using pastels).

 

 

 

Detail 1:

Soft Colours In the Pre-Dawn Sky - Detail 1

 

 

 

 

Detail 2:

Soft Colours In the Pre-Dawn Sky - Detail 2

Very subtle changes in colour.

 

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