Learning how to paint daytime skies is a must for landscape artists. Skies are almost always the first step of a landscape, cityscape or any painting, unless of course your scene will not have a sky. Skies set the overall mood in a painting and should be carefully thought out.
Spend time thinking about what you want your painting to express. Oftentimes the sky in my paintings takes more time than anything else. One of the things that I have learned is that my least favorite color to use in a daytime sky is pure blue! If you think about it, how exciting, mysterious or active is a bright blue sky? Spend time looking at photos or other paintings – look behind the clouds and try to understand what the artist wants you to feel as the mood of the painting.
You’re probably asking, “What color should I use for a daytime sky if not blue?” The answer is, to use a small amount of blue, but add other colors to it. Mix it with purple, burnt sienna, yellow ochre, yellow, white, orange or red. Be careful when mixing yellow into a blue sky because if your not careful, you will end up with a green sky and probably won’t be very happy.
When you have determined what you want your daytime sky to look like, think about where your horizon line will be and lightly sketch it in with soft charcoal. A painting is usually more interesting if your horizon is not dead center of the painting.
There are several techniques for painting skies, but if you are just getting started – lets stick to what I think is the easiest. Wet the sky area of the canvas with liquid gesso. Gesso is just liquid white paint. While this is still wet and starting at the top, add whichever color(s) you are using to the brush. Use criss-cross strokes and work your way down to the horizon. Skies are usually lighter near the horizon. Be careful not to start out too dark or your daytime scene may turn into an evening scene. I like the criss cross stroke method because you blend the colors right on the canvas. It creates variation in the colors. You can always go over the area with a clean brush using horizontal strokes to blend if a gentler sky is what you prefer. Another tip that I like is to keep the outside edges of the sky darker than the center. This technique draws the viewer’s eye into the center of the painting.
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