What Makes A Painting Work Art Blog
"Nothing but blue skies from now on," is marvelous as a song lyric or as a description of perfect vacation weather, but rather risky as a painting strategy. Solid blue skies shout. They make statements. They take over. Avoid them as you would avoid a pushy but boring guest at a social gathering.
Skies can add to the harmony of a composition. Color and pattern are both important. When you look at sky in a photograph taken on a clear day, it presents a rather solid even blue. The real skies overhead send all matter of colors bouncing back at your eyes. Thus skies can benefit from touches of other colors in the palette that you use for that particular painting. Not only is the lower sky lighter than the arc above, put judicious use of lighter warmer tones can help indicate the direction from which the sun shines.
Skies can act as simply a background to the more interesting parts of a painting or they can be the main focus of the work. If we look at a wide range of styles and time periods in landscapes, we more frequently see the sky that sits quietly back and lets other elements of the painting speak. As in life, in painting the sky is rarely our main topic of attention. Those background skies are not a solid block of color unless that color is very muted. A blush near the horizon or a scattering of clouds breaks up the color block. Bold blue background skies only work in the company of bright brights.
The sky takes on greater importance in other paintings. Things are going on in the atmosphere which increase the importance of the sky in our consciousness. Storms and sunsets get our attention. That's where the drama is. They can be subjects of wonderful paintings.
My own recent work, "Wyoming Skies", shows summer storm clouds passing through. They gather, drop their rain, break up, and gather again. The clear air creates a bright sky behind them. The dazzling whites where sun hits cloud tops create the brightest points in the landscape. The cloud top in the upper right corner becomes the focal point, while the yellow flowers on the lower left form a secondary focal point. The horizontals of the blue-gray sage and the dark green across the verdant strip of an old buffalo wallow take the eye back across to the right to bounce back up into the high contrast sky. The sky becomes not just a background but is essential to the rhythm of the painting. It is a mix of colors and shapes.