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How I Sketch Sunsets And Sunrise

Updated on June 24, 2014

The Beauty Of A Sky At Sunrise Or Sunset

As an artist, I love to sketch skies at sunset or sunrise, I spend a great deal of time trying to capture what I see and how it makes me feel.

When I sketch sunsets and sunrises, I am not so involved with accurate cloud shapes but with trying to get down the colours and patterns in the sky, the perspective of the clouds and how it all affects the scene in front of me through the interplay of light and shadow. Of course consideration of the meteorological aspects may be important for some important but is not an over-riding factor for me. I can often be seen to be taking considerable liberties with artistic licence.

This lens is not a "How-to" but a "what-I-do". I am not going to try to tell you how to approach sketching sunsets and sunrises but simply to show you how I go about it. Maybe I will add such information in a future update but there is so much variety in a beautiful sunset that the only way to learn is to go out, observe and put it down on paper. You may not get it right first time but perseverance will bring its own reward, as they say.

I have always been inspired by the colours and patterns in some ( unfortunately not all) sunrises and sunsets, who can fail to be inspired by the wonderful sights on offer?

You can return to NOT ANOTHER WATERCOLOUR TUTORIAL, or if you didn't start from there why not pop on over. It will lead to other pages filled with ideas to enhance your sketching.

All images are by the writer, please respect the copyright and do not copy or otherwise use them without my express permission. I am very amenable if you ask and wish to use them in a non-commercial way. The majority are in waterclour but because I find the use of pastels so amenable where bright and strong colours are involved , I could not leave out a number of pastel images.

Quotes About Sunrise / Sunset

"When I admire the wonder of a sunset or the beauty of the moon, my soul expands in worship of the Creator", Mahatma Gandhi.

"Climb up on some hill at sunrise. Everybody needs perspective once in a while, and you'll find it there", Robb Sagendorph.

The first set of images I want to show you are semi-abstract landscapes. They are painted in a wet-into-wet style and the washes are kept very loose. I select just two or three colours for these sketches and often do several at once to allow each wash to come to the correct level of dryness. Not all of them work but it is great fun playing with the paint in this way trying to capture an ethereal view.

The three colours used here were a cadmium red, ultramarine blue and a lemon yellow; as far as I can remember. Variouis marks with the sharp end of the brush and drops of colour or brushmarks simulate elements of the landscape, leaving the viewers imagination to do a little work.

Pastel Sunset/Sunrise

This next set of images were created using artists' soft pastels. Again it is the overall feeling and atnosphere which I am aimimg for in the sketches rather than an accurate portrayal of reality. These are actually fairly large paintings but I use the term sketch to describe them as they are a quick, evocative rendering.

First a brightly coloured example, where the use of the three primary colours has producecd an exciting appearance.

The second example is a little more subdued but the yellow sky is somewhat surprising. The dark, almost black foreground elements bring these well forward, I find.

Another surprising sky colour, but I saw a similar painting and loved it so I tried it for myself and although the drawing is a little hurried, I was very pleased with the way this came out.

Are You Moved By The Sky At Sunrise / Sunset?

Do you feel that you want to get out a sketch book to capture the sight?

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Some More Examples Of Watercolour Sketches

This next set of images are taken from a series of paintings that I did to combine soft brushwork in the sky with a more fim approach in the foreground. Thus bringing the foreground elements forward.

The first shows trees on a hillside.

More trees, different time of day.

A partially obscured moon.

Now See How It's Done.

Watch Videos On Painting Sunset / Sunrise

the last ( acrylic painting has a very loud soundtrack, please be warned

This is a work in progress. I hope to be adding many more examples of how I sketch skies - an excuse for showing off some of my sketches really - but I would love to hear if any of my ramblings are reminiscent of your own experiences of sketching.

Are you a realistic painter, is abstract an anathema to you ? Let me know, I have many painter colleagues who spend hours or even weeks on each work whilst I always aim to complete in a session or two. What is your feeling.

How Do You Approach Sketching.

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    • profile image

      SteveKaye 4 years ago

      Your work is beautiful. It captures the spirit of the scene.

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      Very easy and interesting read. I have a camera that I use to take photos, especially when the sky is cloudy in summer. Keep up the good work!

    • John Dyhouse profile image

      John Dyhouse 4 years ago from UK

      @tokfakirmiskin: THank you very much

    • tokfakirmiskin profile image

      tokfakirmiskin 4 years ago

      you are so talented!

    • profile image

      sherioz 4 years ago

      I don't approach sketching - except if it is other people's sketches And I like your purple one and the darker one of the mountains best.

    • MelRootsNWrites profile image

      Melody Lassalle 4 years ago from California

      I couldn't draw or paint to save my life. These are beautiful. Thanks for sharing!

    • profile image

      AlleyCatLane 4 years ago

      I really love your pastel sunrises and sunsets. Absolutely gorgeous work.

    • John Dyhouse profile image

      John Dyhouse 5 years ago from UK

      @Ramkitten2000: Thank you very much for such kind words

    • Ramkitten2000 profile image

      Deb Kingsbury 5 years ago from Flagstaff, Arizona

      I REALLY do like your work! I mean it, it's beautiful. And I enjoyed the description of how you do your art. What a wonderful talent you have and so much better that you enjoy it. Thanks for sharing it with us.

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      I bet your Draw Something illustrations would be amazing. Your art is very enjoyable and relaxing!

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      Love the work... It is beautiful!

    • floppypoppygift1 profile image

      floppypoppygift1 5 years ago

      Thanks for sharing your work with us! It's not always easy to share something so special. Cheers~cb

    • Scarlettohairy profile image

      Peggy Hazelwood 5 years ago from Desert Southwest, U.S.A.

      You're a very talented artist! I'm so jealous of your sunrise and sunset paintings! My photos aren't this good!

    • krior76 profile image

      krior76 5 years ago

      Very nice art. I've always wanted to paint sunset but I wasn't able to it yet. Hopefully someday... I'm more into catching sunset in camera.

      Nice lens

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      Wow, you have some beautiful artwork here. I love the vibrancy of your palette. Your intro pic and the red one that you said was "hurried" are my faves! Keep on with your brilliance, ArtyFax!

    • LisaDH profile image

      LisaDH 5 years ago

      Beautiful work! I can't draw or paint worth a darn, but I love to take photos of the sunrise and sunset. Such a great subject!

    • rob-hemphill profile image

      Rob Hemphill 5 years ago from Ireland

      Love the sunsets, you capture the moods beautifully. As an enthusiastic photographer, I'm still trying to get to grips with importance of light at sunrise and sunset.

    • Lady Lorelei profile image

      Lorelei Cohen 5 years ago from Canada

      You are a beautiful artist. It never ceases to amaze me the talent that we have here at Squidoo. You also reminded me that I used to sketch trees when I was younger - I had completely forgotten. Thank you for this very relaxing look into an artist's world.

    • profile image

      inspirationz 5 years ago

      I'm a graphic designer and this will come in useful - excellent tips to help me paint sunsets in the future - thank you!

    • ajgodinho profile image

      Anthony Godinho 5 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      When I first started painting, as a kid, I stated with water colors and enjoyed it very much. I painted a lot in my teens, but never pursued it in my adult years. I love painting landscapes and enjoyed your beautiful painting...great work...blessed! :)

    • profile image

      cmadden 5 years ago

      Beautiful lens - I do love your art.

    • Ben Reed profile image

      Ben Reed 5 years ago from Redcar

      A lovely lense - these sunsets are great and I love how its done.

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      I can't believe that I have missed this gem of yours, I love how you share your how you do it...and do it beautifully! Adding a little angel dust to the mix...

    • waldenthreenet profile image

      waldenthreenet 6 years ago

      Beautiful ! You will love my "Sunrise/sunset" storybook.

    • WayneDave LM profile image

      WayneDave LM 6 years ago

      I've really enjoyed reading this lens. Thanks a lot for sharing. I can't draw at all!!!

    • Blackspaniel1 profile image

      Blackspaniel1 6 years ago

      Interesting lens.

    • Jhangora LM profile image

      Jhangora LM 6 years ago

      I am not a painter but really enjoyed this Lens. You paint well.

    • sorana lm profile image

      sorana lm 6 years ago

      Beautiful watercolours John and I love the videos. I have watched Patrick Howe painting before. Nice lens.

    • MagpieNest profile image

      MagpieNest 6 years ago

      I don't have the slightest bit of artist ability, but I know a good sunset when I see one. Blessed.

    • Barb McCoy profile image

      Barb McCoy 6 years ago

      These are really nice! I love the silhouettes of trees. Thanks for the tips and the video.

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      I love that you say this is the way you do it and then actually show your method in videos! I loved watching creation happen!

    • TonyPayne profile image

      Tony Payne 6 years ago from Southampton, UK

      Love the artwork. I love watching the sun rise or set.

    • WritingforYourW profile image

      WritingforYourW 7 years ago

      Very nice examples. Thank you for sharing your work!

    • ClassyGals profile image

      Cynthia Davis 7 years ago from Pittsburgh

      I like to sketch and I guess am considered a realistic, amateur painter.

    • profile image

      Light-in-me 7 years ago


      These are very beautiful! I love sunsets/sunrises.

      Nice job,

      Robin :)

    • delia-delia profile image

      Delia 7 years ago

      Hello from a Squidoo Greeter! Very nicely done art...lovey colors as well.

    • WildFacesGallery profile image

      Mona 7 years ago from Iowa

      Really lovely. I particularly like the back lit purple sky piece. Big sky pieces have always been challenging for me. Nicely done.