View Full Version : The Spotlight - September 2016 - Sunsets continued

08-31-2016, 09:00 PM
Welcome artists!

Here is a quick recap of what The Spotlight is all about!

The Spotlight is an activity thread for pastel artists of all experience levels working from photos chosen by a monthly host. Most months, the host will choose photos from only one subject, putting that subject into “the spotlight,” so to speak! For example, one month the subject will be painting water, another month will spotlight flowers, etc.

Some months, rather than spotlight a subject, the focus will be on a challenge of some sort. In those cases, we might have a wider variety of photo references, but “the spotlight” will be on the challenge itself.

Since this is a group activity, we can pool our knowledge and resources, and grow as artists in a fun, “no-pressure” atmosphere.

And, remember, no critiques unless specifically asked for.

The intent is to have fun, try new things, experiment, and perhaps most of all, to see what our friends and colleagues are painting from the same reference material!

Please note: The photos this month were taken by me or are from the Reference Image Library. You have permission to use the photos as reference to create your artwork and to sell them and/or exhibit them. The actual photos still retain the copyright of the photographer. So you cannot copy the photo to your blog, for example, without the permission of the photographer, or digitally alter or reproduce the photo for any purpose other than for your personal use, with the exception of crops, digital alterations and posts of these photos within "The Spotlight" thread.

This month’s Spotlight is...Sunsets...Continued!

Last month we put Sunsets into the Spotlight – and due to public demand, we’re going to do so again this month!
Here’s a link to last month’s Spotlight:


Feel free to continue to paint from last month’s references!

We’ll also add in a sunrise or two! No reason to leave out the beginning of the day, which can also be filled with nature’s beautiful colors! In fact one of the world’s most famous paintings is a sunrise painting – Monet’s Impression, Sunrise!


Last month we looked at some sunset paintings by contemporary oil painter, Ovanes Berberian. This month I found a couple sunset paintings from an older master, Albert Bierstadt, to help inspire us!



Now for this month’s references! (all photos by me)







Feel free to paint from your own references or even plein air! Also feel free to modify my references any way you wish! And have fun painting sunrises and sunsets!


water girl
08-31-2016, 11:11 PM
A continuation is a great idea, Don! This has been a very popular subject.

09-01-2016, 06:06 AM
Great inspirations, great references! Thank you!

09-01-2016, 10:18 AM
Wow! What fabulous examples and ref photos. I will join in soon as I can! Thanks Don :)
We're off to Devon next Friday for a week in a lodge by a lake (our OWN personal fishing lake for the week!) I will see if I can get out there and capture the atmosphere of a sunrise or sunset, that is, if I can see them from there...we've never been before.

09-01-2016, 11:52 AM
These are even more spectacular than last month. :clap:

I'm going camping (no phone,no internet for a week):(

but will catch up when I get back.:wave:

09-01-2016, 12:03 PM
Beautiful references, don! Thank you
This is nupastels on colorfix. It's a half sheet (9x6). The other half of the sheet is a sunset scene I painted from a WDE a couple of weeks ago :)


09-01-2016, 02:19 PM
Kim. Lovely.
I was looking at that and two other references. The light is so special in this reference. I can't wait to paint but...lots going on this weekend. Maybe if I'm lucky.

What color Colorfix? There might be a very slight touch of blush on the house in the reference. Love that blue in the sky!

09-01-2016, 03:02 PM
Kim ...I'm impressed with the complexity of colour.

water girl
09-01-2016, 03:23 PM
Kim, that is stunning!

09-01-2016, 04:05 PM
Wow, that was quick Kim! A really nice rendition of the ref too!

09-01-2016, 09:41 PM
Kim, Thanks for getting us started this month! Very nicely done! That's a tough reference, in my opinion!


09-02-2016, 12:23 PM
Thank you for the kind words. the reference had some wonderful vibrant colors.
Jay, thank, it's on a dark green shade of paper. I would say I see neutral shades of reddish and some with greenish tones in the buildings on the reference. I did not replicate them. I debated whether to keep a suggestion of buildings there at all.

09-03-2016, 12:37 AM
I'm so happy we're continuing the sunset/sunrise theme! Kim, your painting is wonderful!

09-03-2016, 02:50 AM
Don, thank you! And thanks for suggesting plein air too, I've been seeing some great beauties here since I moved.

Kim, that's so lively and full of motion! I love how you captured the clouds' motion and the light on the landscape, so atmospheric! I can feel the warmth, color is awesome and you were working from life or memory as much as the photo with those greens. Wonderful painting!

09-03-2016, 06:03 PM
Hey all,

I don't get dusty as often as I like these days, but I just couldn't resist a good sunset.

Here's my attempt. A gouache underpainting on some budget 8.5x11 watercolor paper. Mostly Rembrandt pastels. Only the second time I've tried an underpainting... it's relatively new to my repertoire.

C&C welcome. My own criticism includes the reflections on the water and the chairs. The reflections aren't subtle enough for my tastes, and the chairs fell into the gap between "painterly" and "realistic". Other than that, I'm pretty happy with it. If I wanted to do better, I should pick up the pastels more often.


09-03-2016, 06:03 PM
Thank you for prolonging the theme, Don! There reference photos are beautiful.

Kim, Rob is right, the motion in the clouds is great. Very nice painting.

Rob, so nice to see you back!

09-03-2016, 06:25 PM
Thanks rob, Nick, and Sandra!
Simon, nice work! I like your reflections, they remind me of the monet

09-03-2016, 09:17 PM
Robert, nice to see you.

Simon, you got it! Nice sunset! I think those chairs look inviting, a place to enjoy the view. Nice job.

09-04-2016, 07:26 AM
Simon, that is a stunning rendition of the ref! I actually like the reflections and the chairs! You have created a great mood there. The only critique I have applies to the clouds at the very top. I feel they draw my eye as they are so dark and some of them have quite hard edges. I feel this makes them more important in the painting than they should be, if you see what I mean.
Other than that this is perfectly glorious! I just love the colour transitions in the sky. great job!

Hi Robert :wave: Long time no "see" :cat:

09-04-2016, 08:49 AM
I go t sidetracked last month...hope to do better this month.

Kim...I love the way you did the sky...gorgeous.

Simon...You did a beautiful job. I feel like sitting in a chair and gazing out over the reflections in the water. Well done!

09-04-2016, 09:28 AM
WIP from sketch, through block in to...getting there! Now I'm going back to it. :)






09-04-2016, 11:39 AM
Simon, Thanks for joining us! Your painting is very nice! As Ruth suggests, perhaps some softening in the clouds will make it even better, but it is really good now!

Ruth, Thanks for doing this WIP! It's looking good so far! looking forward to the finish!


09-04-2016, 12:18 PM
Thanks Don! The camera was there and, for once, I remembered to use it :)

OK, done for today and, as usual, I have already signed this. It will be scrutinised some more though before I officially call it finished.

It's done on a piece of fisher 400 sanded paper, 10x20" though cropped a little smaller than that.

C&C is welcome on this. I would like to know if you think it works as a whole or if there are too many "stars of the show". Should I, perhaps, put a window in the barn reflecting the bright light of the sky? Or maybe that would be a step too far? is the whole thing too saturated? Should I dumb down more areas (the foreground is already pretty dumb :D )


09-04-2016, 03:16 PM
Ruthie, thanks for the w I p. Great to see.

IMHO, I don't think it's over saturated. I love how you worked some red of sky into the field. And some yellow of sky into the orange field. The glow on the house is charming and yes, a smallish window would work, IMHO. (I like the idea!!). I love how your clouds appear to be in layers. Great job on this. Every aspect. (IMHO...lol).

09-04-2016, 05:02 PM
Beautiful, Ruthie! I like the use of saturated colors.
, it makes it very striking and I think that vividness was what caught my eye in the reference, which you captured nicely. To me, the sky is clearly the "star of the show" in your painting.

09-04-2016, 05:10 PM
Nice job, Ruthie! It's a very striking composition, with all of the lines leading to the dark values of the barn, and yet the eye is also drawn to the brightness of the sky. It encourages extended contemplation. I would not put a window on the barn, but that is only my opinion. I think the lively layering of color that you have on the barn right now is great.

On the C&C I have received on my submission, my thanks to all. I agree that the edges on some of the clouds are distracting. I will consider it. I might get an opportunity to make a few adjustments. Or I will take a shot at one of the other references! I really appreciate the feedback.


water girl
09-05-2016, 03:34 AM
Hi, Simon! This was a good choice for you. If you do have a minute to go back and soften the upper clouds a bit, it will work very nicely. You've captured the distant hills very convincingly against the horizon.
Ruthie, thank you for the WIP. In your finished painting, I'm particularly taken with the colorful glow to the barn wood. It is slightly evident in the reference, but you've taken it a step further with great success.

09-05-2016, 09:41 AM
Ruth, Lovely finish! You've integrated the barn into the painting wonderfully! Not too many stars in my opinion!


09-05-2016, 01:11 PM
I grabbed a couple of pastels this morning and touched up the dark, hard-edged clouds. I think it's quite an improvement. Thanks for the suggestions.


09-05-2016, 04:39 PM
Thank you all! I've decided not to add a window to the barn, but I may go back into the sky here and there on this one. :)
Simon, yep, that's improved it, amazing what just a few adjustments can do. It's great!

09-06-2016, 03:25 PM
Hello Don and all!
Back from the wilderness and anxious to get out pastels
and onto the internet.
For my first attempt I chose one of the simpler compositions.
Rembrandt and Nupastels on MI-Teintes blue paper (smooth side).


Unlike Ruthie I block in the beginning as masses rather than lines.
After putting in the darks I move to the lightest lights.
I also TRY to let the blue paper peek through.


I made a few changes to the composition...some intentional... some not so much!.. :) I'll let you decide....C&Cs welcome.


09-06-2016, 03:44 PM
Leslie, you said this was a simpler composition. But the result of your painting it is stunning!!! Just beautiful. I love the distance, love the glow in the sky and those beautiful reflections!

water girl
09-06-2016, 06:34 PM
Leslie, this just glows. You've achieved great atmosphere with the distant tree line.

09-06-2016, 11:21 PM
Leslie, it's a wonderful, airy piece. I wish I could make something look that good. If I can nitpick, the left end of the further shoreline where it disappears behind the nearer, dips. In my mind, when I'm looking at it, I am expecting the water in the lake to go rushing in that direction... :-) Maybe it doesn't bug other people. If you could raise the water line there just an 1/8 inch...


09-07-2016, 08:09 AM
Good Morning all!
Well Simon will be awake in a couple of hours...:wave:
Thanks to Jay, Karen and Simon for the nice comments.
I see your point Simon and here it is tweeked digitally.
Now I just have to keep my hand steady enough to do that to the real thing!


09-07-2016, 08:51 AM
Leslie, I bought one of those plexiglass bridge things that Blick sells. Or even lay a ruler on the page for horizon line. Then break it up afterward. I hate to be mechanical but horizon across a big sheet, (14 inches)..hard to keep steady.

09-07-2016, 02:06 PM
Leslie, Absolutely lovely painting! Yes, it's hard to get a straight horizon in pastels, but if you could raise the horizon of those far trees just behind the big tree in front I think it would help! It's so minor, but now that it has been mentioned...


09-07-2016, 03:32 PM
Is this what you are suggesting?
I can see that detail in the photo but am not sure it works in this painting as I've created this little arrow (tip of land)
...but perhaps I've misunderstood.
I originally softened that edge to imply distance rather than define it.
Anyway I'll see it with fresh eyes a few days from now :wink2:



09-07-2016, 05:16 PM
A beautiful painting Leslie! It is so serene and makes me feel I am there....would certainly like to be!

09-07-2016, 08:47 PM
Leslie, Yes, nice correction to the horizon line (or actually just the far shoreline)! Now there is more distance between the nearer shore (sharper) and the far shore (softer), and a clearer definition that the lake goes on beyond that nearer point! There is nothing wrong with creating an arrow shape, in my opinion, - especially if it is pointing into the painting.

A lovely and serene painting!


09-08-2016, 08:28 AM
Thanks Ruthie and Don,
Comments are very helpful...
and Ruthie I did find your demo valuable.
As I am self taught in pastels I've never got the hang of sanded papers but I can see from yours how I might give it another go!

09-08-2016, 09:23 AM
I did another yesterday, from a photo of my own. Not sure I'm gonna show you as it needs tweaking and I don't have time....because I'm off to Devon for the week tomorrow. I hope to paint a sunset from life! All being well I can possibly share it with you....who knows, only just got my first tablet and I don't understand it!

09-08-2016, 11:40 AM
Ruthie, I'd love to see. Can't help you with posting. I use my computer. Have a great time in Devon.

Leslie, you got the line perfect!! Lovely painting.

I just had to try the reference of the two guys in the canoe. DON, how did you ever get that photo. I knew it was just toooooo beautiful but let's call it a "study". and a learning experience. Feel FREE to critique!!

This is 9 x 12 on WHITE PastelMat with only Nupastels. It's rather garish, sorry. Maybe I can figure out how to tone it down. I'd like to marry the colors more but don't want them 'dirty'.

09-08-2016, 12:33 PM
I smoothed it one of those cloth paper towels This is a more accurate photo.

09-08-2016, 02:12 PM
That reference intrigued me as well, Jay, I like your rendition, the boaters turned out really well, and i think the blending worked for the painting. No, it doesn't strike me as "garish". Colorful, yes, but that's the point of a sunset, isn't it? And part of the fun of painting them too :)

Leslie, your painting is lovely. A very simple and peaceful composition.

09-08-2016, 02:20 PM
Thanks Kim. It WAS fun and the fastest painting I've ever done! Less than two hours. I hope you do that reference too. I can't wait to see!

09-09-2016, 08:48 AM
I do like the vibrancy of your first example.
This is a great challenge from my usual more muted type landscapes.
Perhaps it's just a matter of getting used to seeing pure colour...?

09-09-2016, 10:56 AM
Thanks Leslie. The actual painting is a smash between the two. These bright colors are most unusual for me. But so much fun to try. And I keep changing papers just to add to the excitement!!
I love how beautiful you made that glow in yours. Just gorgeous.

09-09-2016, 02:17 PM
Some beautiful new sunsets showing up!
Ruthie, Simon, Leslie and Jay....all very striking.
Jay, I love the softer, amended version of your last...
Leslie and Simon...your adjustments really paid off.....well done!
Ruthie....Love the sky particularly...layered clouds are great.

I'm trying to catch up....have done a couple of 'practice runs' which I may be able to make work....we'll see...

09-09-2016, 02:34 PM
Thanks Judibelle. Are you painting today?

09-09-2016, 08:51 PM
Jay, Very nice painting of the kayakers! Bold and colorful! I was, I must admit, very lucky that the kayak happened to take off toward the sun as I was taking sunset photos! I did have to sprint down the beach - while taking pics - to stay ahead of the kayak so that it stayed in a good position compositionally!


09-10-2016, 07:33 AM
Thank DON and thanks for being such a dedicated photographer to sprint down the beach!! I appreciate the sprinting and the photos!!!

09-12-2016, 12:24 AM
Great sunsets from everyone again this month:clap: I was looking for something local to paint so my daughter gave me this sunset taken from her balcony.
If anyone wants to paint from the ref feel free I would love to see what you do with it.
I'm still working on my painting and will post soon,

09-12-2016, 10:27 AM
Deanna, that's a fantastic new reference to work from. Thanks for posting.

Jay, I like the kayakers. The colors add to the emotion of the piece and give it energy. The crop adds to the effect. Where the reference is peaceful and contemplative, I think yours makes me think of a journey beginning. Put that on the cover of a book, and I'd pick it up in the store.


09-12-2016, 12:13 PM
Dea! That is some reference!!! Wow! Thanks for sharing. I can't wait to see what you do with it!

Simon. What a nice comment to make! I'll be walking on air all day..and now I have to write a book too!! Thank you. But I hope you like the new rendition.

Added Great American to the Kayak Sunset painting. It seems a little softer. All comments welcome. This is 9 x 10 on White PastelMat.

09-12-2016, 01:47 PM
Jay, You should be very pleased!
I'm glad you retained the vibrancy
but just softened some of the colour transitions.

Deanna beautiful reference...what a chance to check out some rarely used colours!

09-12-2016, 02:11 PM
Thanks Leslie. I am pleased. This one looks prettier IRL. The sun on the water. But my husband is a hard critic! Have to get his verdict. (The earlier version was "too green.").

I started one of my own references of a Sunset last Saturday when tropical storm Hermine was in the area. The wind blew across the river and the kids were surfing in the river! I'm using panpastels on White PastelMat. We shall see!!! I'm only starting.

09-13-2016, 10:58 PM
Ok that's odd, it seems my ref photo has changed to my painting when I tried to upload the photo of the painting, I will try to post the ref again later when I get home because I dont have it on my phone

09-14-2016, 04:58 AM
Dea, that is gorgeous!!!! The reference and the painting probably had the same I'd number? Maybe that's why. However your painting is beautiful! What paper? What pastels? How big? I love it!

09-14-2016, 08:24 AM
Dea, The painting is wonderful! You've really captured the strong sense of light!

Make sure each file you upload has a different file name. This often means renaming the file if pics are taken with a smart phone. A file with the same name as a previous upload will replace the older file.

Jay, It looks great! I think it's finished now!


09-14-2016, 10:37 AM
These sunsets are simply gorgeous! I had promised myself I would do at least 1 challenge a month - I'm behind (don't you just hate when life gets in the way of painting?). I was so inspired by what everyone has done, I finally finished the one I started last month! Nupastels on canson mt orange paper. C&C welcome

09-14-2016, 01:41 PM
Thanks Don. I'd better put the pastels away. Five year old on the horizon!!!!

That is lovely CaliAnn. You did a super job on the grasses. And I love the blue glow on the field. I wasn't able to get that. Very nice work. So glad you showed us.

09-15-2016, 04:04 AM
Okay, this should work. I have to use my old computer because the newer version of OS won't let my select images from my computer only folders?? I'm sure there is a reason but I can't work it out, usually when I upload on my phone it works okay as long as you upload different images on different days.
My painting is on half a sheet of burgundy colourfix paper with mount vision pastels, I'm quite pleased with the way it turned out but I wonder if I should do a hint of roofs in the foreground.

The ref again

09-15-2016, 05:46 AM
My vote? Don't touch it!

09-15-2016, 07:52 AM
Thanks Jay.
Deanna - simply gorgeous!

09-15-2016, 08:39 AM
CaliAnn, Very nice! Soft and atmospheric!

Dea, I agree with Jay, I don't think it needs anything else!


09-16-2016, 12:34 PM
I have been watching! Still getting used to using this tablet thingy....we're staying an extra 2 days in Devon so won't be home until Sunday. I'll try to look properly and reply then. I haven't had the chance to do a plein air sunset as we haven't had a real good one that I can see from here. Done a sunrise type scene from a photo today though. Too windy out for plein air....With this lightweight easel anyway!

09-16-2016, 01:46 PM
CaliAnn: nice job. I think my favorite part is the foreground. It has an interesting contrast to the sky and mid-ground, and has enough texture to not be boring and yet it doesn't distract. I find I have a lot of trouble with that.


09-16-2016, 04:35 PM
Thanks Simon. Struggled with this one, that orange canson color really made this difficult.

09-18-2016, 08:52 AM
The orange Canson does give this piece a warm glow.
I have already mentioned how much I like to work on toned paper.
As soon as you put that first stroke of pastel on the paper there's an instant reaction.
...is that what you mean by struggle?

09-18-2016, 09:05 AM
Leslie - when I'm working with the canson mt colored paper, I find that first stroke dictates whether or not I'm going to get the colors/effect I want. The colors don't quite come out as I want and I have to really, really work to get what I want - it's a hit or miss or miss thing with me. I recently started experimenting with black paper - what a challenge. I did discover that the brand of pastel you use makes a huge difference. For instance, my carb othello pastel pencils don't really do much on colored paper - most of the colors just disappear (if you know what I mean) - the nu pastels, depending on the color, much the same thing. The rembrandt and the few schminke and sennallier - the colors stay more true - sometimes too much!

09-18-2016, 09:20 AM
I just bought a pad of heavy black drawing paper with which I'm anxious to experiment.
Like you I use Rembrandt (mostly) and some Sennelier (for punch) as the colour stands out.

09-18-2016, 10:19 AM
If I get the chance, I'll take some pics and post some of my black paper experiments (remember, they're experiments!:angel:)

09-22-2016, 01:30 PM
Finally got back to this. (That little grandson wears me out!!)
This is white PastelMat, 9 x 12 with Pan Pastels. Actually very fast work. This was tropical storm Hermine in our area a few weeks ago. There were actually surfers surfing in the the river, by the ocean.. All comments most welcome, as ALWAYS

09-22-2016, 03:48 PM
I love this, Jay! It has a lot of energy.

CariAnn, I'm just catching up on the board, yours is lovely, it has an ethereal quality

09-22-2016, 04:53 PM
Thanks, Kim. It was a very special evening. Fun to paint a memory like that.

09-22-2016, 10:15 PM
Jay, Agree with Kim - lots of energy! You can feel that water surging! And a nice sunset, too!


09-22-2016, 11:55 PM
Jay, that's fantastic. I'm groping for words, but seriously, that's great. I love how I can see your pastel marks, and yet you've got the reflected light from the sky bouncing off the waves right.

Lots of energy in the foreground, almost like it ramps up from perfectly peaceful in the distance to almost frantic in the lower right. I am imagining a storm that blew itself out, leaving a sunset with a few fluffy clouds.

If I might offer one piece of constructive criticism, it is that the foreground is unbalanced, with large masses on the left and "foamy" water on the right. A lot of energy is moving from left to right.


09-23-2016, 07:46 AM
Thank you Don. My whole family was at that cove on that special night taking pictures. Fun to do that in pastel. Pans are so much fun.

Simon, there is a bias toward the right. The wind was blowing that direction. I hope the painting makes people feel that they have to fight the wind a bit; put their shoulder into the wind. There were actually a dozen surfers in the picture but I thought they would make it too complicated. Thanks for the comments. I so appreciate fresh eyes looking at a painting. Thank you.

09-23-2016, 12:39 PM
Great light!Great waves!

09-23-2016, 03:53 PM
Thanks Leslie. I appreciate it.

09-24-2016, 10:09 AM
Jay - I LOVE your painting! I really, really like that touch of orange in the water and how you achieved so much movement in your painting - great job :)

09-24-2016, 10:24 AM
With a few days left I have one last offering...


As with Jay's example this one comes with fond memories.
On a trip to Canada's east coast I took a series of photos as the sun set over the Atlantic.
It is a follow up to last month's Gaspe sunset.
As the sun melted to my right and warm colour skittered across the rocks
of the receding tide I turned a caught the city lights of a community across the bay.


You will see from the photo I made several changes in order to simplify the composition.

09-24-2016, 11:29 AM
CaliAnn, that movement was largely caused by swiping the big sponge back and forth across the painting. (If you mean the water.). Pans are so much fun to use. Thank you

Leslie, that is beautiful. I love how you graded the sky. Your rocks are so well done. I love the lights in the city. You did a super job overall.

09-24-2016, 04:13 PM
Beautiful, Leslie! good choice in the compositional alterations you made on the photo. It really came out lovely

09-24-2016, 07:01 PM
Leslie, Very nice painting! Very harmonious!


09-24-2016, 08:34 PM
Jay - yes I meant the water, your whole painting has a feeling of a blustery day. I've never tried pan pastels, still trying to get used to pastels!
Leslie - Very nice, I just love how you blended the colors of the sky!

09-25-2016, 05:01 AM
CaliAnn, pan pastels are more like painting with a brush. You can pick up two colors on the little sponge and when you swipe that sponge, you can get a pretty effect. You can mix colors to make a new shade. I painted most of that painting with a large chunk of sponge, so it kept me from getting picky. If I'm tired or discouraged, pans will always pick me up. I hope you get to try them some day.

09-25-2016, 10:58 AM
That's what I need, something to keep me from getting too picky! I sometimes (hangs head in shame) - blow up a picture - 200%, 500 -1000% so I can see what the teeny tiny thingy is in the corner, to try and reproduce it on my painting! LOL! I am a nut job :)

09-26-2016, 03:51 PM
Sorry I dropped off the radar. I was away and now I'm busy getting ready to go away again! Canada here I come! I'll be back next month...after the 18th. Meantime happy painting all!