Sketchbook Masterpiece 7 – Sunrise / Sunset – More Info

Welcome to my blog!  I’m Rainey Dewey and whether you found me by accident or on purpose – Welcome!  This blog post is intended to be a companion post to the video posted on February 9, 2022 – on my YouTube Channel – Rainey Dewey’s Art Spot. Painting a sunrise or sunset is a great exercise that provides practice for a wide variety of watercolor techniques.  The techniques used in this watercolor sketch are:  glazing, color mixing, wet-in-wet, wet-on-dry and so much more.  This type of practice is rich with information.

Step 1 – Loose layer of your base color

I started my sunset sketch by drawing a boundary on the page of my sketchbook.  This technique of drawing a border serves two purposes.  The first is a reminder that you are not trying to produce a finished painting and this border can provide guidance on placement and perspective – especially if you are using  photo reference material.  Note the first layer is a light, tinted layer of Quinacridone Magenta, which is a fancy name for a one of the vibrant pinks to be found at your local art store!


Step 2 – After layer 1 is dry, apply clear water wash and then add your second color (repeat as necessary)

This next step is called glazing, which means you gently apply a second layer of a different color over the first layer.  So, let me explain.  Our base is the pink color (Q-magenta).  After letting that base layer dry completely, I will apply a gentle wash of clear water and then strategically place my next layer of color – which in this case is Cadmium Yellow Deep.  The result is that certain glow, that glow you might see in a sunset!  Perfect, it’s just what we wanted to accomplish.  You might do several layers until you get the desired effect or maybe you’re done after just one layer.  You decided… you are the artist.

Step 3 – Mix your dark color and begin to apply your dark foreground trees

Next we are applying our very dark foreground layer.  I do not typically use black but will mix a black using Alizarin Crimson, Ultramarine Blue, Burnt Sienna or Vermillion and Hookers Green.  That mixture creates a dark almost black color.  Once you have mixed your dark color you can begin painting in your foreground trees and horizon.  I do this after applying a wet layer of water and add my dark paint as the surface of the paper begins to dry.  This “painting as the paper dries” will give you all kinds of interesting effects!  Just explore what happens when you paint on a wet surface, semi-wet surface and the finally a dry surface, which is where I put in my fine details…

This dark against light is where you accomplish that sunset, that glow!

Final step – add fine details on dry paper with very dark color…

The final step is the fine details, which is done on dry paper.  The fine trees, branches and such are painted using a very fine brush with dark paint on a dry paper surface.  I add lines… many lines for the tree branches and brush along the horizon line.  Remember the darker the dark against a very light color is where you get the illusion of light in your painting.  Painting the light will give you a successful painting and once your practice and figure it out there’s no stopping from creating a master work!  Paint on!