Thursday, February 23, 2017


While brewing my morning coffee I glanced outside and saw a sunrise today that deserved to be in a painting. A thin sliver of moon was still visible among the treetops in the distance, and a stunning array of colors glowed in the sky.

My iPad was handy and I raced outside to grab a reference photo. But when I saw how washed out the photo looked I knew I had to do something to capture the scene more accurately. My palette of oil paints was still loaded with fresh paint from a workshop I taught last evening, so here’s what I did.

I quickly printed out the iPad photo, then I began applying oils paints directly on that printout. Within minutes I had locked in the actual colors that were there. Painting directly on the printout saved me the time and trouble of carefully drawing the scene, and I was able to go directly to the important part: capturing the colors accurately.

This is something I’ve shared with students in my workshops. You can use this idea to efficiently explore color schemes for an important studio painting. First, you sketch the composition. Then print a number of b/w photo copies. And then paint directly on those copies. This avoids the need to redraw the composition each time you want to test a new color combination.

When you find one you like, use that one as reference to create the actual painting. That’s what I’ll do with this quickie study of this morning’s sunrise. I’ve locked in the look of the scene and I can now take my time in the studio to do a careful full-size painting on canvas or a hardboard panel.

Hope you find this useful. And I wish you a colorful day.
Tom Brown


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