For the Love of Pastel: Summer Sunset

Ahhhh, the sunset.  The colors, the drama, the anticipation.  What’s not to love?

I think of the sunset as a skyscape, which, quite frankly, I love to do far more than landscapes!

And where some people view sunsets in art as cliche, I see magic captured in a few fleeting moments.

So I thought I would share the process I used in capturing a recent sunset in soft pastels.

I started by cropping my photo and marking it into 4ths to make drawing my major shapes easier.


Next, I did a quick value study of the major shapes in my sketchbook using various grey markers. The study is slightly more detailed than a thumbnail sketch, but I find the extra detail helpful.

Then I scaled up and drew in the major shapes of my image onto my prepared support.  In this case I used 140 lb cold press watercolor paper on which I had painted two coats of Liquitex clear gesso.  It has a nice grit that grabs the pastel.

The next step was a first for me….an alcohol under painting of the major shapes blocked in with soft pastels.  This helped me quickly establish some values and get past the fear of the blank, white page!


Then it was time to add more realistic color….

And finally, I adjusted colors and values, and added details.

Here is my version of this sunset with some artistic license taken to reinvent the foreground tree line and omit the telephone pole and wires.