The sky in this painting is glowing with an intensity which can only be achieved using oils. Its an effect which takes a bit of work to achieve. Experienced oil painters are aware of how easy it is to loose the intensity of colour when mixing too many different pigments. I use the term ‘pigment’ here because you have to think in terms of ‘coloured materials’ (pigments) as opposed to ‘colours’. I’m familiar with using computer applications like Photoshop to produce colours by mixing different colour, usually layering colours one on top of the other. Intensity is not lost in this process. In physical painting, the process of glazing produces the same result. This is where the under colour is completely dry and there is no physical mixing of the pigments.
Its this physical mixing of different pigments, as in alla prima, which can cause a loss of intensity. With this in mind, I limit the numbers of different pigments in a painting, so no matter what happens there will never be too many different materials to interfere with each other.
In the setting sun of this painting there are only 2 pigments used, Cadmium Yellow and Cadmium Red. Probably because these 2 paints come from the same source – Cadmium salts – they mix well producing an intense orange. The blue, Ultramarine, is mostly pure blue and white. The only other colour in this blue is Viridian Green which was a stain in the under painting. This helped the blue to merge into the yellow as it approached the horizon. The clouds, painted onto the blue, were a mix of the orange and blue, a colour which was already present. The clouds were now a mix of 3 pigments and intensity was slipping, a little Ivory Black corrected this loss. It might sound complicated, but this symphony of colour was controlled by placing paint down in blobs and manipulating the mixing by dragging the paint with a flat brush. Sometimes brushing hard to pick up the under colour and other times gently dragging one layer on top of the other to cover and not mix. The most difficult part is knowing when to stop brushing.
Hopefully the video will help explain this process better than these words ever could. I think seeing the process is the only way to explain this. There is more background information on the previous post. Isn’t the technology to allow this to be explained visually wonderful? Here is the video. The soundtrack is a modern classical piece by Samuel Barber (1910-1981). I hope you like it, I think it is particularly beautiful.