Sunday, April 20, 2008

Sunset Color Bands

In a previous post called “The Golden Hour,” I explained how rays from the setting sun change color as they travel through large volumes of atmosphere close to the ground.

As the light passes nearer to the surface of the earth, more and more blue wavelengths are scattered out by fine particles of dust and by the air molecules themselves, with only the longer reddish wavelengths remaining. In other words, the light gets dimmer and redder as it approaches to the earth’s shadow line.

You can see this effect most dramatically while facing away from the sun to see how its light looks on an iceberg, a thunderhead, or a snowy mountain.

This painting by Frederic Church, shows the progression of colors traveling down the column of ice from soft yellows through the rosy hues to a more neutral gray.

This painting by the seascape master Frederick Waugh shows a similar sequence of color on a very tall cloud. The reddish rays toward the base of the cloud arrived after passing through much more atmosphere than the whiter rays touching the top of the cloud.

By the way, as you compare the Church and Waugh paintings, note how differently each of them portrayed the color of the water and the color of the distant sky.


Although stated a bit more garishly, here’s the effect of color bands on Mount Shasta at sunset, painted by James E. Stuart in 1921. Link for more Shasta paintings.

"Golden Hour" post on GurneyJourney, link.

7 comments:

craigstephens said...

Another wonderfully informative post. Thanks! I love the link to all the Shasta paintings. Its about three or four hours away from where I live and I climbed it a few years ago. I'm really looking forward to visiting it again with my paint box.

Dan Roberts said...

James thanks for the great blog!

I'm also curious how you feel about abstract art?

A lot of your work and a lot of the images you post seem to be based strongly on quality and craftsmanship, not to say that abstract art is not quality.

I'm just curious to see the point of view of abstract art from someone who creates such intensely detailed work.

Thanks,

Dan

James Gurney said...

Dan: Actually I love abstraction in painting and design, but the artists I like best are people that aren't too well known, like Jose Segrelles, whose work mixes abstraction and realism in wonderful ways. I love fractal art, Art Nouveau, and abstract forms in nature, too. The problem with most of the work from the abstract movement is that it doesn't hold much purely abstract interest for me because it isn't informed by a study of nature. Anyway, it's a rich topic, and one that I hope to explore in a future post.

Chad Wallace said...

Did you learn about color from direct observation, or were you taught?

BlueNight said...

Watch three consecutive sunsets in Albuquerque, NM, and you will have seen glory.

Josh said...

Nice work! Generic Viagra The colorful and the style to draw the lines, anyway, great post. I always enjoy seeing another artists process. I learn so much. Really makes me want to pull out my oils.

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Kevin McCaffrey said...

Thank you. This is very informative helps me as a landscape artist. I'm especially interest in the work of Waugh and am glad to discover here this beautiful painting of his.