The Art of Daniel Ambrose

Hauntingly Beautiful Paintings

Painting a Blue Sky After Tropical Storm

by | Aug 6, 2017

For the past month I’ve been on the west side of Florida. I came here to study the shoreline and sunsets on the Gulf. I’ve got a solo show in January of major oil paintings and wanted to create a body of work from a specific coastal place.

To know a thing I need to live with it for a time.

So I settle in and start looking at stuff. No hurry, no pressure to paint right away. Just observe the daily comings and goings of clouds and birds and bunnies in the grass, and compare color relationships. Every place has its own tone, and color palette.

Last weekend a tropical storm blew through the island.

Pristine Blue, oil color sketch of Venice beach, Florida, by Daniel Ambrose

Pristine Blue, oil color sketch.

While having coffee on the patio the next morning, I noticed the blueness of the sky. A rich, pristine blue. As if the storm had purged all the dirt from the air, and a divine hand had polished the atmosphere.

Dang! I need to paint this!

I hightailed it to the beach with my oil paints and sketchbook.

It was early morning still and the sky was already beginning to warm near the horizon. It was beginning to pale. I rapidly rubbed color on the paper, spreading blue around. Give the sky the largest space, just let that blue pour down.

Pristine blue.

Simply painting light in quick color notes.

The two sketches below represent ways of handling light in different mediums.

Path to the sea, quick pen and ink sketch of palmettos and sea oats by Daniel Ambrose

Path to the sea, quick pen and ink sketch

I was itching to try a new drawing pen, so I returned to a scene that I had already painted. I concentrated on the darker masses and indicated the sunlit areas with a few gestural marks of my pen. It’s just a quick 10 minute sketch and nothing like his incredible pen and ink study in the photo below by Albrecht Durer.

Praying Hands by Albrecht Durer

Praying Hands by Albrecht Durer

Though I am in awe of masterful pen and ink drawings like these Praying Hands by Albrecht Durer, I find that I still prefer the feel of pencil on paper for drawing tones.

Willet, pencil sketch by Daniel Ambrose

Willet, pencil sketch

So I followed the dune path in my pen drawing to the beach and found this bird at the edge of the sea. Brilliant sunlight on the water presented the bird as a dark form. This type of back lighting is called “contre-jour,” French for “against daylight.” I made a quick sketch with my favorite pencil.

Tomorrow I head back to the east coast and then on to Maine to join my friends. I’ve got a sketchbook full of studies, and a head full of ideas. I’ve already begun a 30 x 60 oil and will show it to you soon.

Until then, have a safe and joyful summer. Try to find a few moments to spend by the water. Any water.

It will do you good.

I’ll leave you with this song from my southern youth. Blue Sky, by the Allman Brothers.

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