Not long ago while painting outdoors at Goolwa, a fellow artist dropped by and we had a chat about the colour of the sky. It was a partly cloudy day and the blues were distinctly different as they popped through the clouds in different parts. It's on these kind of days that the variety of blues in the same sky is most apparent and it's quite remarkable.
Landscape artists are among the keenest observers of the sky that can be imagined. Translating that observation into our work will certainly give it an edge that can only be obtained from direct observation as opposed to working from photographic reference alone.
Depending on which direction and elevation of the sky you look at, the blues can be dramatically different. Directly above can be a very deep colour and almost a deep grey blue. Often near the horizon the blue can be almost turquoise, particularly in the winter. The main thing though is that the blues are always lighter as they travel from overhead toward the ground. At certain times of the day and depending where the sun is the blues can turn to yellow, pink or purple near the horizon.
Capturing these colours in a painting can transform it, but it takes some work to get it right, but once you get it, you will always be able to take advantage of it. Getting the sky right, especially near the horizon will give your work tons of aerial perspective and this is what can make or break a painting.
Of course, there is not one particular sky blue, simply because nature's palette is far more extensive than that. We all have our favourites though! Cerulean, Ultramarine, Cobalt and my personal favourite, Pthalo blue (red shade) are the main ones and combinations of the above are often used.
In most cases the sky sets the tone in a landscape painting, particularly a seascape. It's also an opportunity to get out the bigger brushes, because a big-brushed sky will always look more lively and floaty than one done with small brushes and careful strokes.
Personally, I almost always add clouds to a sky even if they aren't there in real life. It just seems to add volume and interest to the sky. In most of my seascapes I have a lot of sky, mainly because this is what hits you as you walk onto a beach.
So, as an artist never miss an opportunity to look at all those blues in the sky and all those delicious coloured greys in the clouds - just don't do it when you're driving though!
A photo I took of Goolwa Beach many years ago. The different blues are easily seen here as well as a hint of turquoise near the horizon and a belt of dusky purple right on the horizon - the belt of colour on the horizon is really important.