Learning from Turner: The Scarlet Sunset

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I’ve been wanting to try a Turner copy for some time, and I’ve been interested in whether or not blue paper was something for me. As a guide I used the book the Tate put out “How to a paint Like Turner.” Interesting exercises. I didn’t follow along too closely other than for the color mixing tips. Anyway, here’s how I did it.

First I tinted a 5×7 sheet of Fabriano Artistico a cool blue (a mix of Prussian and French ultramarine. This worked out pretty well. I might do this again when I want to work on tinted paper of whatever color, though I can’t imagine that will be common.

Once it dried, I laid in the sky with the red and yellow, using a mix of quinacridone burnt orange and ultramarine for the brown clouds. The bridge was cobalt and ivory black, and the distant buildings were cobalt and cad red, though other colors got in there too. A bit rough, as I’ve never worked with these mixes before. In fact, I never use ivory black, and the other colors I rarely use and if I do it’s not for their mixing properties (except for quin burnt orange and ultramarine, the two of which make an incredible range of glowing browns). The barely distinguishable cart and people were a mix of things, burnt orange being the main one.

A few things I learned:

The trick of the dab of sun and then the calligraphic swipe for reflection is an effective (Monet used it too) but strange shorthand. Does a setting sun ever look like that? For a sketch I suppose it’s fine, but it doesn’t get at the diffusion of light that Turner did nicely with the rest of the work.

Ivory Black is useful. With Cobalt Blue it makes a nice deep blue. Cad Red and cobalt blue make a nice purple grey. I see how I could use all of these in a decent “old style” palette. I am rethinking my decision to use quin red just because the one I have (Maimeri Blue) seems pretty weak. I will put the cad back, especially now that I see how nicely it works with cobalt blue. Will Ivory Black creep in, perhaps as a replacement for Burnt Sienna?

Turner’s painting has a lot of atmosphere, no doubt in part because he knew what he was doing. I laid things on too thick, and couldn’t really lift them out. In other places I was too weak. For a first time with the blue paper, I got a lot out of it, though seeing them side by said after the fact reveals how off I was. Then again, this wasn’t about exactitude, just experimentation.

Colors used:
Isoindolinone Yellow
Cad Red Light
Cobalt Blue
Ivory Black
Quinacridone Burnt Orange
Ultramarine
Titanate Yellow (with a touch of titanium white)

Thanks for reading.

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3 thoughts on “Learning from Turner: The Scarlet Sunset

  1. laber1 December 7, 2014 / 8:19 am

    So beautiful!!!turner would be flattered.

  2. lesliepaints December 11, 2014 / 3:00 pm

    I like the results you are getting from studying Turner. Very atmospheric and the scene “moves”!

    • coreyaber December 11, 2014 / 8:34 pm

      Thank you! I feel like these influences are starting to come together in my original works now

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