Painting the Sunrise Over San Francisco Bay

The morning provides colorful rewards for early risers.

Two weeks ago I awoke to a pink glow streaming in my window. In the early dawn the sky was changing from black to dark blue with wind-blown clouds. Traveling and changing shapes before my eyes I saw an egret, an elephant and a serpent. 

(If you’re a psychoanalyst, please refrain from any diagnoses of these apparitions.)

Was I dreaming? “No!” Was I tired? “Yes.” 

There was something magical about this early morning sky, so I got up, threw a coat on, and went outside.

From the top of the hill where London Court meets Crestmoor, the expanse of the Bay stretched out before me. The homes on my street were dark; I imagine the neighbors catching the last few winks of sleep before hitting the snooze alarm.

Within minutes, the colors changed from hot pink to fluorescent pink-orange as the sun glowed from behind a darkened roof. The homes facing southeast caught some of the light while coloring them in muted pastels.

The sky, the mountains across the Bay, and the bay waters all merged into beautiful layers of colors. San Bruno Mountain matched the midnight blue color of the sky. San Bruno and South San Francisco stretched toward the bay, bathed in a warm purple glow. A few lights twinkled along El Camino Real, but they were softened by the misty morning light.

I thought this would be a perfect subject for a painting, but I was not prepared to set up and paint at this time. Instead, I took a few pictures to capture the cloud shapes.

So, in the afternoon sun in my backyard, I mixed my colors and added layer after layer of color into the sky. It was fun mixing and choosing colors as I attempted to create the illusion of fluorescent pink-orange. I found that the color did not glow on the white palette. But when I placed it next to the blues in the sky, the contrast gave the illusion of brighter colors, and that seemed to vibrate on the canvas. 

I achieved another illusion of motion as I layered small brushstrokes of varying colors into the clouds and sky. Painting quickly with lots of little strokes was like creating my own version of "sky wind."

I am not normally a morning person. I’m one of those who takes a bit of time to get up and get going. However, since that memorable pink dawn, I have been getting up earlier and watching the day come alive. 

Some mornings are soft, foggy and monochromatic, others clear and bright. But every morning before the sun peeks over the horizon, the sky has already begun its celebration of a new day. 

After many years, I have changed into a morning person so I can enjoy what I now call the rewards of early-risers.

Janet Arline Barker is a San Bruno artist who specializes in plein-art painting. Her website is janetarlinebarker.com. Her column appears monthly on Sundays.

Rosalinda Oropeza Randall February 27, 2012 at 03:52 PM
Glorious and stunning.
Janet Arline Barker February 28, 2012 at 06:24 PM
Thanks Rosalinda! Are you an early riser?


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