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Bringing Sunset Color to Canvas

Sunset Paintings in Oil

Thursday, February 23, 2023

Sunsets are a perennial artistic subject due to their intense, saturated color. Every artist has tried to encapsulate the ephemeral burst of crimson, blush, apricot, and gold as it rapidly fades to a velvety violet and charcoal twilight. 

The attempt to capture a brief moment of light is the task of every impressionist, and no moment is more dramatic and more fleeting than the daily rising and setting of the sun. 

As you consider the challenge of capturing this transitional light, we invite you to enjoy the sunset paintings below. Each was painted in oil in Erin Hanson’s unique open impressionist style, with long brushstrokes and minimal layering. Her technique brings the dazzling color of each skyscape into clear view, striking the viewer with the sunset’s true glory.


Sunsets in Oil

Atmospheric conditions must be just right for a fiery sunset to light the sky. Hanson explores every brilliant moment during eventide, from the first glimmers of red to the final purpling into deep black that comes before moonrise. Several sunset paintings listed were created in areas known for their intense evening color - others may be new to you. 

Los Angeles Sunset Painting

Los Angeles is known for many things, though perhaps not for its incredible sunsets. This painting was inspired by a drive up the 134 freeway at sunset. Los Angeles has moments of beauty like this, changing light that suddenly hits just right, creating a rainbow prism of color. 

Sunset painting Eucalyptus Rays

Eucalyptus Rays by Erin Hanson

San Diego Sunset Painting

Dramatic hues of sapphire and lilac dance across the sky in this wall-sized painting of Torrey Pines, San Diego. Scintillating light vibrates on the ocean's surface, pulling you toward the horizon. Each brush stroke is alive with motion and texture, coming together to form an impressionistic vision of a coastal sunset.

Sunset painting Diego Sky

Diego Sky by Erin Hanson

Sunsets Viewed from California Beaches

The beach near Newport Beach is pictured here in the fiery colors of sunset. The wet sands glow with orange and pink hues, while the calm ocean waters reflect the ever-changing colors of the sky. The impressionist brush strokes capture the movement and light of the scene.

Sunset painting Laguna CoastLaguna Coast by Erin Hanson

The ever-prevalent fog bank in Mendocino, which keeps the cypress trees hydrated and happy, settled back towards the ocean, allowing me to capture these trees in the last rays of sunset. The long grasses in the foreground turned burnt orange and apple red in the fading light. This open impressionist painting was created with thickly applied brush strokes laid side-by-side without layering. The texture of the painting creates an added sense of movement and dimension within the painting.

Sunset painting Mendocino Cypress

Mendocino Cypress by Erin Hanson

Bodega Bay is captured in rich, saturated colors and impasto brush strokes. The ocean waters reflect the sunset sky above, swirling with color between the waves.

Sunset painting Bodega Bay

Bodega Bay by Erin Hanson

Erin Hanson was hiking through Point Lobos (near Carmel, California) and saw the perfect sunset between the ancient cypress trees. The setting sun reflected rays of golden light on the ocean below while the shadows everywhere turned hues of rich purple and blue.

Sunset painting Sunset Cypress Sunset Cypress by Erin Hanson

Brilliant orange and yellow sunset colors burst over this coastal landscape in this sunset painting inspired by the Monterey peninsula. Thick brush strokes of impasto oil paint capture the movement and vibrant colors of the scene.

Sunset painting Sunset Fire

Sunset Fire by Erin Hanson

Wine Country Sunset Painting

Vibrant, expressionistic sunset hues form luscious layers of orange in this sunset painting of Paso Robles, California. The rolling hills recede into the distance, reflecting the luminous sunset colors of the sky. Each brush stroke is applied to communicate the overall motion of the landscape.Sunset painting Citrus Hills

Citrus Hills by Erin Hanson

Texas Hill Country Sunset Painting

From the artist: "I can't pass up the opportunity to paint a dramatic skyscape when I have the chance! This painting was inspired by my explorations this spring through Texas Hill Country. The buttery yellow color of the sky was too tempting not to paint. I like to use loose, impressionsitic brush strokes to convey the sense of time passing yet somehow magically held still for a moment in an oil painting."

Sunset painting Sherbet Horizon

Sherbet Horizon by Erin Hanson

Yosemite National Park Sunset Painting

The beautiful natural colors of the sunset in Yosemite are captured here in loose, expressive brush strokes. The tall mountainsides of Yosemite are the first to catch the sunset rays of orange and gold. The reflections in the water dance and sparkle, brightening up the mountain shadows.

Sunset painting Yosemite Color

Yosemite Color  by Erin Hanson

Grand Canyon Sunset Painting

This large oil painting celebrates the beauty of the Grand Canyon with impressionistic color and thick, impasto brush strokes. The pine trees in the foreground add depth to the scene, giving you the sense of standing on the very edge of the canyon and getting lost in one of the Grand Canyon's famous sunsets. 

Sunset painting Grand Canyon in Triptych

Grand Canyon in Triptych by Erin Hanson 

Zion National Park Sunset Painting

During a 5-day backpack through Zion, Erin Hanson explored the less-traveled landscapes of Zion National Park.  This sunset painting captures one of the dramatic skyscapes seen through the windswept pines on the plateau.

Sunset painting Sunfall on the Plateau

Sunfall on the Plateau by Erin Hanson

Joshua Tree National Park Sunset Painting

Experience the vivid colors of the desert in this sunset painting of Joshua Tree National Park. The sky is awash in all the colors of sunset, illuminating the granite boulders with touches of pink and rainbow sherbet. The brush strokes are loose and impressionistic, conveying an emotional picture of the desert.Sunset painting Joshua Sunset

Joshua Sunset by Erin Hanson 

Western Deserts Sunset Paintings

This sunset painting captures the vivid colors of the California desert. The piece was inspired by hiking in Indian Canyons near Palm Springs. The cool waters of the oasis contrast with the warm colors of the sunset sparkling on the desert mountains beyond.

Sunset painting Palm Reflections

Palm Reflections by Erin Hanson 

A brilliant desert sunset is reflected in the still waters of a lake near La Quinta, California. The artist captures the vibrant beauty of the high desert with thick, expressive brush strokes in her iconic Open Impressionism style.

Sunset painting Desert Reflections

Desert Reflections by Erin Hanson

Oregon Coast Sunset Paintings

Cannon Beach, Oregon, is beautiful at sunset, with bonfires lighting the soft sandy beaches in every direction. The best part is watching the pelicans dance and swirl overhead, celebrating in the last rays of daylight.

Sunset painting Pelican SkyPelican Sky by Erin Hanson

Haystack Rock in Cannon Beach is a famous destination on the Oregon coast. The silhouette of the enormous boulder stands starkly against a vibrant sunset sky. The brush strokes in this painting are loose and impressionistic, capturing the beautiful colors of the scene.

Sunset painting Sunset Reflections

Sunset Reflections by Erin Hanson 

Oregon Mountain Sunsets

Mt Hood peeks over the layers of evergreens, glowing a dusky hue of majestic purple in the fiery sunset sky. This bold painting captures all the beauty of the northwest with thick, impressionistic brush strokes.

Sunset painting Mt. HoodMt. Hood by Erin Hanson

This sunset painting captures dramatic rays of light that dance with color above the blue mountains of Oregon's Willamette Valley. The thickly applied brush strokes are laid side by side, without overlapping, in Hanson's signature Open Impressionism style.

Sunset painting Radiant SunsetRadiant Sunset by Erin Hanson

Montana Sunset Painting

A petite oil painting of a Montana sunset captures the vivid hues of the northwest with thick, impressionistic brush strokes. Brilliant sunset colors are reflected in a mountain lake surrounded by tall pines.

Sunset painting Montana SunsetMontana Sunset by Erin Hanson 

Texas Sunset Painting

Rays of multi-colored light radiate from behind the clouds in this Western impressionism sunset painting. The distant angular mountains add a sense of rhythm as they change color into the distance. The impasto brush strokes are thickly applied and add a textural dimension to the painting.

Florida Sunset Painting

A monsoon sky in Clearwater, Florida, is captured in thick, impressionistic brush strokes and lively hues of orange, pink, and blue. This sunset painting recreates the feeling of actually standing by the bay and seeing the sunset in person, in all its wide expanse of beauty.

Sunset painting Florida Palms

Florida Palms by Erin Hanson

Though these sunset paintings depict different places across America, every stroke of the paintbrush shows the artist’s love for nature’s beauty. To explore more sunset paintings or to discover works of impressionism that celebrate color, discover Erin Hanson’s portfolio here.

About Erin

ERIN HANSON has been painting in oils since she was 8 years old. As a teenager, she apprenticed at a mural studio where she worked on 40-foot-long paintings while selling art commissions on the side. After being told it was too hard to make a living as an artist, she got her degree in Bioengineering from UC Berkeley. Afterward, Erin became a rock climber at Red Rock Canyon, Nevada. Inspired by the colorful scenery she was climbing, she decided to return to her love of painting and create one new painting every week.

She has stuck to that decision, becoming one of the most prolific artists in history, with over 3,000 oil paintings sold to eager collectors. Erin Hanson’s style is known as "Open Impressionism" and is taught in art schools worldwide. With millions of followers, Hanson has become an iconic, driving force in the rebirth of impressionism, inspiring thousands of other artists to pick up the brush.