Accepting the Challenge of Painting Sky

Part of Honz’s collection of sky studies

Tomas Honz has an impressive body of work focusing on various sky conditions. It was not done without a fair amount of adversity.

The Prague painter has more than 20 10”-x-14” sky studies on view now at Nová Galerie in Prague. Honz reports that he painted many more than that.

“I have to be really precise when I paint something fleeting like clouds or setting sun,” says Honz. “Every stroke must count. If I make a mistake, I lose precious time, and of that there is often very little. The most dramatic effects might disappear in minutes. Therefore I learned how to be fast yet precise, how to see and mix colors accurately, how to control edges, how to make the least amount of brushstrokes to say the most. And last but not least, how to not feel too attached to my work, because I had to discard more than half my attempts — they were just crappy.”

Oil on board sky study by Tomas Honz
Oil on board sky study by Tomas Honz

Honz didn’t take it easy on himself. He pursued the conditions most challenging for him. “What started as rather random painting of atmospheric effects ended up as a very focused hunt of that particular sky that I saw sometimes but for some reason couldn’t paint,” says the artist. “I often find myself eagerly looking out of the window to check what the sky is like so that I don’t miss my chance. I think that choosing one subject and painting it regularly under different conditions might be the greatest thing you can do to accelerate your learning. After three or four attempts, you will become familiar with that subject and you will be able to focus on the qualities that would otherwise be hard to tackle. You can master capturing them one at a time. Also it will be easier to see your progress. I promise that you will be surprised when you compare the first few with the 20th. Just choose a subject that you are really interested in, otherwise you will quickly lose enthusiasm.”

Oil on board sky study by Tomas Honz
Oil on board sky study by Tomas Honz

Honz saw early on that the sky studies would make an interesting exhibition when hung together as a group, close to each other. But he worked at them for a few years until he felt that he had a strong enough batch to show. What was the biggest surprise to come from this project?

“That I never got bored. There are still new and exciting things going on in the sky every day,” Honz reports. “I think it’s a never-ending pursuit, as art should be.”

Read more about the show here.