With the composition thus defined, Homer began the actual painting. He seems to have completed areas in a piecemeal fashion. One of the first elements he painted was the sky, perhaps because it gave him an overall sense of the light that would illuminate the picture. âI have learned two or three things in my years of experience,â Homer told Beatty in 1903. âOne is, never paint a blue sky.â When asked why, he replied, âWhy, because it looks like the devil, thatâs all. Another thing; a horizon is horribleâthat straight line!" (3.22)
In Watching the Shot the sky is Robinâs egg blue, although it fades to the right to a much quieter tone. The source of the light is overhead and slightly from the west (right). Homerâs aversion to an all blue sky line is muted in the battle scene by the early afternoon light fading the blue of the sky, as well by the rising thickness of gun powder smoke covering nearly one quarter of the entire skyline. The sky line is further agitated by the extension of the severed tree on the left and the extremely damaged tree in the background. The horizon lines of the Civil War pictures are varied by silhouetted trees, pine branches, stumps, horses or tents, and often by a jumping rhythmically angular band that energizes the painting (3.23). Watching the Shotâs horizon is broken by the insertion of natural elements, trees, bushes, and the unnatural smoke of war. Homer also blocked in the sky with a pale blue wash. The skies in other pictures could be similarly under-painted, masked by the thick paint on top (3.24). The sky in Watching the Shot is painted very thickly.