Painting at sunset, 3 April 2006.


Prints of daily sunset and sunrise paintings, along with optional framing and mats, are available here – images can also be ordered as greeting cards.

We’ve started with some of the most recent dates and are continually adding from the archives. 


“Dawn | 20 January 2009” is now available, along with prints of paintings, via the Inauguration Day page. 


Artist’s Statement: How I See the Sunset

This might sound odd coming from a painter, but my first attraction to the sunset wasn’t based on its visual qualities — light, color, display. I was drawn to the sunset, and I still am, for its significance — its impact as the close of day.

Even when I was just out of high school and attempting an almost grown boy’s first novel, I set the opening at twilight, not because of how twilight appeared but because of how it felt. It was a transition, or as I wrote then in obvious prose, “neither night nor day.” That in-between quality, the sense of passing from one state into another, of recognizing the importance as well as the irrelevance of time, remains a key to my interest in this subject.

Maybe this orientation explains why I don’t get as excited about spectacular sunsets as others might think. I’m looking at something else. Of course I’m completely absorbed in thinking about the colors and the light and composition of the sky. But the intent goes beyond or behind these elements, to a search for some fundamental feeling or state of being. So, just as I may not be quite carried away by an amazing spread of light across the sky, neither am I discouraged on a night — and there are many — when I can see practically nothing. The same thing is still there.

My preoccupation with sunset as a point in time, as a marker, explains why I don’t just paint pretty sunsets — I paint them all. As the reader may know, I’ve painted every sunset since the first of January, 2006. I also painted each sunset from the autumnal equinox in 1997 through all of 1998, then stopped because I didn’t understand what I was doing. When I decided I would start again, at the end of 2005, I still didn’t understand it consciously, but evidently I knew just enough to do the work. There have been quite a few days when the effort has seemed pointless, and foolish if not crazy, but I’ve kept on.

To go out and recognize every sunset seems to involve an obligation to something much greater than myself, to the larger world, God, Nature, All That Is. People often suggest that it must be a form of meditation, and it is, but not necessarily during those moments. Rather the regularity of the observance constitutes a sort of meta-meditation, an embedded dedication. All the sunsets taken together form a mantra to which, to some extent, I subordinate my mind.

Henry David Thoreau believed that most of us are “so occupied with the factitious cares and superfluously coarse labors of life,” we’re unable to experience and appreciate it. When Thoreau built his cabin at Walden Pond and lived there in semi-seclusion for two years, his purpose was not to study the woods or the pond, although he certainly did; they were in a sense devices that helped him transcend distractions. By my reckoning, Walden Pond was his sunset. Or, put the other way, my Walden is on the horizon. Anyone can join me there, any evening, at sunset.


The Ongoing Series

The Very Rich Hours series dates from June 1995. I painted more than 400 sunsets, plus sunrises and moonrises, between 1995 and 1997 – nine years before the “painting a day” movement is said to have begun. The first completely consecutive series – painting every sunset – began at the fall equinox, September 22nd, 1997. I painted the sunset every day, “in real time,” at 14x18, and continued through 1998. I resumed the series at the beginning of 2006. For two complete years, 2006–2007, I also painted each sunrise. I continue painting every sunset, as I’ve done since January 1st, 2006.


William Van Doren

Bill Van Doren lives in the Stony Point area of Albemarle County, outside Charlottesville, Virginia, with his wife, Laura Owen Sutherland. Bio can be found here.