Artist’s Diary – Mallory Square sunset celebration

Key West can leave a dent in your wallet. But there are a few things to do in Key West that are both free and amazing. The Mallory Square sunset is one, especially for an artist with an Apple pen and an iPad.

Key West, at the southernmost tip of the United States below Florida (and only 90 miles from Cuba), can leave you getting sucked into one attraction or tourist shop after another. And that can leave a dent in your wallet. But there are a few things to do in Key West that are both free and amazing. Check out our story “4 Fun Free Things To Do in Key West (+2)” for more on that!

One of those free things is the nightly Mallory Square sunset celebration. Mallory Square has existed as a gathering point for Key West’s social and commercial life since the mid 1800’s. Even today, that has not changed much. People start gathering (unless it is raining of course) nearly two hours before the official scheduled sunset (you can find out the official sunset time on the Mallory Square website here). And of course that means drinks, music, crafts festivals and other shenanigans.

Mallory Square Sunset artwork, created on an iPad.

The subject: Honestly, the Mallory Square sunset event is fun Key West kitsch at its best with a boisterous street fair atmosphere, people hawking crafts and food, psychics, street performers, and enough alcohol floating around to sink you. But watching the sun settle down into the Gulf of Mexico, painting different colors every night for one of the most spectacular sunsets anywhere in the world is the reason you stand shoulder-to-shoulder with masses of locals and tourists alike. The beauty is, the scene and the colors change every night. So go once, go twice, and go again and again.

The inspiration: It was early November when Therese and I joined the throngs gathering along docks at the water’s edge to witness the Mallory Square sunset celebration. The air was filled with laughter, music, and the constant hum of conversation as the sun began dipping toward the ocean. Then, as if on cue, hundreds of people holding mobile phones high and sometimes in selfie mode began snapping photos of an event that has been recorded by millions a million times before. I was having as much fun watching the silhouetted crowd as I was witnessing an amazingly colorful sunset.

Artist’s tools: As the light was disappearing too quickly, I worked, as I sometimes do, with a photo that my wife took to complete my artwork of the Mallory Square sunset. Looking at her photo projected on a large computer screen in front of me, and using a combination of various watercolor brushes, as well as special texture brushes available in Procreate, I worked with my Apple pencil to capture the intense colors of the sunset on my iPad Pro. I then used a charcoal pencil for the palm tree and to create the soft blurred effect of the fronds. Finally, using an ink pen and brush, I added the lamp and people in the foreground as well as my trademark birds – gotta have some birds flying in the sky.

A print of this digital painting on your wall is the next best thing to being there yourself…as well as a great gift for anyone in your life who appreciates artwork inspired by travel. Click on any image below to go directly to my online store to purchase prints, gift cards, coffee cups and more.

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