Saturday, April 9, 2011

tips for painting clouds

8x10 pastel and watercolor on Uart
Clouds have been a real draw for me ever since my sky memory studies this winter. I think all the time I spent just watching has helped me understand  so much better. Now I love painting them outdoors and finishing in the studio. I began this one in the mall parking lot at sunrise. I have found that the mall lot is a wonderful place to go to observe the sky since it is one of the only place we get a "big sky."

As the weather gets fine and attracts more plein air painters outside I offer a few tips:
*clouds are about warm and cool transitions, often within the same value
*clouds have mostly soft edges, remember they are simply moisture
*you have to know your light source and not get confused
*clouds that are closer to you are larger and have sharper edges

Studying clouds in value (gradations of black and white) will help you become a better painter of clouds (in color.) As we all know, "value does the work and color gets the glory" (quote from Richard McKinley.) I find that simply knowing the color design of a basic sky will help you understand so much so that when you next paint clouds it will all make sense. Most important just watch skies, you don't always have to paint.
Memorize. It will stick.


Leah said...


Donna T said...

What a gorgeous sky! Thanks for the tips, Loriann. Someone told me to think of clouds like boxes on a glass plate. You look up through the plate to see the bottom of the boxes.

Casey Klahn said...

Lately I have avoided clouds, but that's the way the images work. But, they are on my mind, especially in the springtime when we have intense skies of clouds.

I like your list and I'll be using it as I think about clouds. Yesterday I freshened up my big, outdoor box and did two plein air works. Whoooop.

Roger Seddon said...

Very dramatic and beautiful. I really like the echoes of the warm (caput mortem?) cloud in the trees where they recede into the distance, set against the rich orange glow above the horizon. There is a great feeling of perspective and hope for a new day. No doubt I shall find myself sitting in a car park sometime soon contemplating the sunrise.

Hazel said...

You will love this

Alan Evans

loriann said...

Hi Hazel,
Thanks for commenting. That's funny I wrote about the Cloud Appreciation Society just on Tuesday...we must think alike. I did try to find Alan Evans at the Irish Art address luck. I did find Alan Evan Feltus, who I know only as Alan Feltus, figurative painter. I will look again another time.

loriann said...

Thanks Leah!! I know you love skies!!!!

Hi Donna, That is an interesting idea- the box/glass plate theory. I can see how it makes sense. Thanks for your comment!

Hi Casey!
Yay for plein air! And you are right Spring time offers some of the most tumultuous clouds ever..another reason to love it so!

Hi Roger,
I hope you enjoy your time in the car park. But beware watching/memorizing and paintings clouds can become addictive. Thanks about the painting!

Pam Holnback said...

We have big skies almost everywhere out here. These are great hints!

Double "D" said...


Looks like a sky from the southwest. Even the suggested landscape could be. So that's where you were uh?

Home at last.

Anonymous said...

Hi Loriann,
What a painting! That sky has echos of Turner in its luminosity and color. I like the yellow orange on the horizon and the transition to the reddish clouds and sky. I can feel the crisp start of a new day. You have captured a particular moment in time. I will keep in mind your helpful pointers about painting skies. I often wonder why the weather man or women complains when the forecast calls for cloudy skies. Like you I find clouds to be exciting shapes to view for they add some decoration to the scene. Usually though the skies in my paintings are cloud free. Skies typically serve as a supporting actor in my work. Of course there is a difference between just a few clouds and a dreary overcast day so it is a matter of degrees. Yet a few clouds is a nice touch. The passage of a cold front leaves behind interesting cloud shapes and colors except that usually its journey is accompanied by violent storms.


loriann said...

Hi Pam, Yes, I am sure you have grand view out there in Colorado..lucky you! I hope the tips help!

Hi PB, Glad to hear that you made it home safe and sound. Thanks about the painting and yes the mall lot will beckon me.

Hi NJ,
I agree with you clouds are fabulous! I always like when they predict some clouds to add beauty to the sky...especially at sunrise and sunset. Tomorrow evening should be the violent storms I will be on the watch for good clouds! Paint on!

Caroline said...

Hi Loriann, I have arrived a bit late but wanted to say what a very beautiful sky you have created.

loriann said...

Hi Caroline! Never too late! thank you.

Cathy de Lorimier said...

Am I the only one who immediately saw an animal with an open mouth leaping to the upper right corner of your rectangle? It jumped out at me the first moment I saw this.
I have a cloud painting that shows a bear with its paw, (created unintentionally).