Painting Clouds

After the Rain, 11x14, oil
After the Rain, 11×14, oil

Cloud formations provide a stimulating challenge for a landscape painter. After a spring rain, I often see formations of cotton-like cumulus clouds, billowing in from the sea. When choosing to paint them, it is quite helpful to prepare a draw down of grays, 4 values. Don’t let the darkest be any darker than Gamblin Gray light or Shiva Ice Blue. The clouds are water vapor and you want them to appear light and fluffy against the more solid land forms.

Green Hills Again, 12x16, oil
Green Hills Again, 12×16, oil

Realize that the clouds are moving quickly, and the shapes are changing by the minute.  Painting the gesture of their movement, with your darkest gray early will help. Paint those undersides first. The shadows will anchor the cloud forms. The clouds are larger and warmer as they approach the viewer, cooler and smaller in the distance unless you are painting a sunset. Watch where the sun warms the side facing the sun. It is fun and quite educational to pick an element to focus on in a painting session.

Painting Clouds in Soquel
Painting Clouds in Soquel

Recently, I went out to paint before a storm was due. I chose a spot in an elevated park area where I had a peek of the ocean. Before a storm, the clouds seem to be wispy and Cirrus shaped, blown by the winds in the upper atmosphere. For the clouds in this painting, I chose to lay down a thin layer of white and shape the clouds with grays and blues. This day, the sun was obscured by all the clouds, and the sky was blanketed with a variety of cloud shapes. I will let the sky dry before painting in the foreground trees. I used this approach because I was concerned that the rain was fast approaching and painting trees before sky may have lost me the time to study the clouds.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *