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Friday, September 14, 2012

Composing a Sky Painting: Before and After

AFTER:  'Color in the Sky'     12x16   pastel   ©Karen Margulis   $145  Paypal

BEFORE:  12x16  pastel    Cloud Demo
Remember looking up at the clouds and seeing animals?  I still see them and I love to watch clouds morph and change into interesting shapes.  Looking for shapes in the clouds is a great way to pass the time but they don't make good paintings.  Usually we want to avoid recognizable or strange shapes in our cloud paintings. What looks cool in real life doesn't always translate in a painting.

When I paint clouds one of the things I try to do is be aware of the shapes I am creating with my clouds. Here are a few of the things I think about:

  • Don't be married to your reference photo. It will drive you crazy if you try to paint every cloud that is in your photo. I like to use the photo as an inspiration for mood and color. I will design the clouds so they make a good composition. I never try to copy them exactly. In fact, most of the time I block in my biggest cloud shapes and put the photo away.
  • When you have your cloud shapes blocked in do a preliminary check to see that you didn't create any animals. Make adjustments as needed.
  • Don't forget about the negative space....the sky area around your clouds also needs to be interesting. Make sure you haven't created an animal with the sky color. 
  • Be careful with unusual cloud formations. If the viewer isn't familiar with them then they might think you made a mistake.  Example....we don't have the huge anvil shaped clouds here in Georgia but we saw them all of the time in the Southwest.  Our georgia viewers might think we were crazy if we put those clouds in our paintings!
  • When you are finished with the clouds, check again for shapes or animals....they can sneak up on you!
Have a look at the paintings I posted today. The bottom painting is the initial demo I did for a class. The goal was to show how I paint cloud colors so I wasn't paying attention to the design of the clouds. They are terrible! They look like a flock of giant geese!  
So I sprayed the painting with fixative and re designed the clouds. The top painting is the result.


Marian Fortunati said...

Love this post, Karen!!
I just finished a sort of cloud painting (it was a cloudy sunrise) and would have enjoyed reading your post BEFORE I painted it...

I WILL remember to check for animals!! ;O)

Karen said...

Thanks Marian. I don't always remember to check for animals so it is a good reminder for me too!

Vanessa said...

Great post Karen! I always find clouds so difficult. Would love to see a step by step demo one day!