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Tuesday, August 09, 2016

Are Clouds Always Colorful?

'Summertime Sky'        9x12         pastel         ©Karen Margulis
available $155
It was a great question. A Facebook friend asked me about painting what she called "fluffy white clouds without much color."  The question really made me think. My first response was that it was really a matter of how we interpret the clouds. We all see color differently. Each person experiences color in a personal way.  I happen to see a lot of color in clouds but I also choose to exagerrate the color as part of my process. Adding color where it may not be quite so obvious for the sake of expression is something I love to do. So in my world clouds are not white and gray. 

But I  couldn't get the question out of my mind. I wanted to give a better answer. Then it hit me! I tend to paint colorful clouds because I choose to paint the clouds of early morning and late afternoon
  • When the sun is lower in the sky the light is warmer anything white tends to be more colorful...think yellows, pink and peach.  
  • When the sun is directly overhead at midday the light is cooler  the clouds appear much brighter and whiter. I rarely paint a landscape with midday light so my clouds are rarely so 'white'. 
  • TIP: All cumulus 'fluffy puffy' clouds have areas of light and shadow. This is what gives them shape and volume. Even when the light of clouds appear bright and white, the shadows can still be made of colorful grays. Even the 'white' can be a very very light value color rather than pure white and it will still look white especially next to a deep blue sky. (I used a pale value yellow for today's clouds)


So a  better answer is:  Know what time of day you are painting. It affects the color and temperature of the light. Clouds around midday will appear cooler and whiter. Any other time of day the 'white' will tend to be more colorful. 

Today's painting is a rare (for me) mid day landscape. We came across these wonderful clouds just after lunch on summer day in New Mexico. I used the lightest pastel I have to paint the sunlit part of the clouds with a touch of pure white for the highlights. The shadows are blends of gray violets.


9x12 white Canson Mi-Teintes paper step one

First layer pushed into paper 

Darks first

building up the ground and cloud shadows

Finish #1. Then more work done to shape the clouds
Intrigued by clouds? Have a look at my new PDF booklet with more tips! click here

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