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Thursday, April 13, 2017

Painting a Moody Sky in a Landscape Painting



'Blue Promise'           9x12          pastel        ©Karen Margulis
available $165
It was a tricky situation. I had planned a lesson on painting the sky for the last day of the workshop. The weather reports supported my plan. ...clear skies until the last day then clouds. But the second day of the workshop gave us an amazing display of clouds against a brilliant blue sky. It was a text book sky. I was tempted to swap lessons and paint the sky for the day 2 demo but decided to take my chances and wait.

I'm glad I waited. A textbook blue sky is great but it is pretty straightforward to paint. I shared some tips on painting a blue sky and puffy white clouds but then moved on to the real challenge.....an overcast moody sky.


Our painting spot....The Salt Lick restaurant
The morning dawned gray and cloudy. Not what I had ordered but we would make the best of it. Secretly I was excited. I would rather paint a moody brooding sky than a perfect sunny blue sky any day!  Have a look at the photos to see the kind of day we had to deal with. The sky was overcast with some rows of gray violet clouds. (hard to see in the photo) The color was subtle but it was there. I saw violets, greens and yellows. And the clouds were changing quickly. I had to work fast!

The finished demo

After talking about creating my own technicolor grays for the clouds I took out a piece of 9x12 Uart paper and began the painting. The story was the sky and not the ground so I lowered the horizon and simplified the foreground. It was important to eliminate the clutter that came before me and the sky. I could see trees in the distance so I hinted at some simple tree and grass shapes and moved onto the sky.


  • I painted quickly by layering violets and yellows using big broad marks with the side of my pastels. 
  • I layered several blues and violets allowing them to slightly blend. 
  • I then added a pale yellow to the horizon to suggest the brightening that was happening.
  •  I added a whisper of blue for hope. 
  • And finally I added a small slash of pale yellow pointing down to the ground. 
  • The clouds were actually lined up across the sky in horizontal bands. I redesigned them to create a directional thrust to the sky leading us down into the painting.



close up of the demo
If you would like more details and tips for painting the sky and clouds please have a look at my PDF demo available in my Esty shop here.

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