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Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Three Ways to Improve Your Sky and Cloud Paintings

'Speaking to the Sky'          8x10           pastel
available for purchase $125

Your Skies deserve the royal treatment.  They deserve more than a cursory treatment with a blue pastel.  Skies are important to a landscape painting. Even if they aren't the main focus of the painting, they provide the light and set the mood for the landscape.

I happen to love to paint the sky.  I am drawn to wide open spaces because I can see the sky. I am always looking for ways to improve my skies and clouds. I want my skies to be look like air...for my clouds to float and not look like potatoes or cotton balls!

I have collected some great tips and advice in the course of my studies.  There is obviously a lot more to learn about painting believable skies but currently here are three things I like to keep in mind when painting the sky:

1.  Be a good observer of the sky.  Go outside and make mental notes. Better yet go outside and paint sky studies. Notice the colors in the sky and clouds. Photos don't always capture the subtleties in the colors.  For example photos often show a blue sky oversaturated and polarized. As a result it is easy to paint a blue sky too dark if we rely solely on the photo reference. Taking the time to study the sky is well worth the effort.

2. Make your own grays for cloud shadows and dark stormy clouds. It is easy to reach for the gray and white pastels to paint clouds.  I prefer to use the more colorful grays (not the grays made from black and white) or better yet mix my own grays by layering colors until they make mud. More on this later this week.  Also I don't automatically reach for the pure white pastel for the light parts of a cloud.  I use pale values of colors such as pinks, yellows and peaches. I reserve the pure white for small areas on the clouds where I really want them to pop.

3. Make sure your sky and ground share a relationship. A stormy cloudy sky doesn't work with a sunlit ground plane.  They need to work together. They need to harmonize.  I often use colors in the sky that are in my ground. One of the first questions I ask myself when evaluating a painting is:  "Does the ground relate to the sky somehow?"

Today's painting is done on my homemade support using a pumice mixture on gatorboard. The pumice mix was toned orange before applying.  

1 comment:

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