Painting clouds
Joseph McGurl, "Port of Entry," 24 x 36 in.

On painting clouds > The diversity of cloud paintings is unexpected and inspiring. However, it won’t help you paint your own clouds, and so our friends at Inside Art offer the following practical advice.

From “Head in the Clouds!”

By Christopher Volpe

#1. Use your clouds as a design tool. Number one rule, always. It doesn’t matter where they are in real life, and it’s important not to just put them in randomly. Arrange your clouds strategically in relation to the rest of your painting; use them to balance directional shapes and direct the eye where you want it go. Think of them not as clouds but as shapes in the overall composition to be arranged in terms of placement, size, and directional pull.

In “Port of Entry,” above, Joseph McGurl uses airplane contrails to form a sort of celestial bower or arch over his subject, the statue of liberty of the title. Also, the monument appears smack at the center of the sky’s descending rays of light that fall over it directly and on either side. Coincidence? Don’t make me laugh. (McGurl is a master of light on water and of painting clouds.)

The above painting is by Kathleen Hudson, who teaches her realistic cloud techniques in a video workshop titled "Clouds & Distance."
The above painting is by Kathleen Hudson, who teaches her realistic cloud techniques in a video workshop titled “Clouds & Distance.”

#2. Some artists paint the sky first, leaving spaces for the clouds. Others paint the clouds first, then put the sky around them. Either way, probably don’t paint the sky and then try to paint the clouds on top of it – it’s too much work.

If you’ve painted the sky first and the clouds have a pasted-on look, hit some of the edges with a”dry” (meaning clean, no paint AND no thinner) blending brush (like a fan brush or a filbert). Tickle the edges where the clouds meet the sky, leaving some edges “lost” (blended) and others “found” (harder-edged). When you do this, aim your brushstrokes and pull your clouds’ edges in the direction the wind is blowing (doesn’t matter which direction, as long as you’re consistent).

Continue reading “Head in the Clouds!” at our sister site, InsideArt.

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