Category Archives: Part 3: Project 2: Landscape: Exercise 1: Cloud formations and tone

Part 3: Project 2: Landscape: Exercise 1: Cloud formations and tone


Charcoal: Hot Summer’s day… 32 degrees! Cambridge UK… 2:10pm 19/06/17

This was fun.

The charcoal was so delicate and could be drawn or blended it was almost like working with a wash? And leaving white paper for highlights… a rubber was useful for secondary highlights.


Graphite: Hot Summer’s day… 32 degrees… Cambridge UK… 3:00pm 19/06/17


And more effective than I thought. I had to build this up sculpturally leaving white showing through for ‘sunny cloud’ and adding more for the darker areas. I also used a little finger blending and lightened areas with a rubber… though these only made slight changes in tone and I couldn’t get back to white with the rubber.


Pastel: Pastel on pastel paper: Late afternoon… clouds changing from one formation to another… moving quickly.

Pastel was lovely to work with.

I could blend easily and over blend to change the tone. Combine the edge of the pastel for hard bright where the sun catches the cloud or shines through. And use my finger and a ‘blending’ stick for the swirls of cloud.


Oil pastel on pastel paper: Late afternoon… warm Summer’s day – Wed 12th July 2017.

Not very happy with this, didn’t have the dark grey, and the oil pastels kept mixing on the paper so it was difficult to get differentiation – sunlight catching clouds or the effects I wanted.

Plus it was slow… so I ended up ‘making up’ the cloud. It’s true to say nobody knows what a particular cloud looks like but it sure as heck doesn’t look like this!!

However, the blending from very light blue at the bottom to the darker blue at the top works well. I blended with my finger at the bottom to make a solid colour and gradually ‘blended out’ and used the side of the oil pastel, easing the pressure so it was less heavy at the top and let more of the blue oil pastel show through.


Sky (1)

The sky changes endlessly and very quickly.

It not only changes itself in the shapes and colours of the clouds, and shafts of light, but it also changes the lighting on the landscape. Which can radically change the mood of the scene below just like lighting a film.

In a film they don’t trust to nature… if it’s a localised scene they light it… even inside a church they’ll have a cherry picker outside sending shafts of ‘sunlight’ through the stain glass windows. On a landscape shot they’ll use filters on the lens and colour grade the print to produce the effect they want.

Or just wait for the weather????? And maybe shoot at dawn or dusk just as the sun is in the right place.

In fact, lighting your scene is vitally important… so I think with art, you shouldn’t be restricted to copying the cloud and lighting that’s there.

So I’m going to try to keep a file of ‘sky’ photographs which I can use as a bank of effects to use on landscapes.

Sky (2)

I hadn’t realised (but it makes complete sense) that the sky is, sort of, split into three bands.

Horizontal… looking at a flat horizon… the clouds are small and tightly packed. You’re looking through a lot of air… the sky often looks white… or yellow, or orange depending if the sun is setting or rising.

45 degrees… head slightly tilted up (the bit of sky you see in Yorkshire if you’re surrounded by mountains)… this has the magnificent scudding clouds and is the bit we mostly look at.

The clouds here are large and defined with detail. Bold, exciting and dynamic.

And there’s a little more blue in the sky. The ‘sky blue’ a child would use for painting a sky.

Straight up… Here the sky is a dark blue… almost purplish. The clouds look ‘odd’.

If the sun is high we don’t see the fluffy bit… they don’t look like clouds. But wisps of smoke or fog. Strange Turner like patterns emerge.

We rarely if ever look straight up at clouds in the day unless we’re sunbathing and then it’s usually too bright so we close our eyes.

Clouds… Oh… the wondrous creation… they come in all shapes, sizes, colours… form and reform… move… change character… inhabit different layers of the sky like sea creatures swimming in the open ocean. Some high… mid level and low dark rain filled clouds.

You could spend a lifetime drawing clouds!!!!


Before doing this exercise I hadn’t really thought much about the sky. Seems bizarre now, but I hadn’t.

I’d sort of just taken it for granted.

No more…

It seems to me the sky is a character in it’s own right.

It can be a star as in the seventeenth century Dutch Landscapes (like Jan Van Goyen) – big skies that can take up 75% of the canvas – to being a significant supporting player as in Gainsborough landscapes… right down to being a bit part actor where the mountain or a waterfall is more important.

And… having thought clouds were impossible to draw – having looked at the sky… and lots of sky paintings… I think with practice I could do it!

… though maybe not with oil pastel?!!!!