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Clouds and Skies in watercolor paintings-Blog 17

This blog will be useful for artists in learning watercolor techniques. Connoisseurs will find it useful in developing greater sense of appreciation.

Painting clouds & skies is both fascinating and challenging in watercolors. Once put on paper, the watercolors flow and mix unpredictably, producing pleasing or ugly results. That’s the fascinating part of it. The challenge arises from the fact that timing and intensity of color application are very important in watercolor medium; and that the medium does not allow much corrections.

Keith Fenwick, in his book “Paint a landscape in minutes-WATERCOLOUR COURSE” has some important tips for painting clouds and skies:

Skies and clouds can sometimes form 2/3rd of a painting, and therefore must be painted well.

A golden rule is to paint simple sky if the lower part of the painting is detailed. A simple foreground needs an atmospheric sky.

Blue clouds with rising poppy pods. Simple sky for busy foreground

Blue simple sky with busy foreground of Orange Butea Monosperma (टेसू ) forest

Atmospheric sky for simpleforeground

The artist has the licence to paint a sky from imagination to make the painting interesting, if the real sky is boring or clouds non existent.

Our challenge is to make the sky representative of the mood or the atmosphere, not the exact formation as we see in the photo or in nature. In any case, watercolor medium can not achieve exact replica.

For a better control on composition, artists often prefer to paint the landscape first and then the sky-cloud into it. Using acrylic watercolors will help here as the drippings onto the lower part are wipeable.

In watercolors, clouds have to be painted quickly, usually in less than 3 minutes, to avoid hard edges. Timing as well the strength of the next layer are important.

In watercolors, each successive application of paint should be stiffer (less wet) than the under-painting, to avoid hard edges or what is called the cauliflower.Cauliflower formation in my painting.

See top right blue sky hard edges. Doesn’t look bad though

In watercolors, use big (1 1/2″) hake brush lightly and apply minimum brush strokes to achieve freshness in the sky. Otherwise the sky will look muddy.

There are several techniques that can be used to paint sky-successful painters experiment.

All skies are painted wet into wet, except the glazing.

The concept of applying glaze works well in painting clouds. Glaze is thin paint, with lot of water. A broad brush, such as 1 1/2″ hake is used for applying glaze. Glaze harmonises as well sparkles the painting. It can be applied to a part of the painting or the whole. Glaze is applied after the under paint has dried completely.

The secret when painting skies is to wet your paper initially with clean water or a weak Raw Sienna.

White cloud shapes can be achieved by blotting out the wet color with soft tissue.

The addition of a small splash of another color can provide a more pleasing sky structure.

Adding colors in the sky makes them pleasing.

Tilting the board in different directions mixes the colors in very interesting manner and can add lot of charm to the painting. Practice helps to lead the wet paint in desired direction. Shafts of rain can thus be obtained by tilting the board nearly vertical. Once doing this, I blundered but the painting came out pretty well with a heavy thick shaft of rain.

Threatening dark clouds and lightning of monsoon sky. A heavy shaft of rain was formed by mistake but it looked interesting

Image of Varsha Ritu-2

For painting clouds and skies, Keith Fenwick color recommendations are Payne’s Grey, French Ultramarine, Cerulean Blue, Alizarin crimson, Raw Sienna, Burnt Umber. Additionally, I use Chrome Yellow, Cobalt Blue, Chinese White, and Coastal Fog.

Below are some more images of my paintings with clouds and skies with brief description.

Dark night clouds and full moon in Sharad Ritu

Dark night sky with rays of threads obtained by masking fluid technique

Blue day sky and Black night sky

Threatening black clouds with silver linings of monsoon

Colorful sky with domes of churches

Night clouds and full moon of Sharad Ritu

Night clouds and full moon of Sharad Ritu

Fruity imaginary clouds of Indian Summer

Blue sky with flying swans in Sharad Ritu

Rising poppy pods and white houses in blue sky

Raining Datura flowers and colorful monsoon clouds

With this, the blog on Clouds and Skies in watercolor paintings ends. Please do write back by clicking on the top tab Leave a comment. I will also be happy to answer any questions that the readers may have.

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