Clouds, a few ways

I haven’t done very much experimentation on the paper in my current sketchbook (Travelogue by hand•book journal) so I decided to do a few little cloud sketches using different techniques: dry, glazing, wet-in-wet, and wet on dry paper. Clouds and skies are tricky because they always work best when the paper is wet. That means that to begin with, I should be working on sheets of watercolour paper, not thin sketchbook paper that can’t really take big washes.

The first sketch that I did was the wet-in-wet one on the top right. I ran a very pale wash of raw sienna over the whole sky area and then added in my cloud colour which in this case is a mix of payne’s gray and alizarin. I let that dry, rewet with clear water and added more paint to the centre cloud areas. Result: a bit of a disaster because this paper can’t take the amount of water I subjected it to.

The second sketch was the bottom right. For this one I loaded up my brush with a juicy wash of cloud colour that included lots of ultramarine blue. I put the wash down quickly and never touched it again.

The third one was the dry areas of clouds on the top left. Another disaster! You can’t paint clouds with little, dry dabs.

Finally, I used a few transparent glazes in the bottom left sketch. I did an underpainting of alizarin and yellow ochre, waited for that to dry and then went back in with another glaze of purplish gray.

My conclusion: the fastest and most direct way was the best (the bottom right example.) Load your brush up with a good amount of a saturated wash, put it down quickly and confidently, let it dry and never touch it again.


12 Comments on “Clouds, a few ways”

  1. Jane Hannah says:

    Thank you Shari for this… I have tried many different way to “paint” clouds… so this helps me -)

  2. sefeniak says:

    Thank you for sharing. I will have to try all the different techniques. Practice!!!

  3. tmikeporter says:

    Shari, the upper right has a misty, raining appearance, so common for our NW stormy days. Agree that ‘s it’s best to use wc paper and don’t rewet, though.
    Agree lower right is the best. I have found in my painting skies practice that an underpainting is needed, fully dry, upon which to lay the cloud color as in PG + AC. Or, lay down a wash of the blue background you want, lift out the cloud shapes (cumulus or stratus, cirrus)…let that dry then put PG on the bottoms if appropriate. I’ve had fun trying skies from Ranson’s book. Good practice. If you ever find a Rowland Hilder book, buy it. He influenced Ron a lot as did Seago. What I’m saying is more appropriate for landscape paintings vs. sketches, though.

  4. Béliza says:

    Thanks for sharing your insights. It’s very helpful, specially giving that I don’t feel very confident with watercolour yet. Practice!

  5. Alison says:

    Thank you for sharing this excellent exercise in understanding clouds and paper and paint! There are magnificent clouds in my local sky today, I’ll have to have a go at capturing them on paper.

  6. dezabaleta says:

    Very Good !

    Mark de Zabaleta

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