How to Paint Clouds with color art lesson in oil painting.

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Last Update :
December 22, 2017

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Lloyd Thibodeau
1901 Country Apple Court
Fountain Inn, SC 29644

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Oil Painting Clouds with Color from Sunrays

Clouds with Color Oil Painting

Inspiration comes in many forms at many different times. One day at during the evening the sunlight lit up the clouds as it was setting with bright glowing colors. The brightness was so intense from the sunlight reflection on the clouds that it illuminated objects on the ground area around me. As the sun set the colors changed with warm yellows, bright pinks and violets. And this light show happened out in the front yard while checking for the daily mail.

I wanted to use this moment of reference for a painting that has depth. I went and got my digital camera, took some pictures and now will use those photos for a sky landscape painting. The upper portion of the painting will contain the drifting clouds and the lower portion a field landscape with some trees and a stream. In my mind the picture gives the impression of openness and with perceptive I hope to be able to pull the art viewer into the painting.

The cloud mass is enormous and will create distance as the lower portion of it's structure is brushed in. It has a form, that is a top, sides and bottom. The key is have the painting give this same appearance to the art viewer.

Some of the oil paint colors that will be used for the sky are Cobalt Blue, Thalo Blue and then Alizarin Crimson mixed with Viridian for a gray blending mix. I like to use a thinned out white for added blending also.

The canvas selected to paint on is a Fredrix 20 inches by 30 inches. It's a medium textured acrylic titanium primed No.5026. With the majority of my oil paintings I like to coat the canvas with a liquid white. Doing this builds up a base coat to paint on. It also lets me blend in the some of the background colors of the sky area. I'm able to achieve the desired painting style that I am comfortable with.

Painted Thalo Blue canvas first layer.

The Sky Base Color

The first oil paint color to be brushed on to the canvas is Thalo Blue. When brushing in this way I always start at the top of the canvas working from side to side. Like the photo image, the sky area will need to be lighten as the paints color tones move to the center of the canvas. As in the real world when your eye focus moves from the sky directly above to the horizon line in the distance your view has this same effect. So being careful on how much Thalo Blue is used is a must. Thalo Blue is very strong, rich and over powering. If too much is brushed on it can take the canvas over.

Painted Colbalt Blue canvas second layer.

I now blend some equal parts of Virdian ( Van Gogh artist oil paints) and some Alizarin Crimson. This mix almost always needs some adjusting to get it to the right grayish color you like. Dependent on which color is in greater volume, this mix may resemble a reddish color or very dark greenish color. Mixing it thoroughly is a must and testing with some white helps to get the gray hue that your looking for. I make at least two piles or more of this blending mixture, some on the dark side and some on the light side.

I've taken Cobalt Blue with some of the gray color mix and toned down the bright Thalo Blue on the canvas. This will bring the sky color more into agreement with the photograph. The Thalo Blue provides a first layer tone and the Cobalt Blue can be adjusted to the desired color. I then left this to dry before painting the base colors of the clouds.

Aritst oil painting Clouds with Color D

Starting the clouds I use oil paint colors Titanium White, Alizarin Crimson and a gray mixture. Brighter colors will be near the upper portion of the canvas by the darker blues to create contrast.

I continue to paint with this same technique across the canvas working from my photograph references. The tops of the clouds are very bright from the direct light of the sun setting. So I paint in a base layer to begin with of the clouds in upper portion where the brightest areas will be.

Contrast can be seen in the upper part of the canvas as soon as the brushed in clouds begin to form. As these clouds are painted in the contrast will not be as apparent as the painting moves to the lower part of the canvas. This is where the horizon area becomes lighter in colors. Towards the middle section I want to begin painting in a little Indian Yellow for a warm glow.

Artist oil painting Clouds with Color E

A key point necessary to keep in mind is how do I visually pull the art viewer into my oil painting? I need distance and perspective. One way is to paint the clouds with a bottom area to them. This takes away the flat look and brings in dimension.

Using Indian Yellow with white in certain areas creates a warm glowing effect. These warm areas begin in the lower portions of the clouds. I also paint in this area soft pink colors by using Alizarin Crimson and adjust the hue with white. At this portion of the painting I'm constantly looking back at my reference photo and adjusting colors. Here the clouds begin to move out of their visually flat appearance and into a more dimensional look.

The clouds in this painting are beginning to take shape. Clouds have tops, sides and bottoms. It's capturing the light with oil paints to give this impression that is sometimes challenging.

I've used Alizarin Crimson and Thalo Blue to make a Lavender mix. With gray and white I now brush in the bottom portions of the cloud mass. This will create dimension in the clouds.

As I paint the cloud base in I look for ways to brush the paint on so as to make the base of the clouds appear move back into the horizon. Always while painting I like to bring in depth from each art subject that is painted.

Some of clouds need a touch of brightness and for this I use Titanium White. Painting in the upper portions of the clouds with white makes them standout from the blue sky.

Land features have begun to form below the clouds at this step of the painting. The pathway zigzags towards the background creating distance. Size of the pathway needs to be considered as it moves to the right and left toward the background hills. Start the pathway wider in the foreground and then narrow the pathway as it progresses farther back. How it lays on the land area needs some thought. In this painting I wanted the pathway to fall like water to the lowest places of the painted land area. Painting it this way helps once again to create a feeling of depth.

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