Wish upon a Cloud Painting ~ 3 Essentials

cloud painting
Clouds over Tuscany, oil, 16 x 20
Everyone loves clouds! Dreamers and scientists, artists and accountants. What is is about clouds that speaks to us all?

People have told me for many years how much they love my clouds. I love painting them. Perhaps being a Gemini, an air person, helps. There are some essentials to remember when painting clouds. These will help painters and viewers alike in enjoying being in the clouds.

3 Essentials of Cloud Painting

1 Establish the Mood

Clouds are moody. Drama, uplifting or brooding. Know what you want to say with your clouds before you start painting.

This painting was inspired by my plein air painting yesterday. The clouds overhead shadowed my subject. Yet few actually appeared in the painting. In this painting clouds would be the subject.

I wanted the brilliance and warmth of an October sky. The way one feels ~ peaceful, elated and uplifted ~ on such an October cloud

cloud painting
my easel set up on the balcony of my villa in Poggio Alla Croce

2 ~ Establish Grounding

Clouds are best appreciated from a human perspective. Keep the viewers’ feet on the ground.

Use a vantage point from earth, not above. Use grounding colors.

Selecting my vantage point for this painting, I walked through out the town looking at possible painting locations.  One had distant landscape with many clouds high above it. Another had several hillsides with wispy clouds. Yet another looked up at this same hillside from a lower vantage point.

I selected this one from my balcony. It put me eye to eye with the distant villa and tree line. This vantage point raises the viewer to the mountain top, nearly touching the cloud. I like the idea of bringing my viewers up here with me.

3 ~ Keep it Simple

Don’t put in so many details. Let your viewers wander the space between earth and clouds. A few choice details provide stabilization. Too many overwhelm.

Use a big brush to paint as much as possible. Switch to a small brush for the final touches. If you don’t need it, don’t use a small brush at all.

In this painting you can see the unfinished one on the easel becoming too busy. Too much detail in the cloud and foreground begin to distract from the mood. I used a dry brush to smooth out these unwanted details. The final version leaves much more space for the viewer to be in the painting between clouds and earth.

Plein Air in Tuscany

plein air in Tuscany
Panzano Vineyards, oil, 16 x 20
plein air in Tuscany
On arrival, a large cloud shadowed the vineyard in the foreground.

I couldn’t resist the opportunity of a brilliant October day in Tuscany to paint en plein air. We searched for the perfect spot. Late afternoon sunlight lit the vineyard in the foreground.

I could see that clouds were moving slowly. Deep blue greens in the vineyard would soon be brilliant yellow greens with purple shadows. In anticipation I painted the distant landscape first, setting the stage for the light.

plein air in Tuscany
Finishing up, the sun is getting quite low leaving my easel in deep shadow.


plein air in Tuscany

Tuscan Sunset ~ 5 Views from My Balcony

Tuscan sunset
Poggio Tramonto, oil, 11 x 14
Tuscan sunsets
Hillside Villas, oil, 16 x 20


tuscan sunset
Morning Vineyard, oil, 7 x 14
tuscan sunset
Our balcony in Poggio Alla Croce overlooks the landscape north to Florence. Painting this view repeatedly, each experience different colors and atmosphere.

A simply sublime view of Tuscany melted my heart the moment I arrived at our mountain top residence. Painting it repeatedly with each passing week, I return to dust of the earth. Literally and figuratively.

Twenty five years of painting in pastel merged with my oil paint brush in the process of painting this landscape. A dream I dared not express openly. Yet a yearning in my heart nonetheless.

During the years I worked solely in pastel, there was something special that happened with the stick of raw pigment in my hand. As if holding the earth itself, it’s charge ran through me to the page without a thought. Heart instinct.

Painting with a brush was different. Stop and think, how to mix. What to say. How to compose. Heart and hand challenged by this extension. Painting became an experiment.

Wasn’t it Edison who said he discovered 1000 ways NOT to create a light bulb? At least. Yet when it lights, it shines forever.

I began this series with two “experiments.” Tentatively painted with muted tones, two 5″ x 7″ oil paintings started this thread of discovery. I encourage any reader with the notion to try.
plein air tuscany
Poggio, oil, 5 x 7
tuscan sunset
Tramonto, oil, 5 x 7


tuscan sunset
Magico Paesaggio, oil, 16 x 20
tuscan sunset
Firenze Tramonto, oil, 11 x 14