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.

A Muse in Tuscany ~ Plein Air Painting

Plein Air Painting ~ View of Figline Valdarno

oil painting tuscany
Olive Grove, plein air oil, 5 x 7

The first muse accompanied me to the balcony overlooking Fignine Valdarno to paint.  She wanted to watch me paint!

How do you start? she wanted to know. I showed her how I create a little thumbnail painting ~ an abstraction of color shapes ~ to establish the central theme and composition.

Plein air painting, particularly with an expansive panorama like this one, it is so easy to lose yourself in the details. In this view, my heart was in the villa in the foreground. The landscape around it created such a lovley heart shape. That is where I began with the 5 x 7 oil paining above.

oil painting Tuscany
Figline Valdarno, oil, 16 x 20

As I painted a local gentleman stopped by to see what I was doing. Speaking only Italian, and I only English, I quickly returned to my easel. Not so with the Muse.

Chincia (the first muse) had a lengthy and complex conversation with the Italian gentleman ~ right at my elbow! I didn’t understand much of what they were talking about. She was using Google Translate to decipher his Italian, and to help him understand her.

Their game of words infected my game of colors and shapes. Their play came alive in my landscape. Wiggly brush strokes, fun colors danced on my canvas.

Unsure of the new feelings, I urged them away from my easel. From the top of the hill, I could still hear their banter. I grabbed the willow charcoal and pulled a few details out in the foreground. Stepping back ~ I rather like the fun look!

I picked up my thumbnail study and finished it’s details with the same whimsy, afraid that it might all go poouf with the muse’s departure! Capture it now while the spirit moves me.

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