And ice cream castles in the air
And feather canyons everywhere
I’ve looked at clouds that way
But now they only block the sun
They rain and snow on everyone
So many things I would have done
But clouds got in my way
I’ve looked at clouds from both sides now
From up and down and still somehow
It’s cloud’s illusions I recall..
— From “Both Sides Now” by Joni Mitchell
It’s a rainy morning here today, so the sky is a huge gray cloud rolling through. I’ve always loved clouds, even the stormy ones. I can’t count how many times I’ve had to grab a camera to catch photographs of the skies overhead.
Now that I’m “an artist”, I’ve discovered that it’s just as much fun to create my own clouds. I can have brilliantly blue skies with puffy white clouds drifting above the horizon, or I can grab darker blues and grays to conjure up my own thunderheads. Clouds are much more than white or gray, of course, and I love mingling in pinks, purples, oranges, and yellows to suggest the play of light.
As I’ve been learning to use soft pastels, I’ve done a lot of “skyscapes” such as the one above. I’ve also used oil pastels to create clouds, and I’ve learned to paint blue skies with watercolor and then use tissues to “dab out” the clouds.
My husband likes clouds, too. Recently he asked me to do an art project for him. It’s exciting when someone wants me to draw or paint something for them, and even though this isn’t a “paid commission”, it means as much to me as if it were. I want to do a good job.
The project? Painting clouds.
Remember that rusty old van of his? I first mentioned it in “Telling Stories Through Art” and I later shared my watercolor-and-ink drawing of the van in “Graduating to a Whole New Level“. The outside is still covered with rust and dents, but the interior is coming along nicely. What my husband wants is for me to paint clouds on the headliner. I hesitated at first, but after giving it a little thought, I think I can do it. I’m not sure yet what materials will be suitable, so I have a lot of “figuring out” to do first.
Since we first discussed the project, he and I have both been looking even more closely at clouds. “No, I don’t like those clouds,” he told me one day with a shake of his head. “I want bigger, fluffier clouds.” I’ve been keeping my cell phone camera ready and clicking away when I see particularly beautiful clouds. Between the two of us, I’m sure we’ll come up with something that’s just right.
Yesterday afternoon a new issue of Watercolor Artist magazine arrived, and I was excited to find an article about painting skies — and clouds — using four “go-to” colors: cerulean blue, cadmium red light, French ultramarine blue, and burnt sienna. Later today I’ll do a bit of color-mixing with those pigments to come up with my own range of hues for watercolor skies.
UPDATE: I’ve been mixing colors and having fun. I didn’t have cadmium red light, so I tried alizarin crimson. Here’s a look at my first watercolor sky using these colors.
Here’s another one I did…trying to capture the sense of a storm brewing.
Of course, I won’t be using watercolor for the headliner project. I do find that learning ideas and techniques in one medium can inspire ideas when I pick up another. Techniques can differ from one medium to the next, but general principles can sometimes apply.
If you’re a watercolor enthusiast — or simply a cloud lover — you might enjoy this North Light link:
Now, even though the rain is pouring down outside, I’m going to head for my easel to bring a little sunshine to the skies. I’ll have lots of lovely clouds floating through the air, and I’ll dream about the day when my “cloud-covered headliner” becomes a reality. It’s an exciting thought.