The Watercolor Skies & Clouds Techniques of 23 International artists

The book, ISBN 1-929834-35-7, was published by International artist.  The book contains 23 chapters each focuses on their personal approach to painting skies and clouds.  Their methods are so different from each other.  It is an eye-opener for me as a beginner with limited experience in using watercolour.  Of course I like some more than the other because of personal preference but nonetheless I appreciate of the difference approaches and effects.

The following are few notes of those ‘at in the making’ sections that I like the most.

David Band – I like his step-by-step method which I felt is approachable and achievable.

  1. start with s sketch.
  2. He started with dry technique using a no.10 round and diluted phthalo blue to paint in the sky areas separating the clouds.
  3. add tone and texture with a no. 6 round and a diluted mixture of purple and phthalo blue.  Once this is dray, the hard edges are softened by gently wiping the surface with a sponge and clean water.
  4. gradual build-up of colour and texture with a diluted mixture of purple, phthalo blue and a touch of Payne’s gray.  This is followed quickly with a sponge and clean water to soften and blend the colour and hard edges.  Next, apply a very weak wash of cadmium yellow over the entire surface.  While the paper is still damp, put on a diluted mixture of purple and Payne’s gray to create stronger texture and shadow in the bottom  half of the cloud formation.
  5. still working on the wet surface, add stronger mixture purple, phthalo blue, Payne’s gray and a touch of vermillion.
  6. the paper begins to dry, create a combination of soft and hard edges to provide a sense of movement.  With the paper completely dry, finish with a wash of diluted cadmium yellow and vermilion over the entire sky.

Sidney Cardew – he usually competes the sky in one wash and then paints the water areas using the same colour and effects as the sky.  note of his ideal colour for clouds is a mix of ultramarine blue, burnt umber, venetian red and raw umber.

Jon Crawley – letting pigment and water do their thing with minimum interference from his brush. Adding pigment to a wet area is more effective than playing with watery washes.  The aim is to get the tone and colour right the first time.  For a crisp edge, paint up to the dry area.  For a soft, fuzzy edge, run a thin line of water along the edge first, then paint to the edge of the water.  His palette – Cobalt blue, raw sienna, burnt sienna and raw umber.

Gerald Green – He said it is very easy to fall into the trap of painting winter skies in pale washes or predominantly in grays or cooler colours, but this will overstate the cold effect, resulting in subjects appearing dull and uninteresting.  To prevent this, he prefer to incorporate warm colours into his skies, or at least by putting a warm-coloured underpainting.

  1. first wash establishes the general mood of the painting.
  2. introduce extra variety by combining softer-edges graduated colour washes with stronger, harder-edged forms.
  3. sees his skies as a single element which he breaks down into a simplified pattern of larger masses, rather than made up of several individually painted cloud shapes.
  4. he then builds these basic shapes in layered washes, while resisting any temptation to get bogged down in overstated detailing or fussiness.
  5. his palette – cadmium orange, alizarin crimson, ultramarine blue, neutral tint and lamp black.

Herman Pekel – uses cloud shape as a design element

  1. at all costs avoid doing lots of different coloured washes on top of one another.
  2. for rim effects, paint in the shape of the clouds first on damp paper so the paint bleeds.  At this stage, there is no background.  LET it dry.  Onto the white paper which is the background sky, paint pale blue.  The secret is that the background has to be at least two tones lighter than the clouds or you won’t get the rimlight effect.  Paint the blue around the clouds and leave a white, halo gap.  Don’t make this too regular – you can even smudge it a bit with your fingertips.
  3. his palette – Alizarin crimson permanent, cerulean blue, ultramarine blue, viridian, raw sienna and burnt sienna.

Vivienne Pooley – putting a mountain view in contrast to vivid skies adds powers and depth to a landscape scene.

  1. develop coloured composition sketches
  2. use mainly cobalt turquoise light and add windsor blue at the top of the sky when the paper is still wet.
  3. A little Windsor lemon is added with water as the brush reaches for the distant light seen just above the mountain.  The paper is slightly inclined and the colour very diluted.  Left to dry.
  4. Clouds colours with very diluted cadmium yellow deep, cadmium red, permanent rose,  along with violet and cobalt blue in a separate pans.
  5. use no. 12 paint in the cloud shapes, being careful not to overlap the edges of the previous washes of blue.  Left to dry.

Lois Salmon Toole – by experimenting with miniature painting first, you can solve many of your colour choices and compositional challenges.


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