Sky Practice

For the past couple of days I have been trying to emulate paintings that contain atmospheric conditions such as clouds (Copy) and fire (Orange Sky, Fire- Final). The key to these pictures is, at least in part, formlessness. It makes sense. In drawing or painting clouds, one must somehow define its boundaries. This is difficult to do when there is no clear edge.  The paintings that have inspired me recently (Turner’s Rain, Steam and Speed; Sapiro’s Flash Point) are oil paintings. Today I have tried to use the qualities of watercolor to produce atmospheric effects.

Today’s watercolor experiment:

Since I overworked the sky in yesterday’s study, I thought I could use some practice. I began by testing some of the blue colors in my paint box. Below is my series of test strips, which include the unmixed color in addition to the mixes with lemon yellow and buff titanium.

Watercolor: Test - swatches of blue with lemon yellow

I knew that lemon yellow is a bit on the green side, but I wanted to see how it reacted with the range of blue tints, from reddish blue to greenish blue. It would make sense that the reddish blues mixing with the lemon yellow would yield a muddier green than with the color blues.

However, learned more about the range of blues than I did about how they mixed.

Preparing for the sky study:

I wanted the sky to range in color from a dark, reddish blue to a lighter, cooler blue as it approached the horizon, to eventually end in lemon yellow.

The colors I chose, working from the top of the paper (in order of application) were: indanthrone blue; ultramarine blue; cobalt blue; phthalo blue.

I used my paper towel to blot some of the pigment and approximate the shapes of clouds. I washed the paper several times with the blue pigments to darken the upper reaches of the sky.  Finally, with the paper still wet, I applied Payne’s gray to the bottom portion of the cloud shapes.

Watercolor: Practice study of cloudy sky

Sky Practice 1
9″x12″ 140# Cold Pressed Watercolor Block


I am very pleased with the results of the tops of the clouds, although I would have liked the clouds to be brighter and the sky to be darker behind them. The Payne’s gray seems to have worked well, giving the impression of rain.

The transition from the blue to the yellow didn’t seem to work as well, nor did the foreground of warm sienna and yellow ochre.

Perhaps I will be able to improve this study. If I am successful, I will post. If not, to quote Scarlett O’Hara, “Tomorrow is another day.”

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