The Sky’s the Limit

Today’s watercolor experiment:

Over the past couple of days I have been trying to introduce some drama to my watercolors, (Sketching Problems, When You Fall Off a Horse, Values) inasmuch as one can dramatize the vista of a parking lot. Dramatic elements were present in the photographs, as clouds.  How? The ever-so-gradual shift in tone from dark undersides to the whitish billows above.

My problem has been in translating that to a watercolor composition. One might say, the sky is my limit.

I watched a couple of videos about painting watercolor skies. I understood them and was a bit surprised that I haven’t been that far off the mark in my own attempts.


I flooded my block of watercolor paper, just as one of the demonstrators recommended. He also said to dry it off a bit before starting to paint.  According to him, when the wetness of the paper is appropriate for painting, there is about a three-minute window for painting before it is too dry to work with.

Note: Most of the time my paper has been too wet to work with. When I apply a paint laden brush, the edges beyond the brushstroke leak pigment in spidery tangles.

In another tutorial, ultramarine blue was the pigment of choice for the unclouded area of the scene. This is a non-staining color that is easily lifted off with a paper towel, leaving a white billow behind on the watercolor paper.  My choice for blue was cerulean however, which didn’t work as well.  The tutor also suggested mixing a bit of red with the blue for darker tones. I used cadmium red light, which I am sure wasn’t the recommended tint either, as it stained my paper with a purplish tone that couldn’t be lifted.

I wasn’t happy. In distress, I flooded the paper with a dirty neutral tint mixture, blotting up the excess as I went along.  I did salvage it somewhat and successfully added a soft darkness to the bottom of the clouds. This time the moisture content of the paper was just right.

With a sky in place, I laid in ultramarine blue abutting the horizon formed by the bottom of the sky. I used yellow ochre for the beach.

Watercolor: Study of Clouds

The Sky’s the Limit
9″x12″ 140# Cold Pressed Watercolor Block


As you can see, I worked on the sky more than the rest of the composition. I am happy I achieved some drama, but I probably need to do at least 100 more practice studies before the atmosphere is my oyster (to mix a metaphor).

2 thoughts on “The Sky’s the Limit

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