Clouds are fun to paint, because they make flexible compositional devices. No one’s going to notice if a cloud is a slightly different shape, or in a different position, than the actual scene. But clouds are a challenge to paint, because they need to have volume. All too often, clouds appear stuck on top of the sky, flat. I’m certainly guilty of that. Some clouds do appear that way, because they’re thin and have little volume. This painting has a few of those, but the big cloud on the left side was larger, and so I had to show the clouds weight. In general, the light side of a cloud needs to be lighter than the sky, and the dark side darker. This usually means that you have to seek a very close value relationship, as well as temperature shift. I’m happy with the volume I was able to convey in this one. It took time, lots of adjustments back-and-forth between the underside of the cloud, lit side and sky.
The other big challenge painting sunsets is color. It’s easy to go overboard! Yes, the colors are intense, but there are also lots of neutral grays in sky, and in fact those neutrals provide a calm stage for the intense colors to shine. The other big challenge with color is value. To check the values in this painting I converted the color photo above to gray scale. This is a great way to check that your values are accurate. Compare the color image above with the gray scale version here and you’ll see what I mean. It’s difficult to judge value accurately with intense color.
Casa Cosmos #3 in Gray Scale