“Congaree, Clouds and Fields, detail”, 8 x 10″, oil on archival panel

How to paint the skies doesn’t have to be that complicated or challenging.

The sky can be what really draws us to a painting subject.

But sometimes we can lose track of that along the way as we’re painting. And instead of focusing on the sky as something that can create a really dramatic element in the painting, something that is a critical part of the composition, we treated as an afterthought.

And when that happens, we’re not really taking full advantage of that thing that drew us to the subject in the first place.

I’ve got several steps right here to help you make it way more simple. Let’s dive right on in.

Number one, consider the sky as part of the overall composition.

“Winter Evening”, oil on panel, 5 x 7″

Think about the big shapes, the overall relationship of those shapes in the sky, to the composition as a whole pay attention to that overall pattern to the overall relationship of the cloud and sky for.

Number two is to be bold with your mark making.

“Congaree, Clouds and Fields”, oil on panel, © Mary Bentz Gilkerson

Don’t be afraid to think about treating the sky as an area that can be part of creating strong visual interest.

Use your largest brushes or knives.

Think about using thin versus thick paint.

Number three, study the colors, particularly the hues and the values that you see in the sky.

Variations in blue paint

Variations in blue paint

Practice observation.

What do I mean by that? Spend a good deal of time, looking in fact as much time looking as you do painting, the more you actually see, the more, you will see. Don’t let what you think, override what your eyeballs sees.

Vary the blues of a clear blue sky. There are lots of blues present in the sky and it changes from top to bottom and left to right. That’s based on where the sun is.

Use more than one blue as you’re mixing your colors. Don’t rely on one single tube of paint to try to create all the blues of your sky.

And remember that a clear blues or a clear sky isn’t always blue. Sometimes it’s orange. Sometimes it’s yellow. Sometimes it’s pink, sometimes violet and yes, it actually can be a pale green as well, depending on the atmosphere, conditions, the lighting, the time of day and the time of year. Also remember, look at the sky in relationship to the value of the lane.

The two things are connected. We have a tendency to automatically assume that the sky is always going to be like, Than the land. This is not always true. It’s usually true, but not always, for example, here, when we look at that photograph in black and white, we can tell that the clear blue sky at the top of the picture plane is significantly darker than the blue.

That’s close to the horizon, and it’s significantly darker than a chunk of the land. Trust your eye, not what your brain tells you. It already knows.

And then in our last tip, I want you to think about using atmospheric perspective.

Atmospheric perspective

Atmospheric perspective

Not the over-simplified form, that a lot of people recite by. But true atmospheric perspective, understanding that the impact of the atmosphere on color shape, form and edges is going to be dependent on where the sun is in relationship to where you’re looking.

If you’re looking away from the light, as in this image, Then you’re going to have diminishing contrast as you move towards the background. If you are looking towards the light as in this, oops, as in this photograph or this painting, then you’re going to have more contrast in the background than in the foreground, because you’re looking directly towards the.

And it’s going to create a silhouetting effect along the horizon line. Make sure you understand atmosphere perspective. Not real sure about it. I’ve got a link for you right here where you can dive into it a little bit more deeply.

Let’s review these four steps. One last time to wrap up here.

Number one, think about the sky as part of the overall composition. Not as an afterthought to the rest of your painting, make it a key component of it.

Number two is to be bold with your mark making. It’s going to add so much more visual interest to your composition.

Number three, pay close attention to the values and the Hughes and trust your eyeball and what you’ve observed last but not least.

Number four. Use atmospheric perspective. Think about where the light’s coming from.

If you’d like to speed up your own skill in capturing the many moods of water, sky and land, I'd love for you to join me in my upcoming live virtual workshop, CLOUD, SKY, LAND & WATER January 27-30. You can check it out by clicking here.


Clouds, Sky, Land & Water: Painting the Southern Coast

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