Monday, May 9, 2016

Painting Grey Skies and Overcast Days

In the last two posts, I described the methods I use for painting colorful skies and sunsets. This post overlaps with examples for creating gray skies and overcast landscapes.
Transitioning Values  

From light to dark, clouds contain multiple values. In monochromatic paintings, capturing subtle shifts in tones is essential. These transitions can be soft or distinct in the edges. How paint is applied to the edges will also help to define the mood.  

With this painting “Overshadowed”, the gray tones fall in the medium range. The edges are white or light gray, with the central and lower portion a darker gray. Pure black would rarely be a selection.

Framed 10x8 Oil on Panel
Another concept to consider is the placement of values in the composition. The “weight” of darkness in this painting is mainly at the bottom of the canvas. In vertical paintings, I tend to place the darkest values at the lower section. I believe this gives the top portion a more atmospheric feeling. 

Observe Nature  

By observing nature, you can see patterns where the light hovers above the landscape, ocean, or any other body of water. I also look for the presence of sun rays.  

Shadows greatly affect the color of objects and sections below them. Water reflections give another clue to the opacity or transparency of the clouds. Using photography allows us to capture and study the subtle shifts in tones that constantly change.  

Define the Size and Scope  

The character of clouds is easily defined in size and width by the objects below or near them. Buildings may appear as tiny squares, while birds and other flying objects become dots in the sky. Trees, shrubs, and bodies of water serve as supporting elements which help to define the location. In “Surrounded”, the distant palm trees are barely recognizable. Foreground trees are larger in comparison and also appear to be closer to the sky, producing a low-lying cloud effect.

“Storm Chasers”
18x24 Oil on Canvas


In “Overshadowed,” I used a vertical composition. It has a different effect as compared to “Storm Chasers” and "Misting the Mangroves," where the clouds spread across the canvas horizontally. I like to experiment with the same scene using different formats.
"Misting the Mangroves"
8x10 Oil on linen

 Add Color Sparingly
Gray is a neutral color that works well with many others. In home décor, it seems to be the new black. Accent colors pop when placed next to any shade of gray.
With landscapes, you can greatly alter the scene by the accent colors. They enhance the mood, depict the time of day, and define the season. For example, by adding light blue in the background of "Overshadowed", the time reads as noon or daylight. The addition of pink and purple gives  variation, without the high contrast that I would most likely use in a sunset scene.

In the next post, I will discuss how I paint reflective low light during sunsets.
Thanks for reading ~ Eve


  1. 'Overshadowed, Storm chasers, Misting the Mangroves' ... as cloud studies these are excellent. Yet I can not help thinking how Turner took clouds to another level... such as his 'Sunset, The Morning After the Storm, or Lake Avernus Aeneas and the Cumaean Sibyl."

    Clouds actually reframe the light in an image ... if allowed by the painter ... to do so.

    I have bookmarked your site and will visit again.

  2. Thank you for commenting, Elizabeth! I enjoy learning the type of art that appeals to viewers and was delighted to research the Turner paintings you mentioned! Very beautiful works, by the way.
    I am honored that you have revisited my blog. Please feel free to offer suggestions for future posts/ painting critiques and contact me directly anytime.
    All the best ~ Eve :)

  3. Hey, very nice site. I came across this on Google, and I am stoked that I did. I will definitely be coming back here more often. Wish I could add to the conversation and bring a bit more to the table, but am just taking in as much info as I can at the moment. Thanks for sharing.
    Finger Cot

    Keep Posting:)


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