View Full Version : Sky/cloud Demo

08-20-2005, 02:29 PM
Hi everyone, Kyle suggested I do a demo on skies and clouds, and well here is how I paint them. Often the first thing I do is look thru my photos and pick a few out, mixing and matching land masses with skies to get the effect I want. Here are two photos I combined to make a painting. I loved the sky holes in these clouds.
I'm running short of paper so I ended up going smallish, this is 12 X 18 on white wallis paper. I tone the paper first by using a foam brush and rubbing on the dust in my easle tray. Then I draw in with soft vine charcoal the main shapes, giving myself a bit of info on shadows. http://www.wetcanvas.com/Community/images/20-Aug-2005/39207-IM002155s.JPG
Now for the first layer of color, I always start with the sky and get it to a state close to completion before I begin the foreground. These next 3 images are the first and second layers of color, unblended then in the third one I blend, either using a pastel stick or my fingers, here I used both. http://www.wetcanvas.com/Community/images/20-Aug-2005/39207-IM002157s.JPG http://www.wetcanvas.com/Community/images/20-Aug-2005/39207-IM002158s.JPG http://www.wetcanvas.com/Community/images/20-Aug-2005/39207-IM002160s.JPG BTW I have not used any white here, its hard to tell in these photos, but the lightest cloud colors are actually a very, very light aqua, peach, and creamy yellow.
Now I move onto the distant mountains and hills http://www.wetcanvas.com/Community/images/20-Aug-2005/39207-IM002164s.JPG and a close up, I've strengthened the darks a bit in the clouds and added just a touch of white to the edge of the clouds here. http://www.wetcanvas.com/Community/images/20-Aug-2005/39207-IM002165s.JPG Now my final version, the only thing I have changed here is to lighten the foreground trees, and darken the foreground grasses near the road entrance ( I thought it was too light for that area of the painting). http://www.wetcanvas.com/Community/images/20-Aug-2005/39207-IM002169.jpg All in all I'm pretty happy with this one, I used about 13 colors in the sky with about 6 more in the foreground. Let me know if you have any specific questions, or see any thing obvious I should change. I usually let it sit for a few weeks and re-critique, to see if I see anything further. I'm sorry some of these images are a bit blurry, photography is not my best.

08-20-2005, 03:26 PM
PJ. Beautiful painting, Love the clouds, especially the sky holes. Great demo. Clear, good stages shown. THANK YOU.
I'm rating this a 5 so it gets to the library.

Kathryn Wilson
08-20-2005, 03:38 PM
Perfect PJ - just what I wanted - :) It turned out beautifully and now to take what you've taught and bring it to my newest southwest painting. Not sure if I am going to add clouds or not. It might be interesting.

Now to play the devil's advocate a moment and ask some questions about how you go about applying color.

In your first layer, it looks like you laid in the dark blue first (which color did you use?), then put in the turquoise down below, then the peach and creamy yellow?, then it looks like you added in the darker blue again over the peaches and yellows. Is that correct? Just trying to clarify that first layer which ultimately is the most important.

08-20-2005, 03:54 PM
Thanks TJ and Kyle, I'm glad you like it and it shows the process. I hate to say I have no clue as to what colors I'm using, I generally know if it is a Girault, or Great American or Terry Ludwig, but not the color. When I get low I just take my little pastel stub and try to find a matching color, not the most organized way. I do generally start top to bottom, back to front. So I did lay in the dark blue first, and added other blues in the clouds on top, leaving the sky holes blank, til last. I try to remember to lighten the sky as it gets closer to the horizon even if only a little bit of sky is showing, I still what that bowl effect. After I layer my initial colors then I blend it if needed for soft clouds, then layer more colors if needed, here I darkend the dark a bit and lightened the light. I love using wallis paper, if I put on colors I don't like I just take my foam brush, rub it out and reapply. I hope this helps. Maybe someday I'll actually know which colors I use.

Kathryn Wilson
08-20-2005, 03:57 PM
If you've laid out your pastel sticks separately while you work, maybe a photo of that will help. If you have a moment to spare - :)

08-20-2005, 04:10 PM
Beautiful picture and lovely clouds. Very interesting to watch how you build them up. Thanks a lot for this wip.

08-20-2005, 04:11 PM
http://www.wetcanvas.com/Community/images/20-Aug-2005/39207-IM002177.jpg Kat-I'd be more than happy to, since I just finished this morning I still have them out, I have a paper towel that I place pastels on as I use them. I've included a photo of my box too, I arrange them by color and value, Deborah teaches setting your box up this way and it really helps in not just picking one color for your light or dark but a range of colors in the value,(light) you want to use. http://www.wetcanvas.com/Community/images/20-Aug-2005/39207-IM002178.jpg

Kathryn Wilson
08-20-2005, 04:32 PM
Excellent, excellent, excellent!

Kathryn Day
08-20-2005, 05:38 PM
Thanks for this excellent demo PJ! Turned into a wonderful painting too.

08-20-2005, 05:45 PM
Oh, what a gorgeous pastel box!!! It's a work of art in its own right!!!

Clearly, you don't have a 2 year old who insists on "helping" whenever you pull out some art - or 5 other budding artists who might sneak into your supplies once in a while!

One day I'll keep my pastels in a box just like this....

And thank you for the wonderful cloud/sky demo!

08-20-2005, 06:58 PM
wowie, this is great!! wonderful painting, and the demo is top notch!! thanks a bundle!! no wonder ppl get hooked on pastel, just look at that box of yours!! looks good enuff to eat!!

Merethe T
08-20-2005, 08:07 PM
PJ - excellent demo and beautiful painting, the sky is to die for! Thank you for doing this! Rated this five too. :)

Paula Ford
08-20-2005, 08:10 PM
Wow I sure needed that...thanks so much!! Beautifully done!


the drover's dog
08-21-2005, 12:19 AM
PJ, your beautiful cloud study is exactly what I needed to give me the courage to tackle skies. Sincere thanks for taking the trouble to do this wonderful WIP. Could you possibly take a couple of closeup pics of sections of the clouds so that we can see your technique up close and personal? (down on knees here grovelling).

I quite literally started to salivate madly when I saw your pastel box. I haven't even found an art shop here yet that could match that array. Decided the other day that I needed more blues. Came out of the shop with only two sticks of light greenish aquas as there was nothing else there in blue shades that I didn't have - and my pastel box is seriously under nourished. This was a restraint record, but DH was hanging around and I'd said I was only going to buy blues. I do wish he had an expensive hobby too. Then I wouldn't get attacks of the guilts. As much as I loathe flashing my credit card on the web, I think I'm going to have to indulge in mail ordering and hang the conscience.

Now if I can work out how, I'm going to rate this thread too.



08-21-2005, 09:07 AM
Katy-I love painting skies, but you being a fellow New Mexican can understand that, anywhere and everywhere the skies are beautiful, but being at such a high elevation we have such clear air and thin atmosphere. I know that the colors I use here are not the same that would apply to a moister climate or a lower elevation where there are more layers of atmosphere.Thanks for your encouragement.
Momo-No I don't have any young ones around on a regular basis, but this box is just one of those under the bed plastic storage boxes, I added a foam pad in the bottom and covered it with an old piece of white canvas. I have another piece of foam that goes over the top and then the lid, so I can make it safe for travel, or children.
Chewie, Cravia and Paula, thanks for your kind comments, and for rating this too.
Dale, I've taken 2 close ups of this painting for you and one of another that I completed not too long ago so hopefully you can see a little more details and the range of colors. I don't have a great digital camera though so I hope it helps, and the photos still do not really show the range of colors in the lightest area, it looks like just one or two colors here, but IRL there are 4 or 5 in the lightest area. As far as buying pastels, it has been a gradual process for me, usually when I sell a painting I reinvest 1/3 back into supplies (if I can) http://www.wetcanvas.com/Community/images/21-Aug-2005/39207-IM002187s.JPG http://www.wetcanvas.com/Community/images/21-Aug-2005/39207-IM002188s.JPG This one is a close up from another painting just for reference, I don't know if it shows up better or not. http://www.wetcanvas.com/Community/images/21-Aug-2005/39207-IM002182s.JPG

the drover's dog
08-21-2005, 10:24 AM
Fabulous Tom. Thank you so much. The pic of the other painting does show the range of light colours you used a lot better. I find myself rushing to finish the current project so that I can have a go at painting cloudy skies. Prior to you posting this WIP I shied away from them.

Your light quality appears to be similar to that found in our part of the world in winter. In summer we have a eucalyptus haze from the vapours given off by billions of trees, which softens the light considerably and adds lilac tones to everything.

the drover's dog
08-21-2005, 10:28 AM
Oops! I'm scooting between Tom's water landscape WIP and this one and tangled myself up. Sorry PJ.


08-21-2005, 01:00 PM
Wonderful WIP, Paula! All your work is gorgeous, especially lately!

Dale, I'd love to see an example painting of that eucalyptus haze! Sounds potentially wonderful to paint!

Rose Baggs
08-21-2005, 07:47 PM
Oh..My...this is beautiful!!!! Thanks for the demo! Wonderful sky paintings!
I'm very jelous of your box of pastels sticks...I wish I had just half of them.

08-21-2005, 08:04 PM
PJ Great use of color in the clouds. This concept would work even at other altitudes, just with slight modification of colors used. Love the concept of not using white except for the very smallest highlights. Thanks for this demo. :clap: :clap: Going to rate this one 5 *****.


the drover's dog
08-22-2005, 09:17 AM
Sooz, attached is a pic taken early last summer at a winery near where I live. It was not a particularly hot day, so the eucalyptus haze is not as pronounced as it can sometimes be. Those hills are not very far away and yet they appear quite lilac in colour. The hazy trees at the other side of the paddock with the cattle, are only about 200 metres from where I was standing. The longer summer reigns, the more pronounced the haze as it often has dust and smoke with it as well.


the drover's dog
08-22-2005, 09:21 AM
This flu has my head filled with cotton wool! Here's the pic....

Lynn Quinn
08-22-2005, 07:51 PM
PJ. thanks for the great demo! I'm just new to pastels, but it's really nice to see how you've done this!

My parents used to live in Alamogordo, & I remember some amazing skies when I was there visiting. Was never quite able to get the right effect in watercolour, but didn't have pastels then!

Piper Ballou
08-22-2005, 08:12 PM
PJ- thank you so much for the WIP...I love it....question, and maybe it was answered and I missed reading about it
What color or colors do you tone the Wallis paper at the start?

08-22-2005, 10:22 PM
Dale-What a beautiful photo. I would love to go to Austrailia some day.

Sooz-Gee, thanks for your kind words.

Rose-I do feel truly blessed to have so many pastels. Notice though how many I used for this painting. When I purchase pastels to fill in my box, I try to get a light, medium and dark value of each color I purchase.

John-Thanks for rating this, I would probably have a tough time painting at a lower altitude, having lived at a high one all my life. What I understand is that at a lower one, you have more layers of atmosphere to see through and that especially near the horizon, you will have a softer, more muted palette.? I think of Richard McKinleys painting done in Oregan as really showing the difference.

MLQ-My Aunt lived in Alamogordo for a while too, just outside of town in the foothilss of the mountains there, it is quite pretty.

Piper-I just use the dust that has fallen in my tray. This one ended up being a kind of light gray, violet. Often with Wallis paper I reuse it quite a few times and only end up toning it the first time, because from there on out after I wipe off a painting, I have left pre-toned paper.

08-22-2005, 10:25 PM
Very well done, Paula- and a beautiful piece.

08-22-2005, 10:43 PM
Wonderful demo, Paula! Thanks!!! And I took just the photo this weeked I might just experiment with it a bit now! :D

Kathryn Wilson
08-26-2005, 10:15 PM
Bringing this back up to the top, so everyone can see this before it goes into the Pastel Library. Check out PJ's pastel box - amazing!

08-27-2005, 04:06 AM
wonderful skies, lovely demo PJ. I may have to do a workshop on skies for The Artist mag next year; I am rather looking forward to it. here in the UK, tho we have a "moister" atmosphere, it is so varied that we get a huge variety of skies, and I have photos galore. I am hoping for a venue with big skies all around, and a good day for clouds.


03-17-2006, 01:41 PM
Great! This is what I was looking for!
But, as a newbie in oil pastels, I would like even more if you had take one photo to each color you added in the first lay... Well, I'll learn!

Thanks for this very helping demo!
And your work is really very good!

03-17-2006, 02:39 PM
As a complete novice to pastel painting I think that the Sky/cloud demo is great . It is extremly helpful to see "how it is done" and I will try to do something like it .
A great help.

03-20-2006, 10:19 AM
I just discovered this site and yours my first selection. What a great way to start!

Thank you, grameo

03-20-2006, 10:31 AM
What inspiration! Thanks so much for your detailed help. Pastel work is to die for. I had earlier decided that since I have a considerable investment in oil paints, before discovering pastels, that I would keep with oil. However I am going to read everything I can on pastels on this site, maybe I can end up alternating. I would have to start learning from scratch and there is no artist help or lessons/courses in this remote area of BC. Meanwhile, as I move through this site I hope I will find similar detailed assistance for oils....I am not a beginner, but many questions arise. Beautiful, beautiful work you have shared.

03-21-2006, 02:28 PM
Thank you for your comments. I haven't been online for quite a while and so was surprised to see some newer comments on this demo. Gerry, I hope you are able to play around with pastels, there is a lot of help in the pastel section for everyone from beginner to master. Once I tried pastels I was hooked and haven't painted in any other media since.

04-10-2006, 03:18 PM
Thank you for the demo! After having a lousy weekend at an art festival with low attendance and winds gusting at 25 miles per hour it was nice to see this.

So I got inspired to do this:http://www.wetcanvas.com/Community/images/10-Apr-2006/41937-2006_0410Image0043.jpg

04-11-2006, 07:25 PM
Edithbear-this is absolutly beautiful. What glorious colors, I'm glad you were inspired, and now your painting has made my day too. Thank you for sharing it.

05-07-2006, 09:41 PM
Great demo and great paintings!! (both PJ and Edith!!) wow! Thanks so much!

09-12-2006, 12:25 PM
thanks for your hard work in producing a excellent demo.
Could you please give more details as to the setup of your pastel box. It looks very large, do you use this same box for painting en plain aire?
Do you have a problem with the pastels rubbing with each other or falling about on one and other and so becoming soiled?

My biggest problem with my pastels is the transport of them and of course easy access storage. I have a collection of various brands in a variety of card boxes, I should like to gather them all together to be able to use them easily together.
Any suggestion are most welcome.



09-12-2006, 05:45 PM
Hi Brad,
I'm glad you liked the demo. I used to use a plastic box that was meant to be used for underbed storage to store my pastels in. This worked quite well for many years, although I do not take them to travel or paint en plein aire. Now I am using metal baking trays in my studio, filled with a layer (about 1/2 inch) of white cornmeal. The cornmeal keeps the pastels clean and dust free. My husband made me a wooden pastel box for doing plein aire painting, he's divided it into sections and I inserted foam cut to fit for underneath the pastels and have another sheet of foam to cover the box and keep the pastels from moving around. We are currently working on adding some easle type legs to it. I would send you a photo but we are in the process of moving and things are very disorganized around here. I'll try to send some to you when we settle in a bit more. Paula

09-15-2006, 03:08 AM
A very cool demo!

06-28-2007, 09:45 AM
WOW! I've just stumbled across this thread as tread the never ending road of inspiration and technique. It's just awsome, not only the end product, but the way the article has been put together, the information, the photo's, plus, the added bonus of the pastels themselves.
A truly great thread. Thank you.
Now, if only I could .............