Wanderer, step by step

I’ve been staring at really great paintings of clouds lately, and decided I was going to learn to do that. But I’ve had no idea how to grasp cloud structure. They must form shapes, but I’ve never been able to figure out what those shapes are.

Then Stapleton Kerns gave me a clue on his blog. In this post, he says,

“I want to contend that drawing is the most important element in the landscape (excluding design anyway) When I teach, the students ability to paint the landscape is the same as their drawing ability. Those who have had atelier training, before the cast, usually have the best results. Students who have drawn heads, or done lots of still life seem to do well also. I have had many students who just want to do the landscape and have neglected to do the studio work that builds drawing ability and they are more likely to flounder.”

I pondered this and pondered this. Heads and still lifes making it easier to draw landscape? Why would that be?

Slowly it dawned on me. Drawing heads and still lifes are very measured and precise. Often you spend hours trying to get one element the exact right shape, or in the exact right position, triangulating with rulers or grids. So … I should be measured and precise when butchering my way through a landscape? How would this apply to clouds?

I went and looked for some clouds on Google, and found this one that appealed to me.

Originally posted here

But the light was coming the wrong way, so I flipped it.

And I gritted my teeth and forced myself to sketch out the shapes I saw in those clouds.

And Sonic, because I was going for a sort of lonely mood.

Next up was the background gradient and sky. I colored on top of my gradient, instead of a new layer. Oops.

Then I spent the better part of the evening layering together the clouds, paying close attention to the masses of shadows, midtones and lights. (Tomorrow I’ll do a more detailed post on what this stage looked like.)

And some ground, using the same colors in the sky. I scribbled all over the ground with the Variable Oil Pastel, which pulls nearby colors into itself and smears it around. Makes it look like I really slaved over that grass.

Then I threw some shading on Sonic. He’s really just there to have something in the foreground against the clouds.

And some grass around his feet to make him mesh with the rest of the image, and I called it a night.

I think my first attempt at grasping cloud structure was a success. I just hope this photographer doesn’t hunt me down and sue me. I’m not making any money off this scribble, I swear.

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