How to paint tropical skies

by Marian
(Portland, Oregon, USA)

Having grown up in Texas, USA, I used to lie on my back in the shade and watch clouds move by, in the perfect blue sky. I love Texas skies, and craved the color I remember (and see in photos sometimes). So first, I experimented with the color, and finally found what I was looking for!

Step 1: Materials: 1-1/2" and 2-1/2" hake brushes. Several facial tissues (I just put the box on the work surface so I can use what I need). Clean water, and 140# (300 gram) watercolor paper. I use cold-pressed. Something to put under the pad of paper to hold it at about a 30 degree angle. Scrap paper to test. Colors: Cerulean Blue Hue; Thalo blue; and a rose or crimson red.

Step 2: I first mix my color, using the 1-1/2" hake brush. I use mostly Cerulean Blue Hue (a light shade of near-aqua), and a small bit of Thalo.

Step 3: Using the 2-1/2" hake brush, wet down the paper, starting at the top. Use gentle strokes clear across the paper.

Step 4: Test your blue wash on the scrap paper. Then, apply it to the pre-wetted paper in light strokes, clear across the paper. Do not go over the paper more than once, and don't "bear down" or "scrub."

Step 5: For white fluffy clouds: Immediately, take a facial tissue, and scrunch it up gently. Using a painterly motion, as if it were a paintbrush, gently twist and lift off the paint where you want your clouds to be.

Step 6: if desired: For clouds that are grey underneath: After you have created your clouds, you will notice there is a realistic contrast between the white where the paint has been completely lifted off, and the top, sides, adn bottom where wispy paint remains. This is finished for white, fluffy clouds, but if you want grey underneath, you can put one tiny corner of your 1-1/2" hake brush (the one that still has the blue color in it) into the crimson or rose color, then very lightly streak the reddish-purplish into the bottom of the cloud.

With each one, immediately take a facial tissue and blot until the grey you desire is "molded" into the place you want it underneath your cloud. Repeat this process for each cloud where you want grey.

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Mixing the colors
by: Marian

Since writing this Tip, I have begun mixing my colors using a palette knife. I found that mixing paints using a brush was very wasteful, especially if using only a small amount of the color. After mixing with the palette knife, I will either wipe the knife onto my brush, or onto a terry cloth clean up rag (made from an old towel). This process keeps my rinse water much cleaner so I don't have to change it very often now.

by: Bonny

This is a great article! I've read similar tutorials on painting clouds, but yours is by far the very best!

Your instructions are very clear and the steps precise and easy.

Thank you! I'll definitely be trying this one!

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