So this is the third week I’ve done the Sunday Skies, and this week’s sky is from a photo I took a while back when we had snow in our yard.
Here is the photo I’m using for reference:
Now, I sat down and painted a blue sky for a background to the clouds I would add, and I can see improvement even in my “just blue” skies. I was somewhat tempted to leave it this way, but I do want to practice more challenging skies than just this.
In order to learn how to better do clouds and skies, I need to challenge myself. If I am going to learn to paint better, I can’t just do the easiest thing. That is one of the challenges about self teaching, it is tempting to “go easy” on yourself. So I tackled the clouds I saw in the photo, as usual, the land is just a black silhouette.
Well, the result didn’t look as much like the photo as what I was hoping for, but I decided that I still liked it. I feel like I am learning a lot about how to paint skies. I may do a second attempt at this same sky painting next week, or I may base next week’s painting off a different photo.
Well, even though I did decide this week that I needed to stop beating myself up over how I paint skies, I still do want to improve in that area. So, I am continuing the Sunday Skies feature for a while longer, it is good practice for me in a non threatening situation.
This week, I used the same reference photo as LAST WEEK.
I’ll post it again so you can see the photo that was guiding my painting:
Once again, I didn’t worry about the land features in the painting, though I did give them a little more care than I did last week. But the land was still just silhouette, because my focus is the sky.
Well while there certainly is still room for improvement, I believe this week’s rendering turned out much better than last week’s.
Just as a reminder, this was how I painted the same sky last week.
I think next week I will move on to using a different reference photo, perhaps one with big billowy white cumulus clouds… we’ll see.
I’ve decided that each Monday I should post about a “Muse”. For my purposes a Muse can be any thing or person that brings me inspiration.
Today’s Muse is this painting, by Claude Monet:
Why did I pick this painting as my Monday Muse?
Well, as my readers know, I find it very difficult to be satisfied with my renderings of clouds. I have produced a few paintings where I was genuinely satisfied with the clouds. However, those paintings are the exception, and I certainly seem unable to reproduce the results at will. Its more a matter of “luck” than skill when I produce a sky I am truly happy with. Sometimes grueling hard work gives me results that I find acceptable, but not really pleasing. Well today, I was doing something I frequently do, browsing paintings online. I started looking closely at many of the impressionists’ work, particularly their skies. What I was seeing was encouraging to me. These paintings are beautiful, but if I isolate the sky like this:
I see brush strokes of blue, white, some yellow, a little that is kind of dirty yellow-gray… What I don’t see is photograph-like realistic clouds.
In fact, the closer you look, the less cloud like they become:
To me this is a wonderful encouragement, because the overall picture is amazing, even the sky is amazing. No person knowledgeable about art would say that Monet didn’t know how to paint. Yet when I look at the sky closely I realize that if I had done it myself, I would not have been satisfied. It is showing me that perhaps I need to step back and look at my paintings from further back. It’s okay for them to not look like photographs. The are PAINTINGS. I am my own worst critic of course, because when i saw this, at first I wasn’t thinking anything negative, I was admiring the beauty of the painting. The reason I looked closer at the sky was to see how he did it, and that’s when I realized that I would not have liked it if I did it, but I loved it when Monet did it.
Now does that mean that I will stop trying to improve my skies? No. It does mean though that I can stop stressing every time I fail to make it look exactly like what I see. I don’t necessarily have overwork my sky to the point of frustration, it is OKAY to put in brushstrokes that give the impression of clouds, especially when the sky isn’t the central point of the painting, but merely a backdrop for the rest.
I really don’t know why I didn’t grasp this concept before, after all, the artists I admire most are Impressionists and Post-Impressionists, neither of which are particularly preoccupied with Photorealism in their paintings. In fact, one of my frustrations with other aspects of paintings is that I find it difficult to loosen up enough, and yet with clouds, I was refusing to loosen up. I was trying so much to control every aspect and get the EXACT image held in my mind.
So, if you remember a few days ago, after once again struggling and struggling to get a sky in a painting the way I wanted it, I decided to start a weekly feature on this blog where I will try to do a sky, just for practice.
In theory, doing it on paper, just for practice, and not making a part of real painting, should relieve me of some of the pressure of perfectionism, and allow me to just practice the sky. In theory.
Okay, anyway, here is the photo I used as a guide. I told myself I wasn’t trying to reproduce the photo exactly, but was just looking at it to give me a rough idea of what I was going for. I snapped this photo yesterday in anticipation of needing it today.
Now, here is the painting I did for practice, note that the land elements are just black/gray silhouettes to indicate a horizon. Also note, that I didn’t do a very good job on those clouds!
I was working on a very small piece of paper, and I actually think it might have been easier with a larger one, because I’d have had more room to work. I see lots of problems with this sky… but it is still better than what I often get when I try.
I will try again next week, perhaps from the same photo, perhaps from a different one. after all, this is just for PRACTICE and DOESN’T need to be PERFECT! Perhaps if I keep shouting that at myself I’ll believe it.
Have you ever tried to teach anyone something? It can be difficult! Its even more difficult if the student you are teaching is just NOT getting it, now imagine you are doing all that, WHILE you are trying to teach something you don’t know!
That is the struggle of the self taught artist, trial, and error, and more error.
Lots of error. I am trying to get the sky in a painting just right, that is how I am seeing it in my mind, it is taking a lot of error.
Here are some of my practice sheets where I practiced different techniques to try to get the results I wanted:
Real quality art there, right?
But its all part of learning without a teacher.
Eventually I moved back onto my canvas, and its not perfect yet, but I feel like I know what needs happen now, its just that the paint I already put down needs to dry before I can do more, otherwise my colors will mix and I will end up with a green sky. I also keep reminding myself that it won’t just be a sky, there will be land and a bridge, and water, the sky will end up being only a backdrop for everything else. I keep telling myself that, but I want to get the sky perfect anyway. It is getting close to what I see in my head, and I think I’ll be able to bring it around to that point in t the next painting session.
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