Skies in Watercolour

The approach to painting skies in watercolour lias to be quite different from that for any other media. Although watercolour is so exciting and stimulating, it is also rather unforgiving. In other media it's possible to build up your sky methodically, but a watercolour sky needs to be immediate, fresh and spontaneous. Edward Wesson used to say, 'It's only where we find we have to tinker about afterwards, adding a bit here and a bit there, and in the process gradually obliterating the liveliness...

Skies on Location

You're probably tired of hearing from one or another artist that you should paint a sky a day. Although it's good advice, most of us are never able to put it into practice. If you are serious about developing your sky painting, the first thing to do is learn to draw them. For this, you need much less equipment than usual. A spiral-bound sketchbook and a soft pencil are really sufficient. However, if you want to experiment with charcoal, you'll need a putty rubber and a spray fixative as well....

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In this sunset scene, the top of the sky has been gradated into the raw sienna wash and here I'm putting in the base of the sky with a mix of lemon yellow and alizarin. This too will diffuse. J. Now for the dominant cloud. This is put in after the paper has dried slightly, using strong, rich colour. 3. I then move downwards towards the horizon, making the clouds smaller and closer together as I go, rather like railway sleepers receding into the distance. If the mix is right, the clouds will...

Other Media

For many years my painting career was centred around watercolour. I've always loved its challenge, as one attempts to produce fresh, free paintings, while avoiding the constant temptation to overwork, which always results in muddiness. More recently, though, I've been attracted to working in other media, and I feel that a book devoted entirely to skies deserves at least one chapter showing the use of these different materials and techniques. While accepting that these other media present a...

Completing the Picture

Although this is a book about skies and their importance in landscape painting, they can hardly ever be produced in isolation. You need a foreground, however minimal, to give them impact and scale. As we've said before, there should be a strong unifying link between the two, such as using common colours, vertical elements on the skyline, echoed shapes and in some cases cloud shadow on the ground or water. If you really want to enjoy your sky, then keep the foreground simple. You don't want the...

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Each watercolour sky you paint is a product of several factors. These include the water content, the angle of your board, your degree of skill and, although perhaps I shouldn't say this, an element of luck. All of these combine to ensure that it's totally impossible to copy a sky. Whether it's a success or a failure, each one is unique. If you're working in oil or pastel, it's not so much of a lottery you can be far more structured and systematic in your approach. I can't help feeling, though,...

Photographs as a Source

In this chapter I've gathered together some photographs which I hope you'll find useful as reference material. There's no way that you could copy these precisely and in any case you wouldn't want to. However, they may be a good starting point for some experiments with skies, or even a source of inspiration. There's one technicality which I should explain here. You'll notice that many of the landscapes underneath the skies are very dark. This is because the photographers have had to underexpose...

Contents

Introduction Understanding Skies Materials Skies in Watercolour Skies on Location Skies in Other Media Design in Skies Using Your Camera Special Effects Photographs as a Source Reach for a Sky Completing the Picture Examples from the Experts Index 8 13 22 26 41 49 55 63 67 72 86 111 118 128 You may be asking yourself why I'm attempting a book exclusively about skies. You may even think that this is getting too specialized. However, having written several general books on water-colour, I've come...

Understanding Skies

If you're really serious about depicting convincing skies, then you'll bear with me while I explain how skyscapes are formed. Without wishing to sound negative, I have to say that many painters seem to put on various colours in a random rather than a constructive way, hoping that the result will somehow be convincing. It usually isn't It's rather like an author attempting a novel without having researched his subject the gaps in his knowledge will quickly become obvious to all. Basically, it's...

Examples from the Experts

Over the years, through my work as an artist, and perhaps even more as an author, I have met and established friendships with many artists around the world. Watercolour Impressionists anil Modern Oil Impressionists were two books which widened my circle of artist friends immeasurably. I thought it would be fitting, therefore, to end this book with the work of three friends whose skies I particularly admire. All three regard skies as a very important part of their painting, and I'm sure you'll...