Getting Started ~ Clouds and Sky

We left off with a description of my thoughts on how to approach this painting. Now we will begin the actual oil painting itself.

As discussed we started with a red under painting for the sky and water then a Paynes Grey mountain range near the horizon line.



Now to get started on the sky ~ when studio painting I always start at the top and work down ~ this doesn’t always apply, especially when one is plien aire painting. But in a studio setting I find starting at the top works best. It also means you don’t drag your hand thru wet paint or your shirt sleeves and jacket edges!

A student of mine said she swore by “Oven cleaner” for getting paint off her clothes. Just follow the instructions on the can. Spray it on the affected area, let sit then scrub a bit with a toothbrush. After that you put the article in the wash. Voila clean shirt. I have saved many shirts doing this.

Ok back to instruction mode…

The first thing to do is mix the colours I will be needing today. I have a picture which was taken from the ferry. I like the intensity of these colours so I may stick with them. In that case I have selected Sky Blue, Ultra Marine Blue, Naples Yellow dark, Lamp Black, Titanium White and of course my Resin Gel. I also am going to add Silver to the upper portions of the sky to give it a shimmer and help make it a bit cooler then the areas of sky below. The lower section of sky will have Renaissance Gold mixed in it to also give it a shimmer and more warmth.

Now I am not trying to copy this photo ~ I am trying to make it my own statement ABOUT the photo and the day I stood on that Ferry. … as my husband James said ” Conjuring up a vision filled with emotion, from a memory of the actual time and place to complete a new vision”.(the man is brilliant) So although there will be some resemblance, my painting will not be exact.  If you are wanting that please stop listening now


I have said on several occasions, painting is like the theatre ~ you can exaggerate aspects of the scene to enhance the mood. In  this painting I will try to make sure the drama of the sky does not over power the seagulls.

Lets get started.

I apply the paint in sections so as not to be overwhelmed when it comes to blending later on. I lay the paint side by side according to the colours I am using. I don’t do much blending after the first application; just enough to get a sense of what it may look like when it is finished. I complete one area and move on. I make sure I have nice large piles of mixed colour so that I can concentrate on the painting rather than on the mixing.



Make sure to stand away from your easel on occasion to make sure you are on the right track. After completing say the upper quarter of the canvas. Stop and get a clean dry brush. Now the fun begins ~ blending ~ lightly soften out the edges between colours. Some areas will be tacky (if you are using alkyd based oils) and these will need a little more pressure to blend.

Carry on in this sequence until you are happy with the blending ~ remember you can go back later and touch up areas you are not happy with (which I always do). Thinking this way takes a lot of the pressure off so that you can enjoy the process even more.


As I continue down the canvas I add more gold to the Naples Yellow until I am at the horizon line above the mountains ~ the paint now is primarily Naples yellow, gold and white mixed in various amounts of each.



This is the overall look at this point. You can see in the image below how I have softened thru blending the negative spaces. Another tip  is to make sure your negative spaces are as interesting as your primary ones. This really should be done earlier at the compositional stages, but what the heck rules were meant to be broken!


This is the first coat for the sky, I will go back after it is dry and refine areas.

Stay tuned next week when I will tackle the finishing touches and move on to the mountain range.

If you have any questions please feel free to email me or post here……….see you next week.

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