Painting Clouds, Morning Promise, studio painting by Everglades artist Jo-Ann Sanborn

Morning Promise
30x40 Sold

Morning Promise is a studio painting I've been working on over the last couple of weeks. The water reflections will be a little bit more defined, and the background brush will have a little more contrast before the finish.

This is a commission, and my client is coming on Monday to view, so I'll be finishing up this afternoon. I've got a second painting ready, too, something I often do for commissions. That way the client has a choice, and I have another nice painting for the shows.

While working, the clouds reminded me of a few years ago when I was teaching my first class and someone asked about painting clouds. We discussed them, I did a demo, but wasn't really prepared to "teach" them. My observations of clouds hadn't translated into intellectual knowledge in a way easy to pass on. Today I'm better prepared for cloud questions.

Clouds are part of almost every day here in South Florida. Observe them to determine their inherent character. There are several different kinds, and they each have their own particular characteristics. Sometimes there are several types in the sky at the same time. Here are a few basic hints for painting them.

1. Design your painting and determine where the horizon will be, and how much will be sky.
2. Determine the wind direction, usually from particular quarter of the sky.
3. Start with a grayed-down color darker than you need. Build the volume first.
4. Paint Quickly. Once your clouds are blocked in, don’t worry that the shapes in the sky change.
5. Clouds are made of water, so they will reflect what’s around and below them—the blue sky, the warm earth.
6. Use a mix of warm colors where the sun hits and cooler colors on the underside and in shadow.
7. Observe the density. Dense clouds reflect more light, edges are sometimes transparent.
8. Use atmospheric regression for clouds, too.
9. Overhead clouds are lighter and larger than those further away.
10. Clouds are warmest just above the horizon.

If you're observant, I'll bet you can add a few of your own!


  1. Joann,
    Some of your fans, I'm sure, tell you often how much fun your posts are. I never have, but having more than six of your paintings qualifies me as a fan and now I need to tell you how much I enjoy hearing from you. I do. Every day and thank you.
    We recently purchased a home on Cape Cod on a marsh leading to the bay. So now we have your son-in-law's paintings to relate to and to enjoy.
    Our return to Marco will be delayed this year as we have much to do on our new old 1790 home...Sea Call on the Marsh.Your reports remind us of Bay Call on the Gulf.
    Thank you.
    Camilla Borisch Mathews

  2. I am a mixed media artist, and I carved a cloud stamp to use in a piece.
    I live an hour and a half from the Cape and will be going there to visit a sister-in-law for Labor Day!. What town are you in?


  3. Good Morning, Fairykin. I'm on Marco Island Florida, have a studio at the Esplanade there, and am usually in the studio on Wednesday and Thursdays. Love to meet you!