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!