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Sunday, 1 February 2015

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A sense of depth in painting skies

The laws of perspective apply to the sky just as they do to land. Many good landscape paintings are ruined by a sky that looks like a limp curtain hanging at the back of the scene.

In creating a sense of perspective in the sky, it helps to think of it as a vast dome stretched over the landscape, rather than a mere backdrop. Creating this dome-like impression means applying the perspective of atmosphere as well as linear perspective.

The sky directly overhead is clearer than at the horizon because we see it through less atmosphere. As we look into the distance, intervening particles of dust and water vapour in the air cast a thin veil over the landscape and sky, making them appear greyer and less distinct.

An exciting impression of the vastness of the sky

Reproducing the effects of aerial perspective in your sky painting will greatly increase the impression of depth and atmosphere.

The painting shown here gives an exciting impression of the vastness of the sky. The way the picture is composed, with a low horizon line, makes us feel involved in the scene, as if we were standing in the field looking up at the heaped clouds advancing towards us.

Note how the clouds overlap each other, creating an interesting diversity of shape and design. The clouds appear smaller, flatter and closer together as they recede into the distance, often merging into a haze at the far horizon.

Perspective can be heightened, even further in your painting by making the nearest clouds much larger, taller and more clearly defined than the others.

Observe the warm blues that bring the foreground sky closer. Clouds nearest to the viewer are large and strongly coloured. Notice how the clouds become smaller, flatter and lighter in tone near the horizon. The horizon line is low, which places emphasis on the sky and increases the illusion of space.

Cloud shadows are modelled with warm and cool greys built up from light and dark. A variety of hard and soft edges gives form to the clouds.

Colour is mixed and lifted out to give movement and a vaporous effect. A simple rule to remember is that if you have a complicated landscape give it a simple sky, but if you want to paint an elaborate sky, set it against a relatively simple landscape.

Try to do one sky everyday. You don't need to do the whole picture, look out of the window and workout quietly in your mind, before you actually get the brush in your hand, what sequence of washes you are going to use.

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