PAINTING SUNSET CLOUDS


     My husband and I traveled up to Snowshoe, WV last July for a week.  It is over 4,000 feet in elevation so even in summer it can get very cool at night, but the relief from Florida's summer heat was welcome. Snowshoe Ski Resort is built literally on the top of the mountain so you will see spectacular sunrises and sunsets.  Did I have my camera ready?  You bet I did!

     Every evening we walked down to the overflow parking lot where we had the best views and waited for the show.  I took both videos and photos as there was so much I wanted to capture. I intended to paint some of the scenes in plein air but never got around to it because I was so busy taking pictures!

     Fast forward to this week.  I finally sat down to paint one of those sunsets and it proved to be harder than I thought it would be.  I took photos along the way for you to see and please don't laugh at my initial attempt as it does get better.  Clouds are not particularly easy to paint, especially if they have color in them!  I start out showing you the photo and move through the process of painting it.  Note that I do not copy it exactly.

Isn't this a beautiful scene?  We had a gorgeous sunset almost every night we were there, and the sunrise each morning was just as beautiful!

     Remember, I asked you not to laugh! This cloud definitely looks like a clam shell!  On the good side, the blocking in of the mountains and the basic foreground went ok.  I stopped for the evening (I had started late anyway) and started again the next morning.


Well, it looks a little better here, but definitely still needs work.  When I looked closer at my photo I could see that the cloud went all the way across  and wasn't so tall so I corrected that.  It looks better, but nowhere near what I want it to be.  I used Cad orange, Medium Magenta & T white for the lighter colors and I used U blue, a touch of burnt sienna, and T white for the cloud shadows.  I eventually added a just a touch of Dioxizine Purple to the shadow color as well.  Notice that there are 4 depths of mountains and each gets lighter and bluer as you go into the distance.  I also added some fog in between.  The trees are done with U blue and burnt umber to get them really dark ( be careful not to get ANY white in the mix or it won't be dark at all! ) The foreground green is medium green and yellow + white to lighten.
   

I kept reshaping and softening the clouds with a mop brush until I liked the shape.  Then I added the darker thinner clouds running across.  When I did that I decided to add the sun going down in the distance (I could see this every night only slightly further to the right, so I used my artistic license!) If you look closely, I have added grass and flowers in the foreground, and added sky holes to the trees. Sky holes are very important so never forget to add them,  they take a painting to a whole new level! But this one is still not finished.

Here I have started adding highlights to the darker clouds.  The sun would reflect off of them and give a beautiful orange glow each evening!  With acrylics you must build multiple layers of highlights especially with oranges and yellows so this is just the first layer.

It is looking much better here, but I don't like the gap between the bottom three clouds.  So I go in between and glaze in more orange, white and touches of yellow, then added some more shadow behind them.  this made the clouds fatter so that they filled the space better.  Then I added a layer of highlights that had more yellow than before and the final layer was very thin touches of white for sparkle along the path of the sun rays.  The final photo below shows the grass much better.  I am now much happier with this painting!

     It takes a lot of practice to get these clouds so don't be discouraged if yours don't look just like mine at first.  Just keep painting on the colors and softening with a mop brush and you will get it! It takes at least four coats of paint to get clouds correct with acrylics! I start with the darkest value and go up in value with each coat,  with the final coat being the brightest white or color.  I also take and save photos of cloud formations all the time, especially those with pretty colors!

     After using the glaze on my salt marsh painting, I decided to glaze the sky in this one too.  I had actually taken it to the photographer and had to retrieve it to work on the glaze.  Thankfully it hadn't been photographed yet.  I went over the sky with a thin coat of glaze tinted with a very small amount of orange and yellow. I think it adds richness and a whole new dimension to the painting! What do you think?


"SUNSET OVER SNOWSHOE"
16 x 20
low resolution

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