In this exercise you’ll concentrate on drawing clouds in the same way as you concentrated on trees, creating comprehensive tonal studies in your sketchbook using charcoal, oil pastels, conté sticks and other tonal media. You can also use a putty rubber to lift out the lightest tones and add texture by erasing small areas,
leaving pale and expressive traces of paper beneath the medium.
Take time to study and observe the weather conditions. Look at the way light hits the top of the cloud and filters through the gaps, for example. The light will vary according to the weather. Remember that it will be darker underneath the clouds and may reflect colours in the sky from the sun, or by the moisture carried by the cloud.
Take account of movement: wind can move the cloud at varying speeds and so the shapes and structures will differ according to the weather conditions.
Go out in different weathers and make small sketches of patches of sky and clouds. Use a range of media to create monochrome and subtly coloured studies. Try to capture different weather patterns and times of the day.
Draw quickly and try to give volume to the clouds; make them billow and show movement. Remember to focus on light and dark and try to capture the contrasts and tonal effects. This can be a very satisfying exercise as only you know what the cloud looked like at the time of drawing. There is no right or wrong way to depict something as fleeting and formless as a cloud – only interesting ways.
5 minute quick sketch – late evening sky above house, Balnain in Glenurquhart – sun going down in the west, strips of wispy cloud rising out of dark horizon – pockets of blue sky peeking through, with rays from dying sun highlighting cloud edges. 6B sketch stick and touches/flicks of pastel.
Evening Balnain sky looking west – how do you capture this kind of display? How do you know when you’re finished? I just stopped! Conté stick and fingers/putty rubber.
Balnain on a stormy, cloudy afternoon – clouds moving fast & furious across the sky from NW. Fast sketch trying to keep up with cloud movement in charcoal and light touches of pastel to attempt to capture what I see in this sky – fleeting opportunity to catch anything really concrete, except for the larger dark cloud. Everything was moving fast, including my finger-held piece of charcoal, trying to keep up and get into the rhythm of the wind movements shoving the cloudy sky along at a brisk pace. The small bottom sketch is an attempt to capture the brew of cloud in wax pastel and waterbrush pen from memory after it had moved on.
New day – Balnain early evening sky to the south. Watercolour pencil and waterbrush pen.
Different day and another (different) Balnain sky. I was particularly struck by the almost theatrical draping of the upper clouds allowing peeks of sunlight spotlighting down through the murk. Pastel pencil, paper stumps and putty rubber.
Another early evening Balnain sky – this time trying out hard oil pastel and thinner with brush.
Above Glenurquhart from the hills to the north – gosh this is fairly abstract and funky, sketched very quickly from the pick-up as I was coming back home. Artbar water soluble wax bar and waterbrush pen – I have started to carry some form of drawing media in the vehicle, just in case.
Balnain, looking SW – from our garden. Inktense block and Chinese dip pen washes.
Rain clouds on the road to Mallaig on the west coast. I was really taken with the dark sky pressing down onto the dark mountains with the divide showing varying shades of grey and light. Charcoal and putty rubber.
This was a pretty exciting exercise and really stretched my abilities to capture stuff quickly before it all disappeared, but also got me to start paying attention more to what was in front of me, and even starting to use memory of what I had seen to express the moment – in a small way. I enjoyed using different media for these exercises and although I thought I might have ended with a favourite or two, I can honestly say that each had an attraction and I am beginning to think that I can start to feel what might work best for certain effects and moods.
For instance, I like the almost magic quality of sketch 2 (Conté stick); the speed of capture and memory effort of sketch 3 (charcoal stick and pastel and wax pastel and waterbrush); the drama of sketch 5 (pastel pencil, paper stumps for blending and putty rubber for picking out highlights in the sky); the delicacy of touch in sketch 8 using Inktense block and dip pen; and the almost abstract depiction of the west coast mountains under heavy rain cloud in sketch 9 (charcoal and putty rubber).
Of course, having all of these media to hand at any one time is pretty challenging and my carry holdall is getting full and heavier. I am not sure that I am competent enough yet to pick up the most appropriate tool for the drawing at hand – hopefully this will come as a result of progress through Drawing 1.
Stuart Brownlee – 512319
10 September 2015