Six Skies over The Water

Practice practice practice. It’s my constant advice (nag nag nag) to my workshop students. It can sound very repetitive but, really, it is the only way to improve. We need to practice all aspects of creativity, practise looking, practise thinking, and practise the skills that enable us to work in whatever branch of “art” we have chosen.

I probably do pick up a pencil most days to either write down ideas, sketch or draw and in between teaching courses I have been doing lots of experimental odds and ends which is why the blog has been a bit quiet.
What is so encouraging is when someone returns to a workshop having put in a bit of sketching time and can really see their own understanding and confidence grow as their skills improve.

After my last workshop I realised that I still have a problem persuading people to make tonal studies before starting their final work or just as an aid to “seeing.” They can be so helpful especially in watercolour where you strive to retain the lightness of the white paper. So, as some experiments for myself and to have a few samples, I sketched some basic skies to show how tiny monochrome thumbnails can be made into simple coloured images.

Reservoir Skies The weather has been strange, cold, sunny, windy, cloudy, still, clear and breezy so there have been some good skies at different times of the day.
I have started walking by the Reservoir again and realised I how much I have been missing the sky vistas. In the house we are a little hemmed in by trees and houses but down by the Water you have an unrestricted view… just water, a strip of horizon and then glorious sky.
So these small watercolour sketches are based on pen and ink thumbnails  made in a tiny sketchbook from my walks. I am also trying some different papers. Not impressed at all with the Fabriano block which buckled badly. Some old Langton was better!

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Busy morning sky over Perry

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Big clouds on a still morning lit from behind by sun.

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Strip of pale yellow in cloudy midday sky

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Smudges of brown rain in a grey sky… but hopes of brightening up

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Evening sky with cumulus. Dark greeny blue behind clouds.

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Sunset over the Water, heavy night clouds hang over a bright strip. Watercolour sketches approx 5 x 6”. pen sketches in 4 inch sketchbook.

I am much more interested in the marks, the colour and how the paint behaves on the surfaces and the happy accidents than whether they look like clouds or not.
And, if I took these colour pieces and used them as my source material for another set of paintings who knows what they might become? Chinese Whispers in paint is a nice concept.

What does “finished” mean

I sometimes hesitate to put things on the blog because it might infer that I am either pleased with them or that they are “finished” .. whatever that means. I am seldom pleased and “finished” can mean many things.  Sometimes I have just had enough, sometimes I have run out of time.

Many times I don’t stop soon enough and sometimes things need more work. Often I have to leave things face to the wall for a week or so, then go back to them. Sometimes a week of work results in a complete and utter mess.
Sometimes a few lines are so beautiful I can’t believe I made them.. but then how do you define “beautiful”?  How are your skies today?…Beautiful  I hope.

Some Clouds on the Horizon… and some a bit closer than that.

We are having a lot of weather here at the moment. It’s a typical Florida summer.

The day starts clear and bright, then, as the heat rises to almost unbearable temperatures, the clouds bubble up from the west. By 3.00 or often earlier, huge apocalyptic thunderstorms sweep across the flat Florida landscape and just as quickly subside.

The relief from the heat can be short lived and the evening slips back to being calm and still,  hot and airless. It’s something I will always remember about our time here, so in between working on the commissions I sketched a few clouds. There is not what you would call “a view” from our terrace just the rooftop of the opposite apartments, some tree tops and then sky..

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There are clouds with holes in them…


Towers of vertical clouds crossed with horizontal  floating bands


Big puffy clouds which seem to link the land and the sky.

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Bright edges of clouds

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Layers of dark rain soaked clouds which are so low you feel you could touch them. They move swiftly, obliterating everything.

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And then, over the old buildings of Baldwin Park Naval base across the lake there are the high trailing clouds of early evening.

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Another storm has just passed over and it’s raining right now.

These little sketches cannot do justice to the magnificence of these skies. These are the skies which make you believe in Sky Gods. We are going away for a few days but I think sky studies will resume next week.