Cloudy Sky: #1

On my drive last week to Lutz Lock, where I failed at painting the old lock from the Erie Canal, I saw a barn on the side of the road that I remember thinking looked like a nice one to paint. I didn’t stop though, and only have the scene and in my memory.

Today, I decided I’d try to paint it from memory, and maybe go back one day to try it again on site.


I wanted to paint that shaggy grey barn that’s somewhere in my memory. I know the barn will be distant, nearly on the horizon, and the sky will take up most of the image. I want the clouds to feel like a ceiling above the viewer. And, I want the pond between the viewer and the barn to feel very calm and still. I’m also trying to give the impression of a storm coming, but over the barn it’s still a pretty spring day.

I started by painting the clouds, I tried a new technique, where I painted the underside of clouds before painting anything else. First, a very light grey wash, followed by a few lighter greys. Once the underside of the clouds was defined, I then painted blue sky around them, leaving some parts white around the base of the cloud to suggest a white top. This gave me the feeling of a canopy that I was after.

Then, on the horizon I added some dabs of grey into a very wet paper, to let it blend up in its own.

Next I painted the grass and the pond. I wanted the pond to be very still water, reflecting the sky. So, my first wash was a very light value, with some whites left untouched.

Then I painted very dark colors on the sides, and let them softly blend into the pond shape to suggest the water nearer the viewer. For the barn, I painted one side and left the roof and porch bare white.

Next I added some darker lines at the base of the pond to suggest a shore, and darkened the grass in most areas, trying to leave some dry brush highlights.

At that point I felt like the pond read more like a road, so I decided to bump up the reflections a bit.

Finally, I darkened the clouds at the top of the painting a bit more to bring them forward and add to the illusion of a canopy.


The painting ended up respectable, but there are some things I’d like to improve on for the next attempt:

1) The clouds feel a bit cliche to me, I think I might want to deemphasize them in the next one.

2) The bear grasses are not tall enough, or dark enough. They feel too far back, so on the next one I’ll make them larger and darker. I’ll also suggest some more shapes, cattails or phragmites, to give the vegetation some personality.

3) The pond is not what I wanted. It’s far too bland in its shape, and the light doesn’t appear to be shining off of it the way I want. I need to work on that in the next one, but I’m not sure exactly how to improve it. I don’t know what techniques to try, so I’ll just wing it I guess and see what happens.

4) The rock on the left was an accident from a dry brush stroke and I liked it. On the next one, I’ll make that rock more intentional.

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