Intermediate Pastel Shorts: Skies part I


Clouds are always on the move, forever changing form. Sometimes it’s better to practice with a model. With practice you will be able to work more quickly in the field.  This is way better than working from a photograph.


Leonardo da Vinci studied cloud forms. In this case, very dramatic mountain storm clouds.


Here is a low, and therefore large, cloud. Deep space is indicated by the relationship of the large cloud to much smaller clouds of a similar type. Distance is indicated by a change in scale.


Practice drawing your very own “studio cloud” . I made this cloud with polyester pillow fill and one strong spotlight.

Look for 3 values: light, medium and dark. Increase value range up to 6 if time allows.

Now for color. Consider the contrast in temperature. Parts lit by the sun may be warmer than parts in shadow, brrr.

Clouds glow because they refract and reflect light.

Warm quiet sky.


Cold active sky.

winter gulch

Cloud tid-bits:

  • Clouds (and other things in the sky) help to show space through changing scale.
  • Clouds have very distinctive shapes and can be grouped into several categories and many more sub-categories. For example: Higher clouds have different shapes than lower clouds. Colder different from warmer.
  • Clouds are darker where they are denser. Rain clouds are very dark because they hold moisture which is dense.
  • Clouds are always darker on the side opposite the sun.
  • Clouds cast shadows relative to the suns’ location.  Cloud shadows often prevent direct sunlight from reaching the ground. Look for a clouds’ shadow.

2 thoughts on “Intermediate Pastel Shorts: Skies part I

  1. Maynard Dixon also drew wonderful clouds. He was always fascinated with drawing the sky.
    (Love the studio clouds… Great idea!)

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