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Paint a Simple Watercolor Landscape: Cloudy Sky

You have asked for more landscapes so today that is exactly what we are doing. This time we are painting a cloudy sky - lots of blue with fluffy white clouds.

Be sure to watch today’s video for more details and examples:

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I am using my Strathmore watercolor sketchbook and start by blocking out a rectangle so I will have a crisp white border. The painting will be portrait style, or vertical, with a low horizon and a lot of sky. I’m using a number 6 synthetic round pointed brush and my Mungyo watercolors.

Before starting, I use a pencil to start outlining where the clouds and horizon will go. By keeping the horizon low, the painting is all about the sky. Marking out where the cloud will sit with a pencil gives me a chance to change it before starting and makes the painting much easier. At the top of the page, the clouds are biggest and become gradually smaller towards the horizon. All of the clouds are angled in, coming down like a 'V' from the edges towards the center of the page. I don’t pencil in the lowest clouds which will be very thin.

Tip #1 When you are mixing your paints and preparing your palette, scrub the pan with a wet brush, that way you can bring the pigment over to your palette and mix it with more water or more colors of paint.

I have two blue paints ready to go. One is very light mixed with gray, the second is darker and, of course, still has some gray in it. With the lighter blue, I trace that horizon and from here we will start painting upwards, creating our lowest clouds. The clouds are made of the negative space, the page left white, that we then paint around. At the bottom, they are thin and straight, all horizontal and quite close together as well.

Tip #2 There are more clouds than there is blue sky. It is not really about the blue but the big fluffy clouds that are made of the negative space. While I am painting, this makes it seem like blue is the negative space. With watercolor, we cannot just add the clouds in after so you have to think in the negative and plan ahead.

As I move up, I start releasing a little more pigment into the wet area and that gives me a natural wash of color and everything looks very free and organic. Slowly, I start using more of the darker blue and blending that in as we get higher. It will gradually become slightly darker, although very subtle.

Tip #3 The edges of the clouds should be quite rough or jagged. If they are too smooth, you’ll end up getting clouds that look like cotton candy or kidneys. Add a little stippling, shading with small dots, around the edges to make sure they are rough and indented. The clouds can be very funny and freely shaped.

For the land, I am mixing up 3 different mossy greens to create the different hills. I want it to look like pastures with patchwork hills of meadows and fields. To create this look I am using the different greens and then painting in different directions to show that each area is different.

Tip #4 The Mungyo palette has a nice mossy green but if you only have a bright emerald green you can mix a little red or brown in for a natural color.

The very last step is to use a light gray to add some stippling or messy brushstrokes to the bottom of the bigger clouds. The Mungyo has a perfect ‘French gray’ with a lot of water mixed in. This landscape comes together really quickly, taking less than 30 minutes. My favorite step: taking off the tape! A crisp straight border elevates the piece from simple to a beautiful mini landscape.

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