Exercise: Drawing cloud formations


Clouds 1 – Conte crayons

Clouds 1:  Bright blue sky, reflected colours from early evening sun. Although I did reproduce the shapes of the (Cumulus?) clouds  reasonably  this feels overblown because of the contrast with the blue.


Clouds 2:  Late afternoon. Cumulus or could it be Nimbostratus? Reflected colour from the sun, beginning to feel stormy. The more subtle use of colour and the stronger tone of the charcoal help to make this more believable.


Clouds 3 – Charcoal and Conte crayon

Clouds  3 Late afternoon with darker (Nimbostratus?) clouds gathering and ‘streaky bacon’ (Cirrus) clouds in the background.  This is when you start to see things… that woman should put her clothes back on!


Clouds 4 – Charcoal and Conte with ink wash behind

Clouds 4 Very pretty fluffy Cumulus clouds with colours from the sun which was beginning to set behind me. This is better than my earlier attempt at catching the colour, I think because the blue is more subtle. The clouds look quite woolly and subtle use of charcoal has helped to give them form without making them look stormy.


Clouds 5 – Conte crayon and charcoal

Clouds 5 These are from a photo I took at Waldringfield in Suffolk. There was an area of no cloud between two layers of  stormy, menacing but also golden clouds (the sun was setting behind me). Dramatic scene but again a bit overblown for my liking.


Cloud 6 – Oil pastel and ink wash

Clouds 6 Early afternoon streaky Cirrus with some grey Altocumulus (?) clouds with much whiter light than the previous pictures. I drew with wax pastel and put an ink wash over. At first everything looked grainy but I found I could improve this by blending some white in. A bit post-apocalyptic but reasonably believable clouds.


Clouds 7 – Oil pastel and ink wash

Clouds 7 Streaky Cirrus clouds drawn using the same technique as above. Early afternoon looking into very white light. Although very subtle, I think this is probably my best cloud drawing.

To prepare for this exercise I took my camera out while walking the dogs and tripped over them a few times because I was looking up! I drew my cloud pictures later at home on A3 paper. I just didn’t feel I could do small pictures of clouds with the materials specified and felt I needed a bit of space to make some sweeping marks.

This was a difficult exercise. I guess there is no right or wrong way of drawing clouds as every cloud is different and constantly changing. I took photos at different times of the day. The early evening light creates a multitude of dramatic colours but for me I feel this resulted in pictures that didn’t quite feel believable. I prefer my more sombre clouds!

I spent quite a bit of time standing and looking at clouds and was intrigued… The shapes of the individual clouds seem to stay reasonably intact (surprising as they look so fragile and fluffy) and  whole layers move along together in convoy. There must be different wind speeds at different heights as some clouds seem to stay still while those near move across the face of them (or it might be the relative distance that makes this appear to be the case). What was changing  was not the cloud’s shape but the relationship with the light which could make it look dramatically different in a matter of moments.

My cloud drawing improved as I progressed. I realised it was essential to bring in darker tones in order to give them form (charcoal was good for this) otherwise they just looked like pretty smudges.

I realise now how much potential there is to use clouds to enhance a landscape picture and that they can also be the main focus. This is a personal view but I’m not keen on dramatic setting-sun clouds and these experiments have shown me that colour is best used cautiously clouds if you want your clouds to look believable, and not part of a Martian landscape!


4 thoughts on “Exercise: Drawing cloud formations

  1. Hi Sara
    These clouds look very realistic and I love the way you have combined different media. The skies are so beautiful when you really take the time to look at them 🙂

    • Hello Janet, thanks for the nice feedback. I have been going around with my head in the clouds and tripped up a few times. My cloud drawings got better with practice but still leave a lot to be desired. This is my first OCA module so it is a steep learning curve. Getting a lot from it though. Hope you are enjoying your course. Sara

      • Hi Sara
        I am enjoying the course very much but a significant challenge. I actually don’t live far from you, If you ever fancy meeting up for a coffee to compare notes (maybe in Sudbury?) I’d be very happy to 🙂 I moved house a year ago and I am always keen to meet kindred spirits and new friends – please let me know via the OCA student email and I’ll reply with my contact details.

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