Tag Archives: cloud formations

Color Temperature

Warms and cools

Color mixing should only be categorized with the words ‘warm’ and ‘cool’. Never get hung up on a formula. As painters, we all have our go-to colors and hear about what other painters use, but let’s look at this more closely:

Every painter is using primary color mixes in some form, a few secondary colors or convenience color like orange, purple or turquoise and/ or earth tones. There’s always a red of some sort, a yellow and a blue involved, especially when it comes to grey mixes. In the end, all our palettes are remarkably similar, yet the outcome is very different from painter to painter!
What really matters is ‘how’ you use your pigments, of course. There is an enormous subtlety in color mixing that is hard to understand and put into action.

Color temperature, as seen in my painting above, achieves the illusion that the rock formations in the background are actually further away from us than the ones in the foreground left and right. So, not only value but, equally important, temperature. By just adding a bit more purple and blue, it starts receding more. We sometimes hear that we have to always soften the edges in the background. Notice how all edges on the far formations are actually hard, except where the low cloud hangs on the right!
Never be afraid to put a harder edge if that’s what the landscape dictates. If you get the right value and temperature, it will look perfect.

When setting up a painting palette, it makes sense to use the color wheel as a guide, that way the pigments are arranged in a chronological way. Start with the yellows into orange, red, purple, blues, turquoise and green. Earth colors separated and that’s it. You’re good to go.

Most backgrounds in watercolor paintings look pretty similar in all of us. What really sets us apart is the personal calligraphy and interpretation of subject matter. That is remarkably different from painter to painter!

It helps to paint as much as possible. Only through experimentation and endless trial and errors are we able to develop our own voice. Mimicking another artist’s painting style and color choice is only helpful if it helps us find our own and that takes time. It also helps to have a place where you can go and paint without having to start setting things up first, like on the kitchen table. It is a big advantage to step into a room to do just that one activity, no distractions. A peaceful place where creativity can happen. You still have to make it happen but creating the right circumstance is half the battle!

Partly cloudy!


These are very traditional landscapes. Both works focus on the sky as a major element of the composition. A sure fire way to do this is to simply allocate less space for the foreground. Three quarters of the composition is sky. If we choose to divide our paper like this, we better make sure the sky is interesting! We have to deliver, so to speak!

I was trying to use the clouds as part of the design, arranging them in ways to lead the eyes into the painting. Notice how the size of the clouds also plays a role to invoke distance. Both linear and atmospheric perspective at work! A concept I speak about a length during my workshops.

Composition and perspective are often neglected in painting. Many passable painted works lack good design and therefore have little impact. Some of the key questions I always ask myself is: what am I actually painting? How do I arrange all the elements/ shapes? Where and what is my focal point? Is it all working?

Painting the sky is a two step process.  I had to save the whites for the clouds where I planned them, therefore, the first washes can’t go over those areas. The initial warm grey for the clouds are part of the first wash. After all is dry, the second step is glazing in the darks of the clouds. I tried to make them look like they’re hanging over the mountain.
Overall, I am happy with the outcome. Sometimes, the most difficult thing is not to go back in, thinking I can improve this and instead ruin it!

Peninsula clouds

Peninsula clouds, 2010 by frankeber

Peninsula Clouds, 2010
24″ x 19″ : 61 cm x 48.3 cm

Before the big storm moved in I took the time to get some good shots of the Palos Verdes Peninsula with clouds billowing above it. I always wanted to paint this view looking south from the pier. Most of the time it looks a bit ‘boring’ with cerulean blue skies, the ocean, the headland and the sand. I wanted to paint it so the center of interest would be the sky. In our area you don’t get to see a lot of cumulus cloud formations as it is almost always sunny and cloudless. Not that I am complaining but this time of the year is perfect for nice and interesting skies.

This painting is all about the sky. Painting clouds in watercolor can be tricky, but with a few preliminaries it can turn out quite nice. One thing to remember is that they paint themselves if you let them! The sky needs to be painted in one go and it helps to pre-wet your paper to create nice soft edges. But not everywhere! It is important to leave some areas dry to also have some hard edges where clouds meet the blue sky. Of course, that depends on the look of the actual sky you are doing.

When applying the washes it is imperative to work quickly, roughing in the shapes of the clouds and painting the sky areas around it. I premix two big puddles and use two paint brushes so I don’t have to go back to mixing more right in the middle of it all. Since the paper keeps drying while you apply the washes you should get a wide range of beautiful edges, from soft to broken to hard. I love getting the broken shapes that only happen on damp paper. They are the trickiest and riskiest to achieve as the paper is just about dry, the possibility of explosions imminent! The key is not to fiddle with it, NEVER go back in with the brush trying to correct! Usually I like to put some figures in my paintings, but I felt it unnecessary this time. The seagulls rising into the sky give it some life and the absence of people add to the desired mood, in my opinion.

I wanted to take this last post of the year to thank all of you who showed interest in my blog this last year! I appreciate your visits and supportive comments! They give me confidence to keep this going, not just to promote myself but because I feel like some things I say are actually useful to some of you and that makes it all worth while!

Happy Holidays everyone.