Have you been watching the sky lately? You might have seen lots of big, puffy clouds, scudding across the sky from your window. Maybe you have been out on a walk after the rain and seen some of these big, cotton-like clouds, which are called cumulus clouds and are the focus of this project. The sky can serve as an endless source of inspiration; this lesson will look at examples from the de Young’s collection and explore painting techniques to capture what you notice.
There are many pieces at the de Young that really highlight the sky, such as Rockwell Kent’s Afternoon on the Sea, Monhegan, from 1907.
In Kent’s painting, we see a big, open sky on a cold, wintry day. The painting shows us how the sky directly overhead is often a deeper blue than the part of the sky closest to the horizon— or the line where the sky meets the sea.
Another favorite is James Turrell’s Three Gems, from 2005. This artwork consists of a room that is sunk into the de Young’s sculpture garden. In the ceiling of the space, a big open hole allows us to look up at the sky. Sometimes we can actually glimpse a cloud flying right across our view.
- Paper. Anything regular to thick, watercolor paper is good
- Watercolors or gouache
- Rag or paper towel
- Small bowl of water
- One or two brushes
- Alternately, crayons or pastels
Question(s) to Consider
- Look out your window or take a moment on a walk to look up at the sky. What do you notice? How would you describe the clouds?
- If your clouds were a person, what kind of person would they be? Sleepy and slow? Big and stormy? Speedy and fast?
- What kind of cloud would you like to be—tinged with pink from the sunrise?
- Can you name the types of clouds you see? [Hint: You can look up images of stratus, cirrus, cumulus, stratocumulus, cirrostratus, cirrocumulus, nimbostratus, altostratus, altocumulus clouds]