Watercolor Demonstration: Painting a Dramatic Sky

In Yesterday is Gone (watercolor on paper, 12×20), the clouds are dark and heavy. To one person, the sky might seem depressing or even angry and threatening, but to another, the impending rain may be needed just like a good cry over the loss of a loved one.

Step 1: Paint the sky wet on wet.
After you’ve establishing your drawing with a 2B pencil, wet down the sky area with clean water using a 1 ½-inch wide flat brush. Add Prussian blue and cadmium red. Tilt the painting while the paint is wet to control the flow of paint and to keep the paint from running into valleys formed by the wet paper.

Step 2: Add details to the sky, wet on dry.
Using the same colors as the previous step, add wet on dry applications of paint to the sky using No. 36 and No. 26 round brushes to give more form and depth to the clouds.

Step 3: Paint the foreground wet on dry.
Using Prussian blue, cadmium red, sap green and yellow ochre, apply the wet paint to the dry paper surface with a No. 36 round brush.

Step 4: Paint more of the sky.
Add more color to the lower part of the sky, wet on dry, with some cadmium red and dioxazine purple using the No. 36 round brush.

Step 5: Paint the truck.
Using some of all the previous colors, paint the truck wet on dry with a No. 36 and No. 14 round brushes. Paint the truck light, warm colors to contrast with the dark cool sky.

Step 6:  Paint the grass and trees.
Paint the grass and trees wet on dry using all of the previous colors along with phthalo green with No. 26 and No. 14 round brushes.

Step 7:  Add finishing touches.
Add darks and details using all of the previous colors applied with No. 14 and No. 8 round brushes. Erase unwanted pencil lines and sign and date your painting.


Watercolor artist and instructor Mark Willenbrink  demonstrates his technique for painting dramatic clouds and skies in the October issue of Watercolor Artist.

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