Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Capturing a Cumulus

Here’s a 16x20 inch oil study of thunderheads on a warm July day.

I was amazed as I worked over a two hour period how fast the scene changed from minute to minute. Watch this time lapse video of a similar cloud formation boiling away. As soon as you have the shapes established, you have to paint the details from memory. But you can keep studying the scene for the overall color relationships.

The brightest whites and the sharpest details are reserved for the emerging billows at the top. The purer white colors of the closer clouds transition more toward warm pink or dull orange as the clouds go back in space. Light that has traveled farther has lost more of its cool wavelengths through scattering.

Whenever you paint these attention-grabbing "cumulus castellanus" thunderheads, look also for the shreds of old clouds sheared off by wind currents and dissolving back into the air. These often-overlooked “fractus” or “scud” clouds are the other side of the cloud’s life cycle of growth and decay. They lack the compact density of the billowing clouds, and are never as white.

8 comments:

Sean, said...

So that's what I've been doing wrong all this time- the bit with the warmer tones farther back. Thank you!

I just have to say, you've probably taught me more through this blog in a few weeks than the vast majority of my college professors did in a year. Thank you for putting all this stuff out there- you explain things so a normal human being can understand, which is definitely needed.

Meredith D. said...

This post and the last brought up a question; when you post these images, are you photographing them or scanning them? When you prepare artwork for publication, how does the printer capture the original paintings? I'm interested in having prints made of my artwork but I'm afraid the local print shop won't know what they are doing with a big piece of canvas. Is there a way to photograph artwork from home that will capture the image faithfully? Thanks in advance for any advice.

Erik Bongers said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
James Gurney said...

Thanks, Sean, for your generous words. I'm glad you're learning from the blog, and I can tell you that I'm learning from writing it, because it's forcing me to think everything through.

Meredith, I shot most of the images for this blog on my digital camera. Sometimes they were shot in a hotel room or a parking lot, so the light isn't always ideal.

Art that's going to be reproduced in a book or prints is professionally shot. The art in the new Dinotopia book was shot by Arthur Evans of Williamstown, MA both in 4x5 transparencies and high-res digital files.

We got much better results from the trannies, so we used those for reproduction in the book. Mr. Evans used a special lighting system to bring out the 3-D textural surface of the paingings.

Erik Bongers said...

Have the same question.
To scan or not to scan ?
DIY or professional reprography ?

I currently scan my drawings in 6 fragments and glue them digitally.

Erik Bongers said...

Oops. Just missed that reply.
Thanks !

Frank Gardner said...

Another wonderful painting there James. Is that a rain shower falling? Love how you have the under side of those overhead clouds. Would not be nearly as nice without them.

Meredith D. said...

Thanks for the tip! Now to find a photographer in my area that knows what they're doing...