Saturday, August 8, 2009


When you’re drawing or painting a stream of smoke rising in still air, here are a couple of things to keep in mind.

The column of smoke begins as a fairly uninterrupted column of less dense gas. As it rises, the column begins to interact with the surrounding air by forming a curling vortex.

Each vortex usually spirals outward from the central line and breaks up as it gets higher. The most unexpected shapes happen higher up.

It helps to think of the smoke column as a three dimensional semi-transparent plastic bag, with some parts seen edge-on and therefore more opaque.
Two of these images are by Irene Muller. They all come from the image collection “Dark Roasted Blend.”


jeff jordan said...

Dark Roasted Blend is really awesome. My favorite pages are The Most Alien Place on Earth--Socotra Island and the yemeni village in bin Laden country. Also the giant airplanes.

Get in there and I'd pretty much guarantee aa couple hours will go by.

Love that site!

Anonymous said...

Smoke shadow
Thank you for the nice post James. I just published a watercolor painting with smoke from the lavender-distilleries in Provence. Please note the shadow on the last photo cast by the smoke.

INDIGENE said...

I discovered your blog a few weeks ago and while I'm on vacation, I'm reading through your posts from 2007 to present. I am absolutely amazed and delighted! It is one of the most informative, interesting and most unselfish blog I've ever read! What an amazing gift you have given to all us through your blog. I am honored to have found and will continue to read it as long as you post! I love it! Thank you, Thank you, Thank you! You are a wonderful teacher and someone whom I will now consider a mentor through your blog! Thank you again

richard nichols said...

Just now found your blog. The amazing smokr photos drew me in, so now I'll check it out.

Eric Braddock said...

Wow.. awesome little tip! Thanks!

Alan said...

It's interesting that you describe the smoke as similar to "a three dimensional semi-transparent plastic bag".

Painter Sadie Valeri is an excellent realist painter who paints semi-transparent plastic bags that look like wisps of smoke...