This describes whats happening in the above 2 minute video. Throughout the posts on this blog, the following process is touched on and observations and recommendations made. It would be worth your while to check out these posts as every painting is different.
Three colours plus black and white are used. Burnt Sienna, Yellow Ochre and Cobalt Blue. These are the exact colours I’ve used in many of the paintings in this blog. So its not a restricted range for the purpose of this demonstration. Other essential pieces of equipment are the flat mixing board (palette) and a flat mixing knife (palette knife). Flat is easier for mixing the colours and the knife is better than a brush (easier to clean between mixes). The two containers are for the medium and the solvent. The medium is Liquin, 50/50 with White Spirits. The other container has White Spirits only.
Lets say the beginner has a photo or sketch of a landscape and would like to ‘have a go’ at painting the scene. The painting of the sky can be as daunting as the painting of the scene. But a sky can be placed as a generic area of the painting and really can be fitted to a scene without affecting the overall scene. Placing a sky will get you well into the painting, and the sense of accomplishment will be good for your morale. With practice and confidence in future paintings, variations can be introduced into the sky to more closely fit a particular scene.
Establish the horizon line. Distant hills and mountains (on the horizon) are usually above this line and I like to treat them as part of the sky. This sky can be considered as a backdrop to the real painting of the foreground and mid distance.
Stain the canvas with pure blue and white spirits only as a rough idea of cloud shapes. Wipe off excess until the area is dry. Its good not to have a stark white area to paint into and any bits you might not cover with later paint layers won’t be that noticeable.
Mix a mid blue. Add blue to white until the colour is ‘sky blue’. Add a little yellow to warm the blue. Wet the brush with the minimum of the medium and stir it into the blue mix. Paint on the colour in large ‘dabs’. Drag the colour downwards and it will thin out and get lighter. Add pure blue to the mix on the ‘top’ of the sky. This gives an ‘aerial’ perspective to the sky – deep blue above your head and light blue at the horizon.
Take some of the blue mix, add Burnt Sienna and black until a grey colour is established. You might have to add more blue or Burnt Sienna to balance the colour towards a ‘colourless’ grey. Black will darken the grey without affecting the colour. Roughly dab in the cloud shapes on the shadow side (right side in this painting).
Clean the brush, not thoroughly, with a dry tissue or rag. Into a fresh piece of white add a little white. Place this colour on the light side of the cloud shapes (left). Roughly blend the light and shadows in the mid areas of the cloud shapes.
Remove excess paint from the brush and blend the entire sky with cross hatching strokes with light touches of the brush. The sky is now soft and misty. Re-establish the highlights of the clouds. This requires a careful approach. Less is better than more.
Very distant hills or mountains are added with the grey of the clouds with a little more Burnt Sienna added. This ‘red’ will make the hills look closer than the sky.
NOTE: The entire painting of this sky was completed with a single brush. It was wiped but not cleaned between the various colours. You can let the painting dry for a few days or continue the painting. If you loose control of the painting, leave it aside for a few days and start afresh. The previous attempt, when dry, could be overpainted so it may not be a complete loss.
Added on 21st Dec. 2013: Also check out this post for a slightly different method (here).
Added on 7th Sept. 2015: Check out Bob Lynch’s comment below for an analysis of colour use in these paintings.