I realized as I sat down to write this post that it was already Friday, and given that this is #5 in the Aerial Skies series, it fits the bill for today's Sky Friday post.
When I was deciding what I wanted to do for my next painting in this series, I kept coming back to one of the images I took during our July trip to CO last year. In my mind's eye, I'd seen it as a painting at the time I was seeing the view out my window of the 757 flight from Cleveland to Denver. When I started this painting a few days ago, I figured that there would probably be a lot of people that wouldn't "get it". Wayne said: "If you want to paint something that will probably sell, do a sunset." I'm sure he's right. But, I paint for myself first and what grabs at my senses and emotions. So, this was it.
I suspected when I started on this painting that it would end up going in a more detailed, realistic direction than what I generally aim for in my work. I've learned now that it's really pointless to fight the painting or the process; it will have a direction and sometimes that's not maybe what the artist intended. I'm not sure this would have worked as well, at least in my hands, if it were looser like the others in this series.
I'm also not sure exactly how to categorize it. "Abstracted realism"? "Realism with a surrealistic edge"? I don't know. As a photo, it's clear what the subject is. As a painting, it takes on a different reality, as it were. I really wanted to capture the dynamic shapes, reflected light and shadows of these amazing clouds as seen from 20,000' or so. A critical part of making this painting work, to my mind, was to accurately capture the flowing nature of the lower layer of the clouds in what is essentially the foreground, and give the middle ground of higher clouds that light "vapor" quality. Many of the earlier cloud paintings I've done I felt were "stiff" and heavy, and I think it's a subject that many artists struggle to paint.
"Serenity" - 12x18"
Pastel on Strathmore 400-series paper
For an added challenge, I decided to do it on Stathmore paper, which is similar to Canson M-T. It's got a textured surface and doesn't hold many layers of pastel without fixative. But, until I put in an order for some UArt or larger Wallis sheets, it's all I've got that's bigger than 9x12". For this, I pretty much had to do quite a bit of finger blending, although I kept it to light touches with the tip of my index finger. Grinding the pastel into the surface really kills the luminosity of the pastel, so I try to avoid that. When I do, it's only to form an underpainting and fill in the unwanted surface texture of the paper.
I thought to take an in-progress photo showing areas with initial blending and the lower areas as they were blocked in with Nupastels. I used my MV Thunderstorm grays for this, along with some favorite Unisons and a few Senneliers. The fun part was lightly scumbling in various blues and greys. Most probably aren't visible in the photo.
Even coming up with a name for the painting wasn't that easy. I originally titled it "Above Gray Skies", but that sounded trite. When I look at this, I feel a sense of calm and quiet, so the title reflects that.
It's certainly not your average "cloudscape", but I find the departure refreshing. I hope viewers do as well.