Skies and clouds - beautiful to look at when we have a moment. We often have our head down reading or looking at something and miss so much that is going on above us. The sky has fascinated us since the beginning. For artists the sky is the source of constantly changing subject matter and light. What would we do without light!
The sky should be considered like any other subject that we can paint. The biggest issue though is how do we paint something that changes so rapidly? Would it not be best to simply take a photo and paint what we see there - frozen on paper or the monitor? This can certainly work depending on your painting concept. But it can be rewarding to embrace the motion of the sky by painting en plein air.
I have tried many times to paint from photo references and almost always I end up going in a different direction. I will paint it differently because the photo does not give me the essence of a sky - scale and dynamic movement. These elements have to be experienced first hand. This means getting an impression of what is going on and sticking to that idea while rapidly painting the sky.
Wind, clouds and constantly changing light can become an exciting challenge when you are outdoors with a blank canvas to fill. I find that my painting speeds up. I am laying on the paint in thick dabs or long brushstrokes while looking rapidly from subject to palette and canvas. The result is usually more interesting that a long session in the studio overworking a photo reference.
The painting above shows a sky changing rapidly due to strong winds. The light kept coming out one moment then being obscured by clouds. All I could do was paint instinctively and that was a lot of fun!
A few pointers -