Constable it Ain’t

Tonight I painted a base layer for the clouds. They’re definitely going to take a second layer before the white covers over that hideous not-quite-gradient of blue that I put up there. As this is only the base layer, I didn’t bother with any shadows, and so, the clouds have no form yet. So, it looks even worse than it is, which isn’t very good anyway.

I started with a photo by my friend, Tom Maglieri, which I found on Flickr. Tom and I used to work together, and so, I was really happy when his awesome photo showed up on a Flickr search for sky panoramas. With Tom’s permission, I’m using his photo as source for my backdrop painting. Because I know him, it really feels like a collaboration, which is extra-cool.

Here is Tom’s original:

Because I need an even wider aspect ratio, I am using only the bottom third or so of his photograph. In order to copy it over to the wall, I printed it on 11×17 paper and annotated it with a grid in pencil. The grid locations on the wall were denoted with tabs of masking tape. Numbering the squares made it easier to navigate; without them, I tended to get lost in the wall.

There are two layers of clouds: a high stratus cloud, and a lower cumulus cloud. The stratus were straight forwardly painted with thinned white paint. I worked it until it stopped wanting to run down the wall.

The cumulus clouds are much more difficult, but I did get better at painting them by the end of 16 feet. The technique that works for me is as follows:

  1. Talk to myself about the shape of the cloud and figure out where it goes on the wall.
  2. With my two inch brush, working in a rapid X-shaped stroke, rough in the main parts of the center of the cloud.
  3. Looking at the source, and continuing with the rapid X-shaped stroke, continue to refine the shape of the cloud.
  4. Once the shape is pretty good, the edges will look like brush strokes, go into these with a 1/2 inch filbert and disrupt the brush strokes by adding little details. Avoid the temptation to make little blobs all along the edge of the cloud – those look terrible.
  5. Step back and look at it, go back in with the 2-incher or filbert as required.

4 thoughts on “Constable it Ain’t

  1. Looks good Rene. I’ve actually been thinking about NOT putting clouds on the backscene in the Temple Court section, as a photo I am working to just has a clear blue sky. Was there a reason why you didn’t go with a photo backdrop?



    1. Thanks Ian,
      I don’t think a photo backdrop will work for me for a couple of reasons:

      First, in the foreground so much has changed in the past 110 years that I would have to computer-model the background extensively anyway. I’m modelling a town, and so, a background of trees just won’t work.

      Second. my experience with photo backdrops has been that the colour always looks wrong – generally faded. Perhaps that problem has been solved now, and it is improved, because I see a lot of people using them.

      Anyway, those are my reasons.

      1. Rene,

        Fair comments. After I posted, I realised you would have been modelling a town in the background and not just countryside.

        I will have to go back through your backdrop painting posts to find the colour you used for the blue. Was there a paint code/brand (Dulux etc)?



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