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:
- Talk to myself about the shape of the cloud and figure out where it goes on the wall.
- With my two inch brush, working in a rapid X-shaped stroke, rough in the main parts of the center of the cloud.
- Looking at the source, and continuing with the rapid X-shaped stroke, continue to refine the shape of the cloud.
- 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.
- Step back and look at it, go back in with the 2-incher or filbert as required.