I want my clouds to have depth and form – any ad­vice?

ImagineFX: Sci-fi & Fantasy Art magazine - - Imagine Nation Artist Q & A | Your questions answe -

Aaron He­witt, US

An­swer

Dave replies

I love to draw and paint clouds. They’re evoca­tive and come in in­fi­nite va­ri­eties of shape, size and colour – a very flex­i­ble tool in your com­po­si­tional tool­box! Learn­ing to con­ceive of the vol­ume of your clouds and smoke el­e­ments will make your images more com­pelling and con­vinc­ing.

Con­sider the at­mos­phere for what it truly is: an ocean of air, with lay­ers, cur­rents and tides. Although clouds can feel flat as back­ground el­e­ments, al­ways bear in mind that they’re fully di­men­sional forms, af­fected by the at­mos­phere around them. I of­ten use this idea to give a sense of mo­tion to the clouds in my paint­ings. Pon­der the weather and wind in your scene and how it might af­fect the clouds.

Clouds are wa­ter vapour that dif­fuses light through­out them. Dense clouds can ap­pear very opaque, yet other clouds ap­pear lit from within by light bounc­ing around in­side the form. Many clouds are flat­tened at the bot­tom by air lay­ers, so you can make th­ese ar­eas darker. Of­ten, ar­eas of com­plex cloud shapes will throw bounce light onto other ar­eas, and this can be quite dra­matic. Smaller clouds in front of large clouds can ap­pear dark and sil­hou­et­ted for more depth in your scene. When­ever pos­si­ble, ob­serve and pho­to­graph real clouds to build up your un­der­stand­ing of their be­hav­iour. It’ll re­ally pay off!

Shad­ow­ing, bounce light and edge light­ing con­vey di­men­sion and form, and lay­er­ing the clouds gives a feel­ing of depth and even mo­tion. I use smoke, fore­ground and back­ground cloud shapes as com­po­si­tional el­e­ments. The fig­ure’s cloak and ban­ner ac­cen­tu­ate the sense of wind.

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