UMFA in the Wild: Cloudscapes

UMFA in the Wild is a program that aims to show how art and nature are intertwined. In the past we met people in wild places around Utah to create art with inspiration from nature. During this time of social isolation, we hope that you will still find inspiration in nature to create art on your own or with your family. 

Today we are going to sketch clouds! Artwork of the land is called a landscape, and clouds are part of the landscape but in the sky – a cloudscape.

Before you get started on the art project, please take a few minutes to find inspiration from some Utah cloudscapes in the UMFA collection. Then go outside to see the clouds in the sky above.

Edgar Alwin Payne, American Red Mesa, Monument Valley, Utah, c. 1940s Oil Painting Purchased with funds from The Phullis Cannon Wattis Endowment Fund and Diane and Sam Stewart UMFA2008.14.1
Edgar Alwin Payne (American, 1883–1947) Red Mesa, Monument Valley, Utah, c. 1940s, oil painting, purchased with funds from The Phyllis Cannon Wattis Endowment Fund and Diane and Sam Stewart, UMFA2008.14.1

These storm clouds gathering over a southern Utah mesa seem threatening. Notice the sun shining on the higher background clouds. When you paint or draw clouds, think about where the sun is shining on the clouds to create a sense of depth in your art. Do you think the clouds are moving away from the figures in the painting or heading their way?

Florence Ellen Ware, American Untitled, c. 1901-1971 Oil painting Gift of Genevieve Lawrence and family UMFA1987.029
Florence Ellen Ware (American, 1891–1972), Untitled, c. 1901-1971, oil painting, Gift of Genevieve Lawrence and family, UMFA1987.029

This landscape by Utah artist Florence Ware shows some of the most common clouds, cumulus clouds. Cumulus clouds have flat bases and are puffy like cotton. Can you see the flat bottoms of the clouds Ware has painted? She shows the bases in a darker color to imply a shadow. Like sunlight, shadows in clouds give form and depth when you are drawing them. Based on the clouds and plants, what do you think the season is in this painting? 

The Diné artist that created this woven rug drew on a long tradition of shapes and patterns to create a picture of a storm. What parts of a storm can you see? Where are the clouds? Is there lightning? What about rain? Your drawing or painting of a cloudscape can have different patterns that show the form of the clouds, too.
Unknown Diné, storm pattern rug, wool, Gift of Kent C. Day, UMFA 2003.10.28

The Diné artist that created this woven rug drew on a long tradition of shapes and patterns to create a picture of a storm. What parts of a storm can you see? Where are the clouds? Is there lightning? What about rain? Your drawing or painting of a cloudscape can have different patterns that show the form of the clouds, too. 

Kimberly Anderson, American Salt Ramp and Pile, Great Salt Lake, Utah, 2011 Pigment print Purchased with funds from the Phyllis Cannon Wattis Endowment Fund UMFA 2018.19.1.11
Kimberly Anderson (American), Salt Ramp and Pile, Great Salt Lake, Utah, 2011, pigment print, purchased with funds from the Phyllis Cannon Wattis Endowment Fund, UMFA 2018.19.1.11

Look at this photograph of salt and clouds at Great Salt Lake. What do you notice about these cloud shapes? These clouds are altocumulus clouds. This type of cloud forms small cloudlets across the sky. The more you study the sky, the more types of clouds you will see. Look closely, and your cloudscapes will not only be works of art, but they will also be a record of the nature around you today. 

Drawing a cloudscape

Let’s make a cloudscape! There are many ways to make clouds and many mediums you could use. Find whatever drawing or painting tools you have at home to record your cloudscape. 

examples of cloud drawings, six different clouds drawn in pencil, colored pencil, watercolor, pens and crayon


First, go outside and look at the sky. Do you see any clouds? If you don’t, you might want to wait until you can. 

A blond boy in a blue t-shirt, about first grade aged, walks in tall grass and sage, the Great Salt Lake is in the background, the sky with fluffy white clouds fills the top half of the frame


Next, sketch your cloud on a piece of paper. If you want to do a quick sketch and then go inside to paint or draw a final artwork, that is fine. Or your sketch can be your final artwork.

Child drawing a blue sky with crayons on a blue table only the child's hands and torso are in view, child is wearing a green shirt.


Finally, decide how you want to finish your cloudscape. Is it only clouds? Do you want to put land in it? Where is the horizon line (the line where the sky meets the land)? All of these choices are up to you, the artist!

Show us your clouds! Tag us on Instagram or Facebook:  #umfainthewild.

George S. Dibble, American Untitled Watercolor Gift of the Artist UMFA 1989.004.001
George S. Dibble (American, b. 1904) Untitled, watercolor, Gift of the Artist, UMFA 1989.004.001

 

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