How Should I Approach Painting this Sky?

This is a cropped, closeup photo of a sky that is part of a larger painting I am working on and I'm just trying to figure out the best way to paint it. I don't have a lot of experience painting this kind of sky. 

1)Would you recommend underpainting the blues and come back over with the red clouds? That would probably require letting the blues dry a little first, no?

2)Would you recommend doing each completely separately without any overpainting or "blending?" What I'm assuming will be tricky about that, is that some of those red clouds are quite thin with some blue peeking through. I would like to finish the painting sooner than later so waiting for that blue to dry first is something I'd rather not do, but if it's the best option, I will do it. 

Thanks so much for any suggestions. 


  • I would start first by painting that background from the blue to the yellow. Let the blue to yellow graduation background dry. Then paint the clouds on top in the dried brush effect. Then the highlights would be the last thing to paint over the orangy clouds. Hope this helps.
  • Thanks @jcortezjr1068. That is more or less how I'm trying it. For some reason, this one is a bugger to get right. 
  • Use a gesso board. Work in layers of thin glazes. No underdrawing. Use Dammar/mastic varnish to varnish the blank white surface (this helps the glazes pick up the white surface underneath. Make an ultramarine blue/white monochrome. Dark shadows using blue highlights with white. Let dry. Varnish. Glaze entire painting yellow with a transparent yellow pigment. Let dry. Varnish. Glaze clouds with transparent red (this will make them orange). Glaze black areas with black. Let dry. Varnish. Final layer of ult. blue  glaze where needed. Let dry. Varnish. Adjust any areas you need to with the same pigments. Let dry and apply final varnish. Varnishing should be done in warm temperature environment and applied very thinly. Your painting will yellow and crack eventually but thats some 50-100 years down the road.  This method will make your painting GLOW because of the varnish layers reflecting the light that hits the original white surface.
  • @LogosChroma I’ve never heard of painting over varnish before.  What kind of varnish are you painting over?
  • LogosChroma - Maxfield Parrish Lives! (of course, his paintings died because of the natural resin interlayers. Maybe epoxide oil or alkyd or?) This technique is difficult and requires really good control of the paint with no bleeding into other areas. I think Parrish used cardboard cutouts to mask off the areas he did not want any bleeding to affect. Very labor-intensive.

    Bucky - That is a beautiful photo of the sky and will make a beautiful painting. When trying a new or difficult thing, I try several different approaches on scrap surfaces before deciding which works ok, and then use the successful approach on the "final" painting.  Please let us know what you decide and how it works out. 
  • @GTO painting over varnish will feel similar to painting on a glass palette. I've only ever used dammar varnish for the method. It's an old Maxfield Parrish technique and as @Desertsky mentioned your paintings will be irreversibly yellowed and cracked. However, it is very little known fact that varnishing between paint layers is something the old masters like Caravaggio and Vermeer used. Thats why certain paintings just seem to glow. There is a youtube video (in German, I believe) by Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden where they restore Vermeer's 'Girl Reading a Letter by an Open Window' and with UV light, theyre able to show and analyze the different layers of the painting, and sure enough Vermeer used a layer of varnish between the overpainting and the underpainting. 
  • Parrish was an illustrator preparing art for printing. Not for longevity. Today we know that commingling not layering varnish with paint has been a bad idea.
  • edited March 6
    @Bucky, it's a beautiful sky.

    I'd paint the base sky first. That is, a gradation from yellow below to deep blue above. When that's dry enough I'd then start on the clouds by laying in the darker, lower chroma area first and then, lastly, I'd put in the brighter higher chroma pinks and oranges. I wouldn't try blending this because I know I'd end up with an amorphous mess. 

    The other option is to do it in glazes as mentioned above but I wouldn't have a clue about how to go about that.

    Good luck with it.  :)
  • This original post was from last year, A painting I completed in December, "Corner Windows." 
    But thanks so much for the suggestions, @LogosChroma @GTO @Desertsky @KingstonFineArt @tassieguy:) 
  • Sorry, @Bucky. I must have missed the picture you painted of this. I'll have a look at it. 
  • Ah, yes, now I remember. It's because the photo above is just the sky without the house that I didn't remember. I was a great painting.  :)
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