How to Paint Weather

Great inspiration can be sought from painting rain, mist, snow and lightning. Different lighting effects and an expressive sky adds dimension and atmosphere to landscape painting and adds to its authenticity.

Artist's Guide to Painting the Weather

Many methods and applications can be used for painting weather, but the three main approaches are:

Using photographs as reference material
  • Painting the weather onsite
  • A combination of both.
Painting from Photographs

A combination of several photographs can be used to produce a new composition for example, if the sky in one photo is blank, but another shows interesting clouds. This is on condition that the lighting and the eye view are similar. The image may be further edited by using four strips of paper in order to frame the picture, move the frame around or alter its proportions to get the best composition possible. Further, the beauty of using photographs is that the artist may work at leisure to perfect the following skills:

  • Composing the picture
  • Line drawing
  • Colour mixing
  • Oil painting techniques

Painting Weather En Plein Air

There is something thrilling about venturing out of doors to capture the elements first hand. It requires a certain amount of confidence and a little planning ahead. But the following need consideration
  • A gadget that can be used like a pochade box to avoid wet paintings getting ruined during transit
  • The oil paints and associated materials
  • A selection of an interesting site with possible preliminary sketches
  • A packed lunch

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Oil Sketching Indoors
If one does not like the idea of getting wet or cold, the elements can be portrayed from a French window or upstairs room. This allows comfort whilst retaining the challenge of capturing the shifting light.

Tips on Painting Clouds

Clouds give challenge and satisfaction for the artist in that it offers opportunities for using loose brushwork and many different colours, particularly at sunset. But for an effective painting of weather, both the sky and the landscape need to relate to one another: Reflections of the sky for instance can be seen in snow. A dark cloud mass on the other hand, will give buildings a greenish cast.

The Colours of Rain, Cloud, Mist and Lightning

With the above in mind, the following considerations might help the venturer in painting inclement weather
Using black to produce dark colours such as cloud bases or rain showers will merely deaden the painting. Try mixing two complimentary colours or introducing earth colours to produce rich browns and greys.
Presumptions about how such weather looks must be dismissed. Rain is not always grey, nor is
lightning always white. All sorts of colours can be found within.

Dispel the assumption that clouds are cotton wool white and the sky is blue. Many unexpected colours can be found in the sky, including violets, pewters, crimsons and greens.

Try experimenting with various painting techniques to compliment the subject matter, for instance, using impasto for windswept skies or sgraffito for rain.

This site comprise of pictures and excerpts taken from my two art instruction books. Oil Paintings from Your Garden can be purchased direct from the author via this site, or through Amazon.


My other book, Oil Paintings from the Landscape can be purchased direct from Amazon.


© Rachel Shirley 2010