Sketching Clouds in Charcoal: Refining the Drawing

In this series we will be drawing clouds in charcoal, using a loose, sketchy approach.

You can use any reference of a cloud (or better yet, work from life!) or you can use the same one as me – it’s available at this link: http://drawandpaint4free.artcoursework.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/07/Cloud-Reference-scaled.jpg

In the third and final session, we’ll be smoothing things out and adding some smaller forms to create a better sense of detail.

You can use pretty much any materials that you have to hand. I’m just using paper, willow charcoal, an old paintbrush and a kneadable eraser.

PROCESS

  • You will want to focus your attention on the focal point of the drawing. In my case that’s the large white cloud in the centre. I want to make sure that this cloud is the most rendered aspect so that it catches the viewer’s attention.
  • I mostly use gradients (applied with a slightly harder piece of charcoal) to make the cloud’s texture feel softer.
  • Pay attention to what’s dark, what’s light and how soft or hard the gradient is between them.
  • That’s it! If you’re working outdoors, you won’t usually get more than a few hours of consistent clouds (they may change but their essential characteristics will tend to repeat) so that’s a good amount of time to spend when practicing from photos indoors.

Sketching Clouds in Charcoal: Adjusting the Forms

In this series we will be drawing clouds in charcoal, using a loose, sketchy approach.

You can use any reference of a cloud (or better yet, work from life!) or you can use the same one as me – it’s available at this link: http://drawandpaint4free.artcoursework.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/07/Cloud-Reference-scaled.jpg

In the second session, we’ll be developing the larger, simpler cloud shapes established in the first part.

You can use pretty much any materials that you have to hand. I’m just using paper, willow charcoal, an old paintbrush and a kneadable eraser.

PROCESS

  • Begin by evening out some of the messier patches of tone (where they aren’t contributing to the sense of form).
  • I paid particular attention to the sky behind the clouds as making the sky more even helps to push the clouds into the foreground.
  • You can then begin to refine the edges of the large forms and plot the medium cloud forms within them.
  • Pay attention to what direction the tonal gradient is shifting (where it’s going from dark to light) and how gradually that is happening.
  • You can also use some more general passes over larger areas.
  • Particularly if you need to unify sections of dark or light.

Sketching Clouds in Charcoal: Getting Started

In this series we will be drawing clouds in charcoal, using a loose, sketchy approach.

You can use any reference of a cloud (or better yet, work from life!) or you can use the same one as me – it’s available at this link: http://drawandpaint4free.artcoursework.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/07/Cloud-Reference-scaled.jpg

This first session will be focused on getting the basic shapes and tones of the cloud down on the paper.

You can use pretty much any materials that you have to hand. I’m just using paper, willow charcoal, an old paintbrush and a kneadable eraser.

PROCESS

  • Begin by quickly sketching in the basic shape of the most prominent cloud.
  • You can use light and loose lines. Don’t worry if you notice something is wrong, just correct it and keep going.
  • Once the largest cloud is in place, you can add some of the smaller forms as well (in relation to the main cloud).
  • Once the basic shapes have been placed, start roughly toning in the darkest areas.
  • You can do this with the charcoal on its side to make the process quicker.
  • At this stage you can also start brushing the patchy tones to smooth them out (this will also lighten things a bit).
  • Keep following this process, until the cloud forms start to come together.
  • If there is a part of the subject that is very dark (like the land in my piece) then make sure to go as dark as possible with the charcoal. This will make the most of the value range, and help to create a luminous effect.
  • Try to avoid going dark in the lightest areas (where the cloud is illuminated) as this may be hard to erase later.