Sunday, June 30, 2013

"Summer Clouds" - A Characteristic North Florida Scene

"Summer Clouds" by Mary Lemmenes
     Several summers ago (in fact, looking back, it was in 2007!), I took the dog out for a walk and ran right back in for my camera. The towering clouds to our south were amazing that day, although in coastal North Florida, our changeable skies are often stunningly lovely. This view would make a fine subject for a painting, I thought. You can view the original  reference photo below.

     Translating that neighborhood scene to a painting took longer than I had anticipated, but "Summer Clouds" is finally ready to show you. The 18" X 24" acrylic painting, seen on the right, is on gallery wrap canvas and can be hung without a frame--or can be framed if one wishes. The detail photo illustrates some particulars discussed below for readers interested in technical aspects of the work.
Close-up Detail 

     The two major challenges in this piece were: to create an interesting foreground and to convey an adequate impression of the cloud formations. First, although our neighborhood street is attractive, I did not want to use a city street and houses as a foreground. So, I imagined, sketched, and sketched again until a composition plan  seemed workable. I wanted the clouds to "star" and worked to avoid upstaging them with the foreground. Yet, the foreground seemed to need more than just a vague suggestion of ground and foliage. A single tall, dark loblolly pine on the left (balanced by a birch on the right) is a clear contrast to the bright clouds as well as giving some character to the land (the models for these particular trees live on other streets in our neighborhood). In fact, the area where the pine stands against a bright cloud area emerged as the painting's focal point, which Anthony Whiting taught us in recent painting classes is either the darkest dark next to the lightest light or the brightest color in a painting.

     Secondly, painting the clouds as you see them here required gradually building them up in many layers. They cannot be done with a heavy hand (at least, in this style of painting) and yet needed to look as impressive and substantial as they appeared that summer day. They also needed richer color variation and play of lights and darks than we can see in cloud photos.
Reference Photo, Jacksonville, FL

     The acrylic paint palette for this piece includes: Paynes grey, ultramarine blue, cerulean blue, cadmium red light, sap green, yellow ochre, and cadmium yellow light as well as titanium white. When I asked Anthony Whiting for advice as it was nearly finished, he suggested a color mix for the under side of the clouds I never would have dreamed of or tried on my own: alizarin crimson and veridian green--with white as needed. Normally, red and green blends create a brownish neutral or even a rich, true brown (depending on the tones of the original hues), but I was amazed at the warm, rosy purple-grey this blend created. Thanks to Anthony for that! I left some of the shadowed cloud areas of greys and bluish greys I had used originally, but adding some of the new blend (in my view) enriched and enlivened the cloud layers.
Question of the day: Isn't the sky beautiful and miraculous, and isn't the variety in sky scenes across our great land a gift to see?


  1. I love to see the clouds in the sky. Because clouds make me think aboat God alot. And God made the clouds in the sky for us to look at. The clouds look like shape sometime. One cloud i looked at it looked like the lion from the lionking. And some clouds look like teddybears. That why i love to look at the clouds in the sky that God made us to look at. All of the clouds are so beautiful.

  2. Your clouds are indeed gorgeous and I can only answer your question of the day with a resounding yes. 6 years, Mary? From concept to completion? LOL If that doesn't sound like me, I don't know what does! LOLOLOL

  3. Lovely thoughts about clouds, Anon. Thank you.

    Oh Sherry, my painting pace is definitely laughable, but that doesn't worry me a bit since it's just the way I work. It helps me to have a few things going at once so that I can put a painting away for awhile whenever I'm stuck. Some stay put away for quite awhile until the idea of what to do next--or how to fix a mistake or bad area--comes to me. If I had started painting when I was younger, there would probably be works that took me many decades LOL !!!

  4. I hope you will have a open house again and show your painting again. I missed you not having your open house last year. I love all of your painting very much. All of your painting are so beautiful very much. That why i hope you have a open house again. So i can see all of your beautiful painting again. I hope you having a great weekend.