How to Paint a Thunderstorm Sky

Written by hope semper
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How to Paint a Thunderstorm Sky
Thunderstorm sky (Hemera Technologies/ Images)

Thunderstorm skies are one of the most dramatic themes in fine art painting. The majesty of a thunderstorm cloudscape inspires awe with its billowing mass of cumulus clouds. The high contrast in stormy cloudscapes perfectly captures the extreme opposites of a destructive yet life-giving universe. It takes practice to learn how to paint a thunderstorm sky well, but there are some common-sense tips you can follow that will help you master this technique.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Thunderstorm photos
  • A high-contrast palette of paints

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    Study and Practice

  1. 1

    Study the meteorological differences between cloud types. Thunderstorm clouds are called cumulunimbus because of their great height and mass.

  2. 2

    Study photographs and paintings of stormy skies such as those by artist James McLaughlin Way. Notice the high contrast between the dark linings of thunder clouds and the bright sunlit crests of each stack of clouds.

  3. 3

    Paint a thunderstorm sky on a vertical canvas for the most dramatic effect. Use a small section at the bottom of the painting for the landscape and fill the entire sky with billowing clouds.

  4. 4

    Sketch the entire painting using a grey-blue diluted paint wash. Leave white areas unpainted, and dark areas painted in several layers.

  5. 5

    Paint the mid-tones of your thunderstorm sky first, and end with the darkest and lightest areas, using the full spectrum of high tones and low tones on your palette for the most dramatic effect. Do not be discouraged if your first thunderstorm sky lacks drama. Observation of others' work and practice on your own canvas are your best teachers.

Tips and warnings

  • Practice painting stormy skies in black and white first, then moved to a coloured palette, as high contrast is the most important technique to learn in painting a thunderstorm sky.

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