Expanse. Part 3. Project 2. Landscape. Artist research, Vija Celmins. Exercise. Cloud formations and tone.

Artist Research Vija Celmins  (born 1938) Celmins works in a slow meticulous and photo realistic way. Using found photos and objects as her reference material. Her work has no horizon, reference points, depth or emotion. She paints, draws with graphite, and prints pictures of spiders webs, star fields, moon surface, rocks, ocean and waves, usually in monochromatic tones. In addition she is know for making sculptures of rocks she collected on a walk. Her other print making methods are drypoint, lithographs and mezzotints. She has said;  ‘I’m not a confessional artist, you know. I don’t ever reveal what I am feeling in my work, or what I think about the president. I use nature. I use found images’ Vija Celmins.

(from http://www.tate.org.uk/art/artists/vija-celmins-2731/explore-art-vija-celmins)

Exercise 1. Cloud formations and tone, in this exercise you’ll concentrate on drawing clouds in the same way you concentrated on trees……………..use a variety of mediums to draw with, observe weather conditions….. look at light direction…..movement……draw quickly to capture the contrasts and tonal effects……………………….

Here are my cloud studies from my small sketch book page. I spend a weekend in South Yorkshire sketching the afternoon clouds over the soft hills. I used pencil and coloured pencils, my work was soft and gentle as the clouds drifted across the sky. These clouds were mainly Cumulus clouds with some long Cirrius clouds too. The weather was warm but very overcast, with low clouds often back lit too.


I also drew clouds over The Heartwood Forest, St Albans, it was a fine sunny day with large flat white skies plus some small Cumulus clouds moving from left to right. the light was mainly above with the classic dark under the cloud.


I drew some clouds from my living room window as it was a very windy day and the clouds were quite large and moving quickly, which is difficult to draw. So I captured them in ink, working speedily.

Clouds over St Albans in ink

Using my pencil studies and some found photos of The Heartwood Forest, I created some pastel images on pastel paper of some larger clouds.


Finally, using again my Yorkshire drawings and photos, I painted these images in oil paints on canvases to capture some of the colour and texture in the sky.


Reflection.   I found drawing and painting the sky a very abstract exercise to do. But I loved it. It was challenging to make tonal shapes and forms of the clouds, as they were moving all the time. But working quickly with a soft medium helped me to draw either in lines or using soft shading techniques. I can understand why Celmins draws nature in a photo realistic way as it’s quite compelling and makes you look at every detail. In some of my sketches I did rub out and re-draw as it helped with the construction of the shapes. I also drew with coloured pencil which made me draw in a light gentle way, hence my photos of my drawings have not picked up all the light lines and shades. Using ink helped me to express movement in the clouds, as did pastels. Oil paints took longer for me to construct the cloud shapes, but gave me the chance to blend the colours.

In addition I have painted some thundery clouds with Gouache paints and some with white pen on black paper.




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