Thursday, June 5, 2014


In my last post I talked about the clouds and sky and how I design them for the overall composition.

My skies often have drama but I always keep in mind that they are backgrounds so I don't allow them to outshine what is more important, usually the main subject or theme and I never paint them as an afterthought.
I could make them the primary subject of course, then everything else would step up in support of it.

So even with drama it is always an understated drama, at times just enough to provide texture and participation but not so much it overshadows the rest, even when stormy.
They are a supporting character in the whole of the painting.

Click title under each painting to see original post.

"Union Pacific 4259"

"Catalina Pacific Concrete (Storm)"


Being a supporting character can also mean using the sky to describe the sentiment behind the subject of the painting as I did below by painting the sky with a certain amount of upheaval.

"303 S. Pacific #1"


Or by using the sky in a more subtle manner to further an attitude about the subject where I used the sky (part of a design element) as a harbinger of retirement.

"Harbor Line #50 Crossing"


Or painted in a more dramatic manner as the phantom cloud below. Although it occupies very little of the composition its swooping posture and action plays well to the backlit tangle of pipes and busy energetic composition.

"Oil plant #5 (Phantom Cloud)"


Or used as drama to celebrate.

"Truck at Rest"


Sometimes they loom over the subject in an almost menacing way to different degrees.

"HB Power Plant - Dusk"

"Santa Ana River #3 Footbridge"


Or they may be menacingly fun

"Smilin' Jack"


Directly pound the subject into submission.

"Dark Rain"

"BNSF (Cajon Puddle)"


Other times they linger in the background slowly settling over the subject.

"Oil Plant Backside (w/ Storage Tanks)"

"Oil Plant #3"


I may use them to burn, beat down or choke out the subject.

"Catalina Pacific Concrete - Ruins Study 8"

"Warehouse Rooftop (w/ Palm)"

"Villa Riviera Wrapped for Restoration"

"Study 'Villa Riviera Wrapped for Restoration' "


Or are left nearly white to make a point about the eventual disappearance of the subject.

"Catalina Pacific Concrete (Demolition 1)"


Sometimes my skies contain contrails, as a design element variation, allowing me to carve up the sky instead of relying on the usual clouds.

"Gorman Spring"

"Oil plant #7"

"Sunkist Packing Plant (w/ Contrail)"

"Whitepoint Battery Bunker"


And yes, sometimes I will even use higher chroma or saturated colors in my skies when I need to. You know, happy skies.

"BNSF Mojave"

"Pacific Harbor Line - Weeds"

"Power Pole #5 (2 Buttons)"

"LA River #3"

"Rails, Bridge, Refinery"

Lately my skies have gotten lighter as I explore its subtleties and what I can say with them.

Sometimes choosing an overcast or severely understated sky is the answer, instead of a cloudy or clear blue sky.
It gives the painting a different feel whether it is one of a thick smoldering atmosphere or a cool crisp breath of air.

"Catalina Pacific Concrete - Ruins Study 3"

"Catalina Pacific Concrete - Ruins Study 13"

My skies are never accidental. I always consider how they will play against the whole of the painting and the idea it represents. It is how I arrive at so many variations. I am not painting a sky or clouds just to suit  some design purpose. I am not mindlessly dumping in blue as a background.
I am instead putting down an idea, a thought, a concept, my observations, something about life and using the sky as part of that language.

The sky's the limit (sorry, I had to).


  1. "The sky certainly is the limit!" Great way to end your narrative. Me smiling!
    David one of the many wonderful things that are always present in your fantastic art is drama! Your work always scream in the most profound and almost gentle way great emotion, excitement, and drama! I am glad you mentioned your interest in the sky and clouds. I too always think so much about how I am going to render the sky! Even if is not the focal point! I love wild and exciting storm skies! Grey can be so very beautiful. Hate it when some weather forecasters negatively describe cloudy days! What!!! Now you have me thinking you may just do a huge painting focusing on the drama in clouds and the sky? Take care buddy! Go Kings!!!!!
    Your Stormy Sky and Wild Cloud Loving Art Buddy!

  2. Thank you Michael,
    Yes I love the sky. And you too always have such drama and emotion in not just your skies but also the entire painting so keep on it!
    I always hope my skies communicate beyond a depiction of some weather.
    Yeah! GO KINGS! Can't believe it's that time already.
    They weren't Cup material for so many years then the last few they have been good, long overdue.
    Praying for a second Stanley Cup!
    Thanks and
    Keep painting...

  3. A beautiful post and incredible artwork! I'm happy Michael pushed me over here! I will be back to visit.

  4. Thank you Celia,
    Come back and visit as often as you like, we'll leave the light on. Michael is one of my biggest most enthusiastic supporters, so I can thank him too.
    Keep painting...

  5. A brilliant post David - a veritable on-line art exhibition! It's great to see so many of your beautiful paintings all together like this. I have seen some of them before but the ones that particularly stood out at first scroll were Harbour Line #50 Crossing, Truck at Rest and Oil plant Backside.
    I like the way you paint the contrails. We almost never see them here because of being in such an isolated location. There are never any jets flying overhead at 30,000 feet on their way to somewhere else because we are not on the way to anywhere else! We always see jets that are well into their descent for the airport which is a 40 minute drive from here - or otherwise we see them a short time into their ascent but still way short of their cruising altitude.

    Have you ever seen the book "The Cloud Spotter's Guide"? It is a very quirky book with an English author who celebrates clouds in all their glorious incarnations. I think there is a website by the same person under a similar name. Being a cloud-lover all my life I really related to it.

    Hope all is going well!
    Happy painting!

  6. Thank you Wendy,
    You mentioned some of my favorites too. I am so sorry you mates don't have contrails! You can visit with mine whenever you want. I love contrails, they're so fun! Some days they literally criss-cross the sky there are so many.

    I haven't seen the book "The Cloud Spotter's Guide" but I will look it up. It sounds fascinating and fun.

    Keep painting,,,

  7. What a fantastic collection of artwork! The notes about each piece were so informative and inspiring. I admire the way that you let the sky become such a vital part of the piece, to thoroughly create the atmosphere of the story. And you've shown so many different types of skies here, each with a different mood. I've learned much! Great post!

  8. Thanks Katherine,
    So many variations there are in sky's. It is really limitless.
    I do enjoy the challenges in making each part of a painting work towards the whole. For me that is the fun.
    Keep pushing against your ruts. They can be insidious and must be defeated!
    Keep painting (drawing)...