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Passing Clouds

Richard Bell’s Wild West Yorkshire nature diary,  Wednesday,  9th September 2009

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vegetable boxes
cumulus clouds
cumulus cloud

11.30 a.m. Morrison’s car park,  Wakefield, looking south-east
YOU CAN’T draw ‘a cloud’ because they’re moving across the sky and changing shape the whole time, so it’s more like making a record of a process. We think of them as light and fluffy, but you can’t go about drawing them in a light and fluffy way.

It reminds me of that habitual subject of mine, my left hand, where I feel I have to abandon all sense of what I might think looks correct in the way of elegance and proportion and draw what I really see - awkward shapes and crumpled skin - if the whole thing is going to have any conviction.

It’s the same with clouds; all you can do is draw the shapes, ignoring preconceived images you may have in mind of the perfect cloud, and paint the colours as they appear that moment. Although they consist of vapour, these clouds had sharply defined edges when seen against the blue sky.


I used Winsor blue, green shade, for the sky, drawing with the brush the outline of the cloud, diluting it as I came downwards towards the horizon. For the shading on the cloud I used French ultramarine (a warmer blue than the Winsor blue, green shade) with yellow ochre and a touch of permanent rose.

Vegetable boxes, Morrison’s supermarket.