Miller Springs Painting

Plein Air on a Cloudy Day: Mission Impossible?

Miller Springs Painting
6×8″ acrylic. This is a scene of one of the cliffs at Miller Springs.

It was cloudy yesterday with the promise of more clouds and possible rain. The problem with painting on a day like this is that everything looks flat. Hard shadows from direct sunlight give trees, barns… any structure some sense of form, so without it, it’s “flat”. Yet, there’s bound to be positives to painting when it cloudy, right? That was my mission.
I found three very good reasons to pick a cloudy day to paint:

  1.  Colors are more vibrant since the sun doesn’t bleach it out,
  2.  Shadows don’t change as quickly,
  3.   Atmospheric perspective is better, making it seem like distant hills are even farther back.

About a mile down the trail, the sky was gray, but still very light. Soft shadows were under the trees, but the scenes definitely looked flat. Heading up towards overhanging cliffs to see what it looks like, it started to rain. I climbed up under the overhang and realized it look perfect! The sky was still bright enough to illuminate the the undersides of the limestone cliff, the shadows were there, but not changing as much and the colors of the hillside in the background were more muted creating a sense of distance. Finding a great spot on a boulder, but under the overhang, it was all set.

All set and ready to go.
All set and ready to go.

Sometimes the answers come when you least expect it and seem to present themselves to you. It was a tough, technical scene, but I can’t imagine a better way to spend a cloudy day.

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