This was my starting point. What a dramatic sky! I especially loved the dark curve in the lowest part of the big cloud just over the horizon and toward the right. I painted a fairly accurate version, although I amped up the colors, making the clouds more violet and that hint of peach-pink over the hills more pronounced. It was lovely, but it just did not do it for me. I wondered why.
Look at the photo. The sky is full of movement! I wanted a painting with that kind of energy, that kind of spirit: a roiling, glorious cloud explosion. I started cautiously, accentuating and defining that lower part of the cloud even further. I found myself giving it a little curl on the left. I liked that! Why not, I thought? Why not just go for it, make the sky full of swirls?
Worst case, it would fail and I would throw it away. It wouldn’t be the first time. When I was first starting to paint, Jayne Shoup (check out her amazing art: http://www.jayneshoupstudio.com) invited me to her studio, showed me lots of particulars about materials, and answered my many questions. I remember her saying that when she finished a painting, she judged whether it was successful. If not, it went into the fire. That was certainly a freeing thought!
I started looking at the parts of the clouds as just shapes, then made those shapes more evident, adding curls to show the movement. I pressed on, until the painting was no longer an exaggerated realism, but something quite different: a sky full of activity. Finally, I thought, looking at what I had done: Here is the spirit of that sky! This is the result: