My Lessons | Sky & Clouds | Supplemental Videos | Student Critiques


In this month’s collection of lessons, Marla illustrates the essential techniques for painting a variety of dramatic skies. The light from the sky pervades every landscape and having at least a working understanding of types of clouds, how they behave and how they relate to the sky above them is essential to creating convincing skies in your paintings. In this study, Marla suggests an approach for knitting the sky and clouds together into a unified whole, however this shouldn’t be thought of as a formula but rather as a catalyst to inspire your own creativity when approaching our subject. No two skies are alike - that’s all part of the excitement of painting clouds and sky! With a bit a practice you’ll be able to create luminous and dynamic skies. The examples and exercises will increase your skills and confidence.

Painting Clouds & Sky

It’s easy to get the sky too dark and turn the clouds too muddy if you don’t know how to go about layering your pastels. This lesson illustrates 5 proven steps on how to knit sky and clouds together to create a luminous and atmospheric pastel painting.

A Sunset Sky

Creating drama and mood in the landscape is very much a part of what motivates us to paint, but capturing these fleeting moments that we experience can be a big challenge. What’s more, they can come across as trite and amateurish if we’re not careful. In this lesson we will tackle a moody panoramic sunset.

Clouds and Silhouette

We want to be able to paint these types of vibrant, breathtaking scenes... the ones we want to run for our cameras to capture. They are momentary and elusive, but they can be rather tricky to paint. We have to carefully orchestrate value, hue and especially intensity to capture them. What complicates painting silhouetted skies is the fact that most photos darken the foregrounds to almost black. There are some things we can do to make sure we create a luminous sky and a foreground that doesn’t appear to be pasted on top of the sky and feels as though it’s an integrated part of the whole scene!


These videos will extend your understanding of the key concepts presented this month. Spend some time with these. Some of them are YouTube videos available to the public but they fit nicely with our study, so I wanted you to be aware of them and take a look.

Carlson’s Theory of Angles

This theory provides a guide or system to establish the values of the primary planes or masses in the landscape. The key to this theory is that the elements in a painting that an artist must deal with have different values not because of any color they have but because they present different angles to the light that falls on them from the sky.

Aerial Perspective

Think the effect of aerial perspective as looking through curtains of atmosphere. The more curtains (e.g. dust, moisture, smoke) we are looking through, the more pronounced the effect of aerial perspective will be. This video will help you use this phenomenon to strengthen your paintings.

To Blend or Not to Blend

The video addresses a big debate among pastelists: to blend or not to blend. With blending, you’re making a gradation within a form or soften the edge of where two forms are meeting up. One of the reasons pastel is so beautiful is because of its luminosity, and over-blending can kill that luminosity. One of the basic skills you need to learn in using pastel is blending. You can use your fingers, a cloth, tools, solvents just to name a few. But each has its pros and cons. For example, using your finger breaks down a pastel’s crystalline structure and can dull the surface. Therefore, no matter what method you choose, the most important thing is the technique.

How to Paint Beautiful Clouds in Pastel