Concentrate on drawing clouds, creating comprehensive tonal studies in your sketchbook using charcoal, oil pastels, conté sticks and other tonal media. You can also use a putty rubber to lift out the lightest tones and add texture by erasing small areas, leaving pale and expressive traces of paper beneath the medium. Take time to study and observe the weather conditions. Take account of movement. Go out in different weathers and make small sketches of patches of sky and clouds.
I tried using pastels on grey paper thinking that the paper colour would represent the tone of the background sky. I tried to contrast the light and dark areas of the cloud against the background.
I did some quick sketches in my sketchbook to play around with some ideas using graphite pencils, water-soluble graphite pencils, and pen and ink. I tried using a water wash over the non-permanent ink but it created a very dark wash. I also had a go with charcoal and decided I would develop the use of this medium more on a larger scale.
I tried smudging pastels on a tissue and applying it to the paper that way to create a more subtle colour. I was careful to leave white paper showing through. I realised that I was finding it easier to draw clouds when there was something terrestrial grounding them. They look like clouds over trees or a building, but if I take the building etc out it just looks like a smudge.
These two cloud drawings are on A2 cartridge paper using charcoal. The first attempt shows more definite marks and creates billowing shapes and a threatening, stormy sky. The second attempt is more smudged and evokes a stiller day. Both work in their own ways, creating the sense of different weather conditions.
Having tried out these various techniques I decided to try to organise my pastels from dark to light colours and to use these to try to capture the contrasts and tonal effects. I decided just mix up the colours, thinking solely in terms of tonal value, and to see if I could still give the cloud volume and shape.
This was my first effort, which I checked by converting the photo to monochrome:
I was excited that it really liked like a cloud once the colour was removed. So I tried this effect again using more colours on a more classic shapes cloud. This was a fun approach, resulting in a fairly abstract cloud, which appealed my analytical nature and taught me a bit about how to use colours in their tonal range.