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Art Scouting: Cloud Studies

Mar 29, 2013

by Abbey Nova

Etsy.com handmade and vintage goods

Abbey Nova lives on the Upper West Side of Manhattan with her husband and toddler son. She has a master’s degree in the History of Decorative Arts and Design and has worked for museums all over the city, in addition to publishing  on topics ranging from nineteenth-century
silversmiths to the artists of the Studio Craft Movement. Her blog, designscouting, explores the role design plays in our daily lives.

New Yorkers have a special relationship with the weather. We love it and we love to hate it. Navigating my first spring in New York City eight years ago, I learned to 1) always carry a mini umbrella from Duane Reade and 2) buy, and then actually wear, rain boots. I learned these lessons all over again last week after a painful and expensive East Side dental appointment when I got caught in the rain, without — you guessed it — boots or umbrella.

With an hour of downtime until I had to pick up my son from preschool, I dashed into the very dry Metropolitan Museum of Art. Once I’d shed my wet coat and handbag, I wandered. What I found, appropriately enough, was The Path of Nature exhibition now up in the Robert Lehman Wing. The exhibition showcases the tradition of painting out of doors. The pastoral landscapes and scenes of summertime were a reminder of the ephemeral pleasures of being out of doors (for New Yorkers, that’s picnics in Central Park). However, the highlight of the exhibition were cloud studies by Simon Denis, a Flemish painter (1755–1813). The contrast between the entirely transient nature of clouds and the age of these paintings captured my imagination.

Painting studies from nature is an artistic practice that spans centuries. Artists through the ages have studied paintings to refine their techniques and as references for later work. Before the invention of photography, collectors and early natural historians like Cassiano Dal Pozzo commissioned thousands of studies from nature to use as scholarly references and intellectual study aids.

In the era of digital photography and information overload, the idea of painting a cloud to preserve it for later use or study seems almost unimaginable. Yet contemporary artists still produce cloud studies. For urban dwellers such as myself, these paintings and photographs are a simple way to bring a little nature indoors. I have a small cloud painting in my kitchen, where even on cloudy days, I see blue sky.

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Editor’s note: The Path of Nature is up until April 21, 2013. 

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3 Featured Comments

  • ricketycricket

    steph from MutableEarth said 8 years ago Featured

    This is so funny, yesterday I began editing a collection of cloud photography I have amassed over the years into something a bit more shareable. Coincidences like this make me feel like I am on the right path. I always find it intriguing how people choose to frame the image, as more often than not the mass of clouds being captured will extend beyond the frame. I love the movement in the piece by Paintbox here, and the sense of stilnness in , the use of color in Donna Walker's Piece is exceptional.

  • PennyBirchWilliams

    Penny Birch-Williams from PennyBirchWilliams said 8 years ago Featured

    As a painter who paints landscapes, I find clouds fascinating, and often challenging to paint! So many different types of clouds and how they change in the different light and atmospheric conditions of the day. We have a lot of cloudless days with blazing blue skies here in Florida, but then there are the towering thunderheads of our summer afternoons, and everything in between. I can imagine doing cloud studies someday!

  • poplovedesigns

    Andrea Hughes from PopLoveHers said 8 years ago Featured

    Few things are quite as inspiring as those we find in nature, and clouds are definitely up there. The variety of colors, shapes, sizes and mood are nearly as extensive as people are. I remember when I was a kid, my mom painted my brother's room like a blue sky with fluffy clouds, and the ceiling was dark blue with these glow-in-the-dark stars all over it. Safe to say I was jealous then (and even kind of now...)

108 comments

  • lovelygifts

    Linda from lovelygifts said 8 years ago

    Awesome! Love the Metropolitan Museum of Art!

  • MegansMenagerie

    Megan from MegansMenagerie said 8 years ago

    Beautiful!!!

  • andiespecialtysweets

    Jason and Andie from andiespecialtysweets said 8 years ago

    Clouds are so challenging to paint. Along with these Artists, I also love Lucky Hemlocks cloud renderings. https://www.etsy.com/listing/112555949/grey-and-white-cloud-painting?ref=usr_faveitems

  • inthemakinglondon

    Freddy Johnston-Burns from FreddyJohnstonBurns said 8 years ago

    I just completed a painting inspired by clouds, what a timely article!

  • GeorgieGirlLLC

    D George from GeorgieGirlLLC said 8 years ago

    I always wanted to know how to paint artistically. All I can do in paint a wall or trim. Great selections, Thanks for sharing.

  • prchalartstudio

    John and Nacene Prchal from PrchalArtStudio said 8 years ago

    Lovely and inspiring article!

  • knitsbycaitlin

    Caitlin Edge from knitsbycaitlin said 8 years ago

    True beauty.

  • PattiTrostle

    Patti Trostle from PattiTrostle said 8 years ago

    I love this. Along with portraits, clouds/landscapes are one of my favorite things to paint. I love bringing nature inside!!

  • sukran

    Sukran Kirtis from SukranKirtisJewelry said 8 years ago

    beautiful variety of colors.

  • MollCutpurse

    Whitney Dirks-Schuster from TimeAndTrilobites said 8 years ago

    I really like that one with the clouds.

  • auntjanecan

    Jane Priser from JanePriserArts said 8 years ago

    I love these cloud paintings and I love clouds! Wonderful to read!

  • dmoye01

    D. Moye from dotnet said 8 years ago

    I share your love for art work on the ever changing skies. Thanks for this reminder of how important this subject matter has been in art history!

  • MTmaiden

    Helen N. Hanson from NonToxicSpiritArt said 8 years ago

    Abbey, you must come visit Montana. One can spend hours watching the cloud formations swirl and change. Clouds and trees are 2 of my bggest inspirations here. Well that and a few Buddhas, here and there..

  • EdelweissPost

    Patrick from EdelweissPost said 8 years ago

    There is a wonderful issue of postage stamps issued in 2004 depicting different types of cloud formations. They are breathtakingly beautiful and I hope to create a set of weather stationery with these. It is called "Cloudscapes".

  • SorchaMoon

    Sorcha Moon from SorchaMoon said 8 years ago

    beautiful! love this take on art and weather.

  • valeriephoto

    Valerie from valeriestitchery said 8 years ago

    I love this feature. What a great selection of celestial art!

  • RetroRevivalBoutique

    RetroRevivalBoutique from RetroRevivalBoutique said 8 years ago

    These are all so beautiful! ^__^

  • GisieArt

    Giselle from MyArtAndFashion said 8 years ago

    I love clouds!! And I really like your Sky Study. Congrats on the feature. Thanks for sharing!!!!

  • ricketycricket

    steph from MutableEarth said 8 years ago Featured

    This is so funny, yesterday I began editing a collection of cloud photography I have amassed over the years into something a bit more shareable. Coincidences like this make me feel like I am on the right path. I always find it intriguing how people choose to frame the image, as more often than not the mass of clouds being captured will extend beyond the frame. I love the movement in the piece by Paintbox here, and the sense of stilnness in , the use of color in Donna Walker's Piece is exceptional.

  • KellyColemanCoursey
  • opendoorstudio

    Martha Layton Smith from opendoorstudio said 8 years ago

    SO delightful to see these fine art artisans featured. i have taken many oil painting classes and can say from my own experience.. once you begin to think about values and dimension, colors and depth.... just looking at clouds is like looking at fine art paintings... sometimes in a bright blue sky, others cast in darkness...while others are set against a vibrant sunset backdrop. pretty amazing "art " we can see daily...just look up!

  • olusholaj

    Shola from YarningKnots said 8 years ago

    Yup. Studying clouds is definetly the way to go.

  • mattyhandmadecrafts

    Matejka Max from NattyMatty said 8 years ago

    Cool!

  • Stormscapestudio

    Anna Edwards from Stormscapestudio said 8 years ago

    Such gorgeous paintings. There are few things as beautiful and interesting as clouds.

  • SketchAway

    Suhita from SketchAway said 8 years ago

    Beautiful. Nothing as magical as lying in the grass watching clouds, with no concept of time...

  • mvmayophotography

    Mary Mayo from MVMayoPhotography said 8 years ago

    Lovely!

  • sandrostumpo

    Sandro Stumpo from GalleryDiModa said 8 years ago

    I LOVE CLOUDS. SOMETIMES I SEE SUNSETS, WITH AMAZING COLORS AND CLOUD FORMATIONS-TAKE A PIC, AND THE CLOUDS DON'T EVEN SHOW UP. I THINK I SHOULD TAKE A NOTE PAD AND COLOR PENCILS IN MY POCKET.

  • PennyBirchWilliams

    Penny Birch-Williams from PennyBirchWilliams said 8 years ago Featured

    As a painter who paints landscapes, I find clouds fascinating, and often challenging to paint! So many different types of clouds and how they change in the different light and atmospheric conditions of the day. We have a lot of cloudless days with blazing blue skies here in Florida, but then there are the towering thunderheads of our summer afternoons, and everything in between. I can imagine doing cloud studies someday!

  • LivingVintage

    LivingVintage from LivingVintage said 8 years ago

    Nice!

  • DonnaWalker

    Donna Walker from DonnaWalker said 8 years ago

    Wonderful article Abbey. I enjoyed hearing about your seredipitous visit to the Met! Here in Texas, rain is precious, and the sight of clouds is very welcome. Thank you for featuring my painting! (I am taking a short break from painting another with rolling clouds, so this article is perfectly timed for me!).

  • shoprodinia

    Rodinia from ShopRodinia said 8 years ago

    Love the article!

  • emwi

    Emily Wirt from emwi said 8 years ago

    Beautiful! Love this collection. Great list.

  • CafePrimrose

    Amanda Gynther from CafePrimrose said 8 years ago

    love love love

  • jessgreenleaf

    Jess Greenleaf from GREENLEAFblueberry said 8 years ago

    Right or wrong, I love watching Bob Ross paint clouds. :)

  • jujuru

    Judith Rhue from jujuru said 8 years ago

    I love painting clouds! Thanks for sharing!

  • lauraprilltoo

    Laura Prill from lauraprilltoo said 8 years ago

    thanks for featuring fine art, especially clouds:)

  • Lilacskye

    Kate Bauer from MilkandHoneybread said 8 years ago

    great collection!!

  • mazedasastoat

    mazedasastoat from mazedasastoat said 8 years ago

    When my first dog died (it was my first major family bereavement) I spent hours on my back in the garden photographing clouds. It was a very healing & therapeutic experience.

  • crottedebique

    AnneSo Godby from crottedebique said 8 years ago

    Thank you for sharing! I love clouds! I don't paint them, I sew them :)

  • IncidentalGoose

    Joyce Alice from JoyceAliceSTUDIO said 8 years ago

    I love to take photos of clouds.... always think of Eric Sloane when I think of cloud paintings. Some lovely paintings of clouds here on Etsy too.

  • buhnon

    Shantel Nielson from ThePinkRaffy said 8 years ago

    Painting clouds is soooo hard! These are great!

  • pmerriam

    Phyllis from DaliLamaMama said 8 years ago

    Painting clouds en plein air is the best way to capture their ethereal loveliness.

  • modflo

    modflo from modflo said 8 years ago

    wonderful article highlighting some fantastic art...thanks for sharing your finds!

  • TheArtBakery

    K.C Napotnik from TheArtBakery said 8 years ago

    Indeed clouds are so very captivating and awe inspiring! Don't they exude such fierce emotions? The artist who captures their beauty is truly blessed!

  • TheArtBakery

    K.C Napotnik from TheArtBakery said 8 years ago

    Yes! Clouds are so taken for granted! Beautiful compilation of art!

  • WoodrockTurning

    Kerry and Rie from WoodrockTurning said 8 years ago

    I love clouds. I used to copy René Magritte's paint. It's hard but therapeutic!

  • WingedWorld

    Vickie Moore from WingedWorld said 8 years ago

    I love cloud paintings, so thank you for this wonderful article about this subject. Also, fantastic picks of Etsy cloud paintings to accompany the article!

  • annagguiles

    Anna Guiles from annagguiles said 8 years ago

    I love this! Painting clouds is wonderfully difficult; thanks for all the inspiration and thanks for featuring my painting!

  • yarnoverhooksforcroc

    Trish from YarnOverHooks said 8 years ago

    very tranquil...

  • TheresasGourmet

    Theresa Ryales from TheresasGourmet said 8 years ago

    Absolutely Love these paintings.

  • xZOUix

    Zoui from XZOUIX said 8 years ago

    ♥♥♥♥♥♥ infinite skyline, one of the greatest inspirations ♥♥♥♥♥♥

  • SHM2013

    Silvia from MarinaBosettiDesigns said 8 years ago

    Best photo I have ever taken of clouds was just before a thunderstorm. That amboss cloud was just majestic and incredibly intimidating! I still have the shot, it is really something else. Cloud formations are very magical to me, especially when they are close to water.

  • richardlithgow

    Richard Lithgow from RichardLithgow said 8 years ago

    Interesting idea!

  • aressa

    aressa from OriginalBridalHanger said 8 years ago

    Fun post....Love the information and the artwork is great!

  • H88255

    H88255 from HillarysSuperfoods said 8 years ago

    Clouds are so mysterious and beautiful!

  • PollyPainting

    Polly Jones from PollyPainting said 8 years ago

    Lovely work! Makes me want to paint a cloud too now.

  • glitterandstones

    glitterandstones from glitterandstones said 8 years ago

    Beautiful

  • Iammie

    iammie from iammie said 8 years ago

    Beautiful!

  • CoastArts

    Celeste from CoastArts said 8 years ago

    Enchanting. These paintings are wonderful. keep your sense of wonder. And by all means, please keep painting.

  • KMalinka

    Natalia from KMalinkaVintage said 8 years ago

    Great art!

  • clgifts

    CL Gifts from CLGifts said 8 years ago

    Gorgeous artwork. Nice to just pop into the Met for an hour. Sounds divine.....

  • FranceGallery

    France Gallery from FranceGallery said 8 years ago

    Clouds : )

  • Splendere

    Pearlie from Splendere said 8 years ago

    Heard of cloud computing, now cloud art - an absolutely new way of looking at Nature. Splendid!

  • beadeddragons

    Brittany from beadeddragons said 8 years ago

    Clouds are really difficult to master in drawing and painting...but I think some part of me was hoping that this was a piece about finding pictures in the clouds.

  • idiosyncraticvintage

    Susan Smith from IdiosyncraticThings said 8 years ago

    I love cloud paintings! and you featured some of my favorite here; great stuff.

  • gertieloo88

    Mary from WoodenHeartButtons said 8 years ago

    Thrilled to see Paintbox featured here...Such an accomplished artist.

  • poplovedesigns

    Andrea Hughes from PopLoveHers said 8 years ago Featured

    Few things are quite as inspiring as those we find in nature, and clouds are definitely up there. The variety of colors, shapes, sizes and mood are nearly as extensive as people are. I remember when I was a kid, my mom painted my brother's room like a blue sky with fluffy clouds, and the ceiling was dark blue with these glow-in-the-dark stars all over it. Safe to say I was jealous then (and even kind of now...)

  • SPAULEY

    Susan Pauley from SPAULEY said 8 years ago

    I want all of the featured images. Thanks for the great article and picks.

  • Celticcatphotos
  • pinksnakejewelry

    kim rhodes-thomas from pinksnakejewelry said 8 years ago

    Gorgeous Cloud Paintings!!! Great post!

  • cocofaye

    cocofaye said 8 years ago

    Thank you for sharing! And what a beautiful selection of paintings

  • marysworkshop

    Mary Wolf from marysworkshop said 8 years ago

    Thank you for reminding us to look up today and enjoy the beauty of clouds!

  • kgpaintings

    Kirsten Gilmore from PaintingsByKEGilmore said 8 years ago

    "Realistic" cloud paintings aren't the only type available on etsy. My avatar is most often labeled as an ikat design. But, If you stop to consider it as a landscape, you begin to see dark, indigo blue vegetation at the sandy water's edge, reflected, with one puffy, white cloud above. :)

  • behindmyeyeballs

    Stacey Lou from BehindMyEyeballs said 8 years ago

    I love this. Having lived on a sail boat for a number of years, it's always been important for me to be able to read and predict what the clouds mean. Clouds are beautifullll

  • Fullerjewelry

    Jane Fuller from Hoopsetc said 8 years ago

    Lovely - reminds me of Turner... one of my favorite artists. Nothing better than serene and sublime clouds. And represented in art, it just takes you away!

  • tivonista

    tivonista said 8 years ago

    I'd been thinking about cloud art after seeing it on so many blogs, but I love that this post gives me more context for what I've been seeing - along with some great picks! Now I just have to decide between the gorgeous photography and the lovely paintings...

  • samanthahahn

    Samantha Hahn from samanthahahn said 8 years ago

    Amazing. So beautiful and serene. I love Abbey's writing. Thanks so much for sharing these!

  • alladickson

    Alla Dickson from AllaDicksonArt said 8 years ago

    Excellent topic! Finding beauty and enigma in skies and floating clouds....the do bring us to far away lands and dreams. They teach or inspire us to let it go and let it fly....Magnificent! When in meditation tapes they tell you to close your eyes and imagine ocean-I can't do it! I imagine a flowering meadow and floating clouds.

  • ASParkerJewellery

    Amy Sarah Parker from ASParkerJewellery said 8 years ago

    What beautiful clouds! :D

  • kfwaters

    kfwaters said 8 years ago

    Love the cloud images! Great finds - perfect for creating a peaceful bedroom. Clouds also make sunsets much more interesting....

  • ruthwest

    ruthwest said 8 years ago

    Good thoughts on Clouds. I often forget how challenging it is to paint them.

  • NellywithWings

    Nelly V from NellywithWings said 8 years ago

    Lovely. The photography is breathtaking.

  • alexgrn65

    ALEXLITTLETHINGS Gonzalez from ALEXLITTLETHINGS said 8 years ago

    love everything thank you

  • mabcrafter

    Mary Ann Brandow from littlebits101 said 8 years ago

    Painting clouds with watercolors is almost as fun as sitting with my grandmother and seeing what shapes we can find in the clouds.

  • mabcrafter

    Mary Ann Brandow from littlebits101 said 8 years ago

    Painting clouds with watercolors is almost as fun as sitting with my grandmother used to be when we would look for shapes in the clouds. Beautiful, thank you.

  • cbnova

    cbnova said 8 years ago

    I loved your story about being caught in the rain in NYC and going into the Met to dry off and be inspired. What a wonderful exhibit and it was so nice of you to share your clouds with us. Beautiful! lovely! Peaceful! This post reminds me to look up and enjoy the clouds. Thank you.

  • dsizemore

    Donna Sizemore from PhotoDmore said 8 years ago

    Clouds San be so expressive. There are so many different varieties. I have my own collection of cloud images. Love the one you have featured.

  • FUOYE1

    FEDERAL UNIVERSITY OYE EKITI FUOYE said 8 years ago

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  • butenascom

    Ignas Butėnas from butenasPhotography said 8 years ago

    Fantastic collection!

  • LinaNstich

    Lina Rodogianni from LinaNstitch said 8 years ago

    Amazing! I love looking at clouds!

  • bannerandsail

    stephanie callsen from bannerandsail said 8 years ago

    Love this!! Beautiful!

  • NirvanaRoad

    Lisa from NirvanaRoad said 8 years ago

    Even the bareness of winter is beautiful! Nature is majestic.

  • momnibus

    momnibus said 8 years ago

    Thank you, thank you, Abbey! And thank you, Jane Fuller for mentioning JMW Turner. I have always been mesmerized by his clouds, and to a somewhat lesser degree, Constable's. Have wondered about rendering clouds in woven tapestries -- it could replicate the softness (if done loosely, which typically tapestries are not), but the fluidity could be difficult . . . Watercolors which somehow remain wet could maybe capture that essence, water being the source. Just some "drifting" musings.

  • ginaunn

    nnebuogo nwauko said 8 years ago

    wow this is great for more art works try this http://www.unn.edu.ng/department/fine-and-applied-arts

  • KatherineMilesJones

    Katherine Jones from KatherineMilesJones said 8 years ago

    Ooh, absolutely love this! As a fellow New Yorker, I understand that need for bringing a little nature indoors. And all the pieces featured here are just so calming. Loved discovering a few new artists through this post!

  • lizhutnick

    Liz Hutnick from LizHutnick said 8 years ago

    Love this!

  • tnova1

    t nova said 8 years ago

    Such beautiful clouds!

  • QFR1

    QFR1 said 8 years ago

    I can't believe Simon Denis's work is from the late 1700's. that's crazy! so modern.

  • ontheedgedesigns

    Tina Hanks from ontheedgedesigns said 8 years ago

    I am also a cloud lover. Take my share of pictures of clouds and sunsets. I too as a child had a cloud mural on my wall and I decorated my room with yellow, ltd. Blue and white to go with it. Right down to my 10-gallonhouse aquarium that had silver and light blue fish in it!! Boy, I new I was creative @2 a young age (- :

  • skyvalleyjewelry

    Jennifer from skyvalleyjewelry said 8 years ago

    Wonderful article and love your cloud paintings.

  • krayexclusive

    RAY from KRAYExclusive said 8 years ago

    Beautiful Clouds! Love your paintings..

  • krayexclusive

    RAY from KRAYExclusive said 8 years ago

    Beautiful paintings.. love your clouds.

  • krayexclusive

    RAY from KRAYExclusive said 8 years ago

    lovely clouds..

  • angil

    Angela Hansen from AngelaHansenFineArt said 8 years ago

    I love to paint clouds in the landscape too. If you don't work fast enough, they change shape and position and the light is gone in an instant! All transforming the idea and memory!

  • ressamyavuz

    yavuz saracoglu from ressamyavuz said 8 years ago

    Wonderful article and love your cloud paintings.

  • BeaconMills

    Patrick from BeaconMills said 8 years ago

    Clouds are a perennial fascination for me. They never cease to entertain. Those who can translate their emotive qualities to paper/canvas through paint and pen have my deep admiration.

  • artshop215

    Joe Wojdakowski from Wodjo said 8 years ago

    Clouds can be very inspiring for the artist.

  • Celticcatphotos

    Celtic Cat Photos Mary Catherine Campbell from Celticcatphotos said 7 years ago

    I love clouds, they are all different, sizes, colors and shapes!

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