Waves and clouds are frequently included in my paintings. Here are some details of them, cropped from my work:
There are two methods I use to get wave or cloud effects.
The first method uses washes on a glossy surface and is from p. 99 of my book Acrylic Illuminations.
(1) Make your surface glossy. Simply apply a coat of gloss medium over your painting when you are ready to add cloud or wave effects. If you are just starting with a blank canvas, first apply a paint color then the gloss medium. In my book example I started by painting the canvas a rich black color under the gloss. (2) When dry, apply a wash (60-70% water to any paint color using fluid paints, or 90% water if using heavy or thick paints) over the gloss, and (very important!!!) do not play with it – just leave it alone to dry. If you move the wash around too much it won’t work. When dry it should have puddled up into some interesting patterns and shapes. Most problems with this technique occur when not enough water is used. The wash should move around in a puddle when you apply it, and should stay puddled while it dries.
The second method to get wave and cloud effects is to paint them using good old classical painting techniques with paint on a brush. The old masters have been doing this for years. Most of my waves are painted this way, as the wash technique described above produces happy accidents sometimes, but uncontrolled effects such as these don’t work other times.
There is a myth that abstract painters can’t paint, or that traditional painting techniques are unnecessary to paint abstraction well. I do believe it is my classical painting skills I learned in art school, in workshops and through many years of practice that are key in getting my abstract paintings to work. I have dedicated most of my recent years using acrylic, exploring ways to invent new tricks and techniques for unusual contemporary painting effects. These tricks are fully shared in my books and videos. I have not included traditional painting techniques in these instructional tools because those are already being taught. I figured I didn’t have to repeat it. I recently checked the internet and found many good instructional videos for traditional painting. We are fortunate to be living in a time where abundant instruction is free and easily accessible.
The waves and clouds I paint, compared to others I found online, tend to be softer because I blend them more, and with greater transparency because I add more mediums to increase their transparency. Both blending and transparent applications such as glazing are in all my books and most of my videos because they are essential painting techniques.
I like to make sure I use a combination of abstract tricks (like pouring) along with classical painting techniques in my work. That is one of the things, I think, that helps make the work intriguing. The waves and clouds, however, are painted traditionally. No tricks. No pouring, no hair dryer pushing the paint, no combs – (these are other suggestions from folks who emailed me asking how I paint them.) Just hours of mixing color and carefully applying the waves.
I attached a few paintings from other painters I found online using traditional techniques for waves and clouds.
These are from 19th Century French master Gustav Courbet.