cloud base planes

To see the field from the air, and to get a sense of the scale of clouds in relation to things on the ground, I went gliding.

Glider pilots pay great attention to cloud formations because they reveal movements of air. They estimate the cloud base, the level at which rising air condenses in the atmosphere. This is usually a flat plane and, as my instructor's ten year old son explained, with experience you can judge its height
 even from the ground. In my painting it turned out to be between two and three thousand feet - typical for this kind of weather in the East of England around midday to early afternoon. 

The cloud base can provide an organising plane in the sky,
 heightening a sense of scale and distance, like perspectival floors in Rennaissance painting.

cloud base plan
texture gradient plan on paper
The clouds are regular, fair weather cumulus humilis, flattened slightly at the
 tops because of a temperature inversion just above them. 

cloud appearance factors


• horizontal lines represent angles above the horizon from the spectator's view point
• the ping pong balls show the fall of sunlight across a regular object at 30 degree intervals from the sun

• yellow lines are the direction of sunlight

• red arrows are wind direction

texture gradient with disc elements

art and science

Calculating the size, shape and position of clouds on this plane can change how you see outdoors. For example, the central foreground
 cloud turned out to be about four kilometres away - about two kilometres beyond the horizon. 
If this cloud fell to earth in the foreground it would cover the entire field! The shock I felt when I realised this seemed to be a good measure of the difference between how things are and what we comfortably (and practically) assume.

By consciously planning and painting these relations, and to some extent internalising them, I gently shifted my feelings about flat landscapes. I began to see the spatial relationship between land and sky more clearly, and to feel more 'at home'  between them.

Insofar as this emotion can be sensed in the painting, this is a an example of how scientific knowledge, including calculation, can add emotion to art. 

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