Fluffy pillows, twisting darkness that exist as home to Mount Olympus and carrier of Zeus.
Orchestrated by Thor to clamor ripples of thunder and summon tines of lightning; bridging our world with Asgard.
Paid their due heed by both sky captains and sailors alike; I have sailed through them, swam under them, hiked grumbly amidst them and blasted through them.
I have lived below them; resting in the neck-tickling grass, watching them dance across skies and swirl into sunsets.
I have lived above them; gazing down upon them from peaks of mountains, skittering with Marmots, littered with rocks and crawling with big horn sheep, passing underfoot as fog, blowing east to become storms.
I know them intimately like old friends; I appreciate them as new and unique acquaintances to an ever-evolving study.
They are one of the softest things from our universe that are the hardest to replicate on paper; one of the easiest to imagine and yet most difficult to personally interpret.
It is simple albeit complex in shades of depth, varying in size, be it spotting a clear blue day or swarming together, darkness en masse as a monstrous force of nature. They are capable of immense growth in a short time, wailing like banshees and dissipating just as soon as they’ve arrived.
Yet this still begs the question, what are clouds?
Well, a cloud is effectively an aerosol, a colloidal suspension of particles dispersed in air or gas, consisting of a visible mass of minute liquid droplets, frozen crystals, or other particles suspended in the atmosphere of a planetary body. Water or various other chemicals may compose the droplets and crystals wavering mid-air.
On our vast blue Earth, clouds are formed because of saturation of the air when it is cooled to its dew point, or when it gains sufficient moisture, via water vapor, from an adjacent source to raise the dew point to the ambient temperature.
They are able to be observed by humans. Seen in the Earth’s tier of sky that contains the troposphere, stratosphere, and mesosphere- the 43-mile deep layer of the earth’s atmosphere where we live. We are effectively viewing that which is the wild blue yonder when we view clouds.
Since Nephology is the science of clouds, included in a physics branch of meteorology, it behooves us to observe clouds situationally. We must visually experiment from our internal perspective and express that externally. Nobody can just pick up a picture of a cloud, duplicate it and be able to draw any or all clouds. Clouds take time to master and need to be drawn from personal experience in a direct setting where the effective negative-spatial-interruption of the cloud against its wild blue ponderous background is paramount in both composition and interpretation. Not to say one must only create art for the sake of art, but learning to draw anything from pictures, without context, removes the personality from the work. In this case, it removes the personality, science and categorization from the cloud. These white splashes, seated among their gray-scale outlines, can be categorized into species with behaviors that change weather and can express foreshadowing given the composition of the work. So yes, they do have personalities and yes, that personality is vital to its reflection in the composition of its interpretation in any given space.
When I look at them, I see ever-changing shapes. These are transformative figures of daily images, both readily accessible visibly and stored in the subconscious for later observational recurrence. Anytime we see an abstract or organic shape, there can be something imprinted on our psyche that is visibly available within the boundaries of the picture. Similar to a word search or an eye exercise that presents a picture jumble, this is the visual equivalent of the adage “One man’s garbage is another man’s treasure.”
Presented with seemingly nothing, a collection of particles can grow to an infinite array for the understanding of gaseous vapors that fill the sky, expelled from powerful storms and machines, via pipes and smokestacks, or cans and nozzles. This opens the typical sunny and blue-sky day to a crackling thunderstorm, a roaring forest fire, or seaside breaking gray matter; revealing the peace and serenity of dusk’s resting of time amidst the bruised and bloodied sky, revealing the last of its reds and promising a clear future with its purples.
But wait! Let us not grow lazy or over-eager at simplifying art into colors!
Amidst the color-painting modes of Renaissance color, be they cangiante, sfumato or unione, there is another way to reflect these shapes if they were void of color. Were these images to be monochromatic and told through only the spectrum of black and white, we are given a way to practice the most perfect form of chiaroscuro. The mode, developed by the greats Leonardo da Vinci, Caravaggio and Rembrandt, gives us light, shadow and therefore, depth. The underlying principle of this practice being the solidity of forms; achieved by the light falling against the object. Clouds are visible because the lights of the sun and moon bounce about, giving us the white shadowed picture against the blue reflection of the sea and deep darkness of space. Imagine a stone or stalactite near the opening of a cave; being slapped with light before darkness falls, like a disturbed wave, deeper and deeper into the pits of the earth, failing to return with a reflection of the backdrop that is the emptiness beyond.
I pity the depths of the Mariana trench, for it will never know the clouds that we see.
As a caveat, I pity clouds, for they will never know the fates we wish upon them, like riding them in search of treasure, or grasping armfuls of them to harvest their soft, marshmallow mousse.
A fickle relationship is the one we have with clouds.
Their absence leaves us dry with drought.
Their abundance leaves us battered and broken after hurricanes and tornadoes.
We leave them damaged or broken with our fires and chemicals.
We grow our crops with their reign over the sky.
Yet, all of these instances come from necessity.
Alas, we cannot summon them with hammers of the gods or control them with magic wands.
We have but control over ourselves.
We wield our graphite, inks, charcoals and papers with not wands or hammers, but rather with our pencils, quills and brushes.
I ask you to take back the majesty of the sky when you draw pictures of your worlds.
Take a part of it with you everywhere you go.
Just don’t forget, go draw some clouds.