Clouds photo by Lynnette Horn

Are Clouds Really White?

I can’t believe the beautiful day we are having.  The sun is shining, birds are singing and the trees are blossoming. It’s a perfect day to go outside and put on my artist’s eye. Yep, you heard me right. Artist’s see things differently from the average person. It’s a way of seeing beyond our color biases.

In art, color bias usually means how a pigment leans toward another pigment. For example one red might lean more towards blues, while another red might lean towards yellows, like Naphthol Red and Naphthol Red Light. Both are red, but one is better for mixing purples and the other is better for making oranges. But this is not the color bias I am referring to.

Color bias can also mean the influences that affect how we see objects. It is a hindrance to observation. We are taught in school that trees are green, mountains are purple and clouds are white. But if we painted them as such they would look flat and not realistic at all. Take clouds, for example. We’ve been taught that clouds are white so when we look at a cloud we see white. But is it really? If we take the time to push through our bias and really observe, we’ll see  many possible colors in the clouds–pink, orange, blue, grey, purple and yellow.

Pushing past our color bias, for white in this case, is called seeing with our artist’s eye. It takes practice until it becomes second nature. So while you are outside this spring and summer, get your artist eye on and really observe what’s around you. Before long you’ll be making wonderful discoveries and blowing away those color biases for good.



4 thoughts on “Are Clouds Really White?

  1. Linda Duff

    This is wonderful. I agree when we were little and we use to color leaves were green, trunks of trees were brown and yes clouds were white. I know I have a long way to go, but when I go outside I do look at things differently. I look at the clouds, love to see the different colors within them and also the different shapes. Where the sun hits a tree and the shadows and the lights. Will have to take notice when sun isn’t out. Food for thought. L


    1. Lynnette Post author

      Thanks, Linda. A lot of people don’t think about ambient light, but it is everywhere. Think about those great atmospheric photos or Neadeen Master’s landscapes. She captures the ambient light beautifully. Check some of her paintings out.


  2. Joyce Powers

    Love this! I don’t necessarily understand the different light, but constantly notice it. I live in a wooded area and when the sun hits the trees it totally changes the color to different shades of yellow. When I’m out and looking at clouds I’m amazed at all the colors other than white that I see. Today is cloudy so I’ll pay attention. Joyce


    1. Lynnette Post author

      See you are a natural, Joyce! Notice too how the reflective light can take on the color of the object it is reflecting off of. It doesn’t have to be just the surface. What about an apple next to a bowl. The bowl will take on some of the color of the apple where the light bounces from one to another. The more closely we observe the better we are at depicting it in our painting.



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