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Studying skies: rain, fog, and mist.

Enduring Ideas

Jane Wilson's skyscapes help us to feel a misty hot July morning, a green rain, a clouded sun, veiled moon, or a foggy late afternoon. Actual observation of the many climate variations in our sky will increase our awareness of changes of light, color, and mood. Learning and drawing about rain, fog, and mist may add to students' ecological understanding and enrich their art expression.

Art Exemplars

* Downpour by Jane Wilson (2002). Oil on linen.

* Rain, Steam, and Speed by J.M.W. Turner (1844).

* Pale Morning Sun by Richard Bogart.

* People on a Bridge Surprised by Rain by Ando Hiroshige (1856).

* The Seine at Giverny, Morning Mist by Claude Monet.

Lesson Overview

This lesson provides an opportunity to search out, study, and risk drawing and painting rain, fog, and mist. Awareness of the atmosphere is the key; seeing artists' works may help us to see better the similar relationships of colors and light in our own sky. After discussion of various ways of depicting rain, fog, and mist, students will create a painting.


Enlarged reproductions of two artist's works (Wilson, Hiroshige, Turner, Monet, or Bogart), postcards or photo cutouts of landscapes, chalk pastels, 12 x 18" (30.5 x 46 cm) construction paper (white, gray, light blue, lavender)

Guiding Inquiry

* Compare Wilson's Downpour with Turner's Rain, Steam, and Speed in style and mood.

* Why does Wilson paint such bright colors in a rainstorm?

* Describe the mood, shapes, and colors (bright, dull, light, dark, similar, opposite) she uses.

* Does Wilson's Downpour look like any rainstorm you have ever seen? Why or why not?

* Contrast and compare Wilson's painting of rain with that of Hiroshige in terms of realism, mood, and color.

* Compare Bogart's Pale Morning Sun with Monet's Morning Mist in color and shape.

* How does the Hiroshige print differ from Wilson's painting in medium, color, and culture?

* Have students select the artwork they like best and tell why.

Guiding Expression

* Discuss with students the kind of weather they will draw (rain, fog, or mist), the colors they will use (warm or cool, bright or dull), and the mood they will express {sad, angry, happy, excited).

* Demonstrate various ways to use chalk pastels: point, flat side, one over another mixing colors, rubbing/blending colors with fingers or cotton ball.

* Select a landscape for the bottom of the picture from memory or from small landscape pictures.

* Do a one-minute sketch in white or very light chalk; sketch the horizon leaving at least two-thirds sky. Draw in color.

About the Artist

Jane Wilson, born in 1924, grew up looking at the skies of Iowa; she now observes the skies over Long Island in New York and paints nature's performance in a large sky, ever-changing with time of day and season. She works on almost square canvases of almost total sky, except for a slight strip of land at the lower edge--land remembered from Iowa fields and from ocean meeting the Long Island shore.

Wilson earned her degrees at the University of Iowa, taught in varied venues, traveled to Italy, and arrived in New York at the height of Abstract Expressionism. She didn't feel like painting what others were doing, and began painting landscapes out of her head. Later she turned to still lifes, then cityscapes before doing these compelling skies. Viewers do not know what to make of her "uncategorizable" art. She is much more than just a "woman painter" or "landscape painter." For her, nature shows off a panorama ill the sky and she paints it, always different ill climate, color, texture, and feeling. A sensibility for light and color is evident in her richly textured paint surfaces; light is at the heart of her work.

At times, she combines her memory of earlier skies with her observation of the present sky. By seeing her work, we are educated to see a sky differently and feel it more intensely. We are urged by her paintings to go out and see for ourselves.


Visit for examples of student artwork, additional questions, and activities for environmental awareness.

Heather Anderson is an art teacher, formerly with Fresno City College in Fresno, California.
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Title Annotation:All levels: art and the natural environment
Author:Anderson, Heather
Publication:School Arts
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Apr 1, 2005
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