No stranger to painting directly from nature, J.M.W. Turner went to extraordinary lengths to capture its fury in Snow Storm – Steam Boat off a Harbour’s Mouth. As the story goes, the 64-year-old artist had sailors lash him to a steamship’s mast for four hours in the midst of a raging storm so that he could experience its effects firsthand and — if he survived — to record the scene later on canvas.
Today’s watercolor artists find similar inspiration in the dark skies, voluptuous cloud forms, and dramatic colors of storms.
“I painted this scene during the 2017 Olmsted Plein Air Invitational in Atlanta, Georgia,” says Vladislav Yeliseyev. “Just before the event started, a fire caused a bridge to collapse on one of the most heavily traveled highways in the city. As if that wasn’t enough, a terrible storm rolled in one morning that had radio and television newscasters advising residents to take shelter with the threat of a tornado warning. That’s when I knew I needed to go out and paint.
“To paint carelessly on the street, however, would be too dangerous, so I arranged to paint the storm from the balcony of one of the local participants, a wonderful watercolorist named Kathy Rennell Forbes. There, from the 14th floor of her building, we executed a couple of paintings, treated to a fantastic view, which just does not happen every day. I’m always on the lookout for these types of weather conditions, because watercolor seems to have been created precisely for this kind of mood and dramatic color shifts.”
These paintings were originally published in PleinAir Magazine‘s Portfolio column.