The Silver Thread V, ©John O’Grady
8.1″ x 8.1″ x 2″, acrylic and mixed media on deep edged panel, ready to hang.


Whenever I’m making one of these filigree cloud paintings, I start with a large mass of tone for the clouds and gradually add sky, reducing and altering the shape of the clouds as I go along.

Deciding when the forms are finished is purely intuitive and not referenced in any way by a photo.

While writing this, I was pondering what responses help decide a shape or shapes are finished and how one mass relates to another?

A few considerations sprang to mind and might have guided me:

Movement and Static

The movement in this piece was from left to right in a very shallow curve, this is echoed in the shapes of headland and where the light reflections touch the still land.

The slight curve opens up the space to give a feeling of immensity, perhaps like a fisheye lens, don’t you think? Whereas we appear small in comparison.

Detail and Vagueness

Or what some might call hard and soft edges where detail and sharp lines hold our attention and vagueness moves our eye around the painting to blend with or alight on the next detail.

This helps to give movement and direction to a painting.

Shape and Size

Varying shape and size again moves the eye around the piece and adds variety and interest.

Transparency and Opacity

Achieved through shifts in light and dark. In this seascape there are around five or six shifts from dark to light tone.

Placing lightest next to darkest are big shifts and often add points of drama and interest, such as at the top left of the large mass of cloud at the centre, where the light is brightest.

Lightness and Heaviness

This one is a bit vague and is no more than a feeling.

When we look at the painting, I want the clouds to have a solidity and presence but also a feeling that they are light and vaporous while still shifting form. Impossible I know but one can only aspire…

There might be other things I have not thought of. When painting, I do not check these off consciously as if going through a checklist. Balancing one against the other would drive me into an awful mess.

I’d love to hear if you have any thoughts on my thoughts!