Looking Up

We have sun in Seattle today. Not a cloud in the sky. This is the kind of day that makes Seattleites smile at each other in a goofy, I-love-you-man sort of way.

So I pick this day to write about clouds, and not looking at things very carefully.

Last year when I was illustrating Dinosaur Thunder (this is my last post about this book, I promise! maybe) – along with stalking dinosaurs and going bowling – I was also researching clouds. I’d never really looked at clouds that carefully before (yes, Joni, I hear you), because clouds are something we usually try to ignore in this town. What I found was that clouds are amazingly diverse, colorful, and full of personality, just as Marion Dane Bauer‘s text describes.

Everywhere I went during the months that I was working on the book I kept looking up to check on the latest cumulonimbular developments and whipping out my camera whenever the clouds were particularly interesting or useful reference. Like this view looking out over South Seattle.

Does that not look like a lion roaring to you? Well, it did to me.

Here are a few more photos from my cloud collection.

I would say to my husband, “the clouds this year are bigger and fluffier and more thundery-looking than before!” and he kept assuring me “no, they’re always like this, you’ve just never noticed.”

Well, today being the exception and with allowances made for global climate change, I think he may have been right. Now that I’ve had another year to look, I concede that we really do have impressive cloud formations here too.

I also discovered in my researching that there are many avid cloud observers out there, some of whom go out of their way to record cloud activity, setting up time-lapse cameras to run for hours over one vista. Some of these videos are inspiring to watch. Here’s one of my favorites:

Those colorful roiling puffs influenced illustrations like this one.

Hurricanes and tornadoes and derechoes aside; seeing the force thunder clouds can wield it is understandable why they are so scary, and not just for children. But that only underscores their allure. Sometimes bunny rabbits, sometimes monsters. Always in motion, always changing. Now I pay more attention and look up more often.

7 responses to “Looking Up

  1. I don’t think I’ll be looking at clouds in quite the same way after reading your post! I especially enjoyed viewing the time lapse thunder storm video. Your post brought back memories of the picture book classic, It Looked Like Spilt Milk, that prompted many children to study cloud formations for the first time.

  2. I love your work and am teaching your technique at Hollins University’s new Illustration certificate program. Are you using paper collage or is any of the process digital. We especially admire your delicate and expressive faces–so hard to achieve in cut paper. Congratulations on your new book!

    • Thanks! The only children’s book I’ve done that uses (some) collage is ONLY YOU, by Robin Cruise. The technical term for that process is Chine Colle. The smaller details like facial expressions are done using stencils. I also make small rubber stamps from erasers for other details too small to print on a press.

  3. First, I love your “This is the kind of day that makes Seattleites smile at each other in a goofy, I-love-you-man sort of way.” This is a perfect description of what this weather does to us here. Second, we’re on a similar quest–I’ve been looking at clouds a lot this year as well, mostly inspired by a cloud unit I had planned loosely this past year and ran out of time for (with E. Carle’s LIttle Cloud and T. Lichtenheld’s Cloudette as anchor/inspiring texts). Here’s to looking up more!

    • I love that you are looking at clouds with your students. Clouds are great to explore both imaginatively, like Marion did with Dinosaur Thunder, and scientifically. The taxonomy of clouds is poetry in itself!

  4. I love clouds, and am constantly taking writing down descriptions of them. I love seeing them from an airplane, too–they look like snow white oceans, or plowed fields, or deserts. Thank you for this post! It made me want to dig out some of my notes and write poems!

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