Most of us, I am sure, have at some point or another looked up at the clouds and imagined the animals we can see in their shapes. This has got a name. It’s called pareidolia. Can you see the two cats fighting below? Or is that just me?
I don’t know about you, but I very rarely look up nowadays, and even notice the clouds. They’re just there. Oh of course I notice them if they’re doing something strange or out of the ordinary, like being lit by a wonderful sunset. But whole days can go by and I don’t even look up at all.
And that is a great shame. The clouds are awesome! I remember early experiences of flying above the clouds and seeing their amazing castle-like shapes rising beneath the airplane. I used to imagine that that was what Heaven was like. I actually Heaven is nothing like that if it exists. The thought of floating around playing the harp on the top of water-vapour actually isn’t very appealing. For one thing, I’d prefer a grand piano, but I’m not sure the clouds could support its weight.
Sometimes, when I’m in the mood, or maybe when I’m on a road trip, I look at the clouds and imagine that they are solid objects, like mountains, far away, reaching up massively into the sky. Actually, if they were, they’d be absolutely terrifying. The size of them!
But as an artist, one time I do notice the skies and the clouds when I’m focusing in on them in a painting. And clouds are actually damnably difficult to paint. Some artists make them look easy. I always find my first cloud attempts on a canvas look like a child’s view of a cloud, like a sheep without legs. The thing is, clouds, for all their apparent solidity, are not at all solid, and there is something of that impermanence in the way we paint them. Paint them too solidly, and they look fake. They look flat. Because that’s the other thing about clouds. they are three-dimensional, just as three-dimensional as the landscape over which they watch. They are built up in layers. So you have foreground clouds, middle ground clouds, background clouds, and all sorts of layers in between.
But I need to train myself to look afresh at clouds. They are amazing! If looking for animals or people in the clouds helps you to appreciate them, do that. If imagining that they are mountains looming over our heads, do that. But let us never get so used to them that we cease to notice them. If they were no longer there, we’d be in big trouble!