Moody, Minimalist Landscape Painting

Posts tagged “rainy road

News, Pictures, and a big Save-the-Date as we Launch into 2018

Hello all, happy oncoming 2018! I have quite a lot to report in this year-end update, both from 2017 and about events on the schedule so far for the coming year.

Atlas Project

Many folks have asked me to send out a save-the-date for my Atlas/Hudson River Valley show opening on Match 31 at the Thompson Giroux Gallery in Chatham New York. I’ll do a separate email soon so that it’s easy to find in the inbox, but here on my blog I can talk about the exhibition in more detail.

This will be the first full-size installation of one of my Atlas Project-themed exhibitions. Later themes might be Atlas/Cape Cod or Atlas/Forms of Water, but I an delighted to be launching this within my own Hudson River Valley/Catskills, both as the theme and the locale of the show. Included will be monoprints, mixed media/collages, and pastels along with the oils, and the Site Map that explains it all.

 

Downriver, 24″x24″, oil on linen.

The Site Map is an integral part of an Atlas Project installation, a map of the show itself which includes tiny monoprints of all of the oil paintings in the show overlaid on a collaged map of the Hudson River Valley. It includes numbered map tacks that show the locales of the scenes depicted; river towns and bridges and a key to the map and the show.

This map will have to be finished and photographed at the last minute, when I am sure of exactly which oil paintings are going into the show.

A side panel is Mapping Memory/Wildlife of Particular Interest that includes lino-monoprints and some text of my associated personal memories. Three panel extensions coming asymmetrically off the right side and top and bottom of the main map include a collage/lino/mono of the upper Hudson, the source of the river in the Adirondaks; another of Hudson Canyon, which continues out to sea from New York Harbor for 400 miles; and a third comprised of short discussion and collage/prints of three local trees endangered by climate change.

 

Hudson Canyon collage in progress, mixed papers (including hand-dyed rice papers) on map on board.

 

New Blog Post

In current news, I have recently published a blog post on the intersecting themes of teaching, independent studio practice, and group dynamic for the artist:

https://scheeleart.wordpress.com/2017/12/28/teaching-creating-community-and-fostering-independence/

I welcome any comments on the post!

Many Things Nantucket

In January I will again be part of an exchange between artists of Woodstock and Nantucket, this time to take place at the Woodstock School of Art. We will be working together for three days in the graphics studio; doing a few studio visits and looking at the historical connection between the two arts colonies;  eating and schmoozing. (What could be better?)

Part I of this exchange took place in September at the Artists Association of Nantucket with a show of the four Woodstock-area artists seen below, who had all taught and/or done a residency there:

 

 

The plan was for the four of us to show up for a closing reception and artist’s talk on September 23rd, and my plan was to to do a tour of the Cape and Islands with my husband, starting in Provincetown, checking in with and delivering to or picking up from my three galleries in the area.

Just as we were coming onto the Cape Tropical Storm Jose was approaching the area, causing concern over the Cape bridges closing as well as cancelled ferries. From Provincetown we saw some amazing sights during the storm, particularly the surf from the high dunes on Longnook Beach.

We had a ferry reservation to continue on to Martha’s Vineyard, and from there I had another res for the fast ferry to Nantucket a day later.

Three of the four artists did manage to get on Cape, or in my case, to Martha’s Vineyard, and then reschedule ferries to arrive for our reception at the AAN. We suffered a rocky crossing and then enjoyed a lovely evening of spirited discussion and camaraderie.

I also arrived in time to pay a visit to my new gallery on Nantucket, Thomas Henry Gallery. I am looking forward to painting some large, open seascape and marsh imagery for the 2018 season there:

http://thomashenrygallery.com/Christie_Scheele.html

 

My residency at the Artists Association of Nantucket in February was one of the highlights of 2017 for me, beautifully intensive and key in advancing the rubric for my Atlas Project:

 

Summer Dune, 9″x24″, oil on linen.

The below was my second prototype for a site map for a grouping of Atlas Project work. From here I was able to take what works best (the monotype thumbnails of paintings that I had done) and change things that I didn’t (particularly the text) for the next map, for Atlas/Hudson River Valley. I would also love to return to Nantucket for a more fleshed-out exploration of of the theme.

 

Site Map with lino map of Nantucket; monotype thumbnails; tracings; writing and letterpress.

 

Fall Studio Demonstrations

 

This fall I did three second-Saturday demo/open studios, starting in October. During the first I worked on  small oil-on-paper pieces, like this:

Study/Headlights, oil on primed paper, 5″x12″.

The below I developed during the November demo, which had the theme of working large in oil. I had a nice group who I can only describe as riveted, watching for about two and a half hours while I painted and explained. Then the mood shifted to jolly when I called for a break and lively conversation ensued over a glass of wine.

The slightly textured surface of this piece is something I love to do every so often, allowing a little more of the underpainting to show through, creating a subtle vibration.

 

Reflected Suns, 32″x48″, to be included in my spring Atlas/Hudson River Valley show.

Here is a link to the video created by the Woodstock School of Art from a painting demonstration that I did there a few summers back:

https://woodstockschoolofart.org/author/christie-scheele/

For the last demo, in December, I worked in pastel, completing both of these during the two afternoons:

 

Oak Bluffs/Lights/Fog, 10″x10″, pastel on paper.

 

Trailing Fields, 6″x22″, pastel on paper.

 

Other Highlights from 2017

I had a successful show last winter/spring with my gallery of 20 years, Albert Shahinian Fine Art in Rhinebeck. It is such a pleasure to work with Albert and Joanna, who are also friends and neighbors in our Hudson Valley arts community.

Hill Beyond Hill, 3 panels of 24″x20″/ea., sold by Albert Shahinian Fine Art

Here is a link to my post on the show, updated to label pieces that sold later in the year, as well as those that went during the show (the others are, of course, still available):

https://scheeleart.wordpress.com/2017/02/11/gallerystudio-a-symbiosis-solo-show-with-albert-shahinian-fine-art/

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In April I went to Florida to do a large painting for my friends Karen and Len:

 

Working in the pool enclosure, enjoying the April warmth and humidity. Last touches.

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During my third year with Louisa Gould Gallery and my 18th or so showing on the Vineyard, we had the kind of year that the artist really looks for. I had some relaxing off-season visits that gave us more time to connect. The crazy Cape and Islands tour in September with Hurricane Jose was followed by several days of sun/fog/sun/fog, rolling in and out, that had even islanders exclaiming. This started as I was leaving Nantucket on the ferry, included a wild rainbow at sea, and continued into the next day while I photographed favorite and new locales on MV and Chappy with my husband. There will be paintings to follow!

This piece, which I delivered to LGG the next month, was of a moment just after the fog cleared.

Big Sky over Sengekontacket, 44″x68″.

In 2017 Louisa and I sold work big, medium, and small and in a range of palettes and formats. When this happens, I feel truly appreciated and at home in the gallery. The below are a few that found new homes since my last post.

Gleaming Sunset, 24″x24″.

 

Whispering Marsh, 12″x36″. sold by Louisa Gould Gallery.

 

Older Favorites Find New Homes

In the past several months I have been delighted to see a number of pieces that, despite generating admiration, have lingered too long in gallery or studio leave my walls for others:

 

Winter Light, 24″x30″, from my December demo/open studio; a view of the Jersey Turnpike with the gorgeous, polluted light of a winter afternoon.

 

Height of Summer, 36″x48″, from my September demo/open studio; a romantic piece with unusual color that has received much attention.

 

Mountain Fields, 20″x24″pastel on paper, a subtle-bright interpretation, sold by Albert Shahinan Fine Art.

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The Luminous Landscape at Albert Shahinian Fine Art continues through the month of January, closing with a last reception on January 27th. I have several pieces in the show and many more in inventory, accessible for viewing. I look forward to the reception, which is also a 20th-year anniversary party, an opportunity to enjoy the warmth of our arts community during the winter months.

http://www.shahinianfineart.com/ChristieScheele.html

En Masse, the dynamic small works show at Thompson Giroux Gallery in Chatham, NY,  continues to January 7th. They have been generating anticipation for my spring show with the many small works they have of mine seeded throughout the gallery, as well as larger pieces in inventory. One of my last sales of 2017 was Blue Tidal Pool, one of my favorite paintings from the past decade:

BlueTidal Pool, 20″X24″, sold by Thompson Giroux Gallery.

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I have a new workshop at the Woodstock School of Art, rescheduled for March 3rd-4th. The theme, somewhat more descriptive than my workshops that emphasize formal elements, is for students to create a suite of paintings of the four seasons.

Many representational painters explore a zone on the spectrum of realism, on one end, and very abstracted imagery, on the other. I have often emphasized the abstract in my teaching, feeling that the go-to for landscape painters early on is to try to copy everything they see within a scene. So my approach is to encourage students to think instead about the needs of the painting, inventing an image that is not a copy but a new reality.

In the past year I have been closely examining my connection to place through my Atlas Project. The theme of this new workshop, more descriptive than abstract, may have emerged from these musings. That said, students will be focusing their attention, with my help, on all of those formal elements in order to create compelling, personal paintings.

https://woodstockschoolofart.org/course/form-color-narrative-landscape-painting-seasons/

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I look forward to a focused, productive year ahead. We have much work to do on the national level, and also need our creative retreats more than ever. I hope you enjoy yours, and am filled with gratitude that you have supported mine. ♥

 

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Multiple Panel Paintings

The Grid.

Those caps are not an accident.

If you were in a BFA program in the late 70’s, as I was, conversation turned frequently to the various methods of exploring the ubiquitous grid by our hero-artists, from Sol LeWitt to Chuck Close. Two great loves of mine in this pantheon were, and still are, Agnes Martin and Louise Nevelson, both of whom used grid imagery in the most moving way possible.

What are the associations with the grid that hold our attention? Order, containment, rhythm, vibration, line and edge, surface and depth…and then all of the artistic possibilities of using it as a framework to break out of.

Agnes Martin, for example, applied the lines on her paintings by hand. It is the subtle variation in those lines that betray the meditative moments of their creation. In the  lithograph below the lines were clearly ruled, but there is all kinds of lovely variation in the surface. (Basic tenant of minimalism—reduce the amount of information in the piece and what is left becomes supremely, gorgeously important.)

Agnes Martin, Trumpet, 1967.

Agnes Martin, Trumpet, 1967.

Agnes

Agnes Martin, Untitled, litho, 1998.

 

Louise Nevelson, often worked with  constructions of irregular boxes painted black or white, asymmetrical sculptures creating an off-hand sort of grid; and other times adhered to a more organized grid, as in “Ancient Secrets”, both below.

Louise Nevelson, Untitled, 1968.

Louise Nevelson, Untitled, 1968.

Louise Nevelson, Ancient Secrets, 1964.

Louise Nevelson, Ancient Secrets, 1964.

 

Mark Rothko, my biggest influence ever, worked with a very reduced grid, just a few rectangles—the epitome of less-is-more. There is a remarkable amount of emotion in these canvases, and they allow the viewer to bring personal experience to the moment of contemplation. This is another aspect of minimalism— open, non-specific imagery invites the viewer to interact rather than being told exactly what to think or feel.

Mark Rothko, 1960

Mark Rothko, No. 7, 1960.

 

  Like all of my classmates, I ate it all up, exploring the grid myself in my earnest art-student manner. After I got over the most derivative phase, I used architectural plans as a basis for a series and a few years later did several abstract triptychs while attending the Royal Academy in Madrid.

When I was looking to bring my exploration of the landscape into new terrain back in the late 1990’s, I circled back to my longstanding affection for the grid and pondered multiple panel imagery. Thinking, at that point, from the outside, I could only see two possibilities, and they seemed a little bit obvious—either dividing one image into multiple panels (an illusion of window panes) or joining several related images into one piece.

This was, kind of blissfully, pre-internet, so I had no idea if/what other landscape painters were doing in this arena. I decided just to jump in and see what evolved. (I still tend to leap before I look at what others have done when exploring a concept that is new to me. It keeps it fresher.)

Below is a recent example of one of these options, and, as so often happens, once immersed in the process I found it anything but ho-hum.

Triptych in Reds

“Triptych in Reds”, 3 panels of 24″x24″/ea., 2013, an example of one image spread over 3 panels with each framed individually.

I have explored the divided field imagery repeatedly over the years, and just now understand that it, too, is loosely grid-based. We’ re seeing it in perspective, which creates the slanting diagonal lines that I love so much.

Returning to my comment about minimalism, I am including the triptych below because I feel that it illustrates well my version of of less-is-more.

One of my handful of favorite paintings ever. The divided frame serves to remind that  this is a painting, so that you can be both in the moment of the wave and enjoying the abstraction of the piece..

“Exuberant Wave”, panels are 30″x30″/ea., 2010, framed in one frame with dividers. (Private Collection.)

 

“River in 5” is an example of one image in five parts, exploring the more extreme horizontal. In single image multiple-panel pieces the subject wants to be quite simple, so often I begin with the size and format and then look for imagery to suit. The landscape that I choose generally has a strong horizon and often other elements that visually link the panels.

I am frequently asked if each panel should be able to stand alone as an individual piece. My answer is that this is not something I look for—often one panel might need to be quieter to serve the composition as a whole. In the piece below, the far left would not work on its own; in the wave piece above the right hand panel would be too static as a single. “Triptych in Reds”, in contrast, is comprised of panels that would each stand alone quite nicely…but it just so-happened that way.

River in 5, 5 panels of 10"x10"/ea.

River in 5, 5 panels of 10″x10″/ea. (Private Collection.)

 

The piece below explores the other option, three separate images. In this case they are of the same stretch of road minutes or seconds apart and so are tightly linked. This also creates a film strip feel, though without a progression that moves the action from point A to point B. Each of these panels would most definitely function well as a single piece, something that I do look for in multi-image pieces.

"Rainy Road/Fireflies", 3 panels of 12"x12"/ea. (sold)

“Rainy Road/Fireflies”, 3 panels of 12″x12″/ea.,2008. (Private Collection.)

 

Starting around 2000 I did a series of four “Samplers”, named after the quilt style, 16 square 5″x5″‘s in pastel. I debated doing them individually and then moving them around until I liked the order, but decided that I liked the integrity and challenge of figuring out the order as I went along and then committing to it. Thus, these  were each done on a single sheet of paper.

Sampler #4, 16 5" panels on black pastel paper,

Sampler #4, 16 5″ panels on black pastel paper, the last Sampler completed. (Privaye Collection.)

There were questions of composition (both within each small piece and for the piece as a whole), color (which in landscape painting is related to season, locale, and time of day), directionality, and type of imagery (manmade objects? more detail or more open?). Simple things like placement of a horizon line had to be carefully considered to create variety and enhance the whole.

From 2009 to 2011 I did a series of  five vertical triptychs in a wide black frame that I titled “Colorcode”, related color being the unifying factor. I have a few more of these frames, so I may pick this format back up again.

Colorcode, 3 panels of 3"x5", vertical arrangement of 3 images united by color.

Colorcode #2,  3 panels of 3″x5″, vertical arrangement of 3 images united by color and composition. (Private collection.)

 

In 2002 I created the Cyclone Sampler, 37 tiny pieces in a vintage tintype box. Below the image is an excerpt from notes that I made about the piece when it was acquired by the Tyler Museum of Art in east Texas in 2009.

Cyclone Sampler

Cyclone Sampler, 21.5″x10.5″. (Museum Collection.)

“The Cyclone Sampler reflects a synthesis of my interests in the landscape as narrative, the listening aspect of working with vintage, distressed objects/frames, and the postmodern use of the grid and serial imagery.

The result of my investigations, these multiple-image pieces are about a sense of contained energy (unlike my single-image landscapes, which most often have a feel of expansive energy), the telling of multiple stories, and the rhythm of the grid.

The narrative in my landscapes is ever-present, though often second to abstract concerns. The image of the cyclone fascinates me on a very formal level—the shapes are varied and gorgeous, with the complex, soft, scumbled edges that I love, and often have unusually juxtaposed colors. The story that they tell is equally riveting — nature at its most intense, both deadly and awe-inspiring. The Cyclone Sampler projects the feeling of energy tightly controlled within the grid, since the images are tiny, but the energy of the twister that they depict is vast. The final decision I needed to make while assembling the piece was to leave some sections empty; after trying it out with all of the spots filled, it became clear that to avoid seeming like a dry and busy cataloguing of twisters, the empty sections were essential to give space and emphasis to the 41 that I chose to include.” 

In 2007 I did a larger piece in oil that is similar to my Sampler series, made possible by a lucky find with a frame that came with dividers for 35 images. The finish on the frame has tones of red, so each piece in it has at least some red, and a number of them quite a lot of it.

Like the Cyclone Sampler, I found that it was becoming too busy, but I knew that with this presentation I couldn’t leave compartments open. I opted to include six very minimalist images using only black and red, inviting the viewer in by creating depth and encouraging the eye to travel around the piece.

"Trove", 30"X48" overall.

“Trove”, 35 3″x5″ paintings, 30″X48″ overall. (Private Collection.)

I found a smaller version of the same frame, and did 16 images with a road theme. Using fewer panels allowed the detail in the many manmade objects to create a rhythm of alternating focal points that doesn’t feel overly busy.

Trove #2: From the Road, 16 panels of 3"x5"/ea.

Trove #2: From the Road, 16 panels of 3″x5″/ea, 2010.. (Private Collection.)

I am currently working on one last version of Trove, this with a weather theme, which I will exhibit in my solo show at Gold Gallery, February 18-March 21, 2015.

Final Trove in progress.

Final Trove in progress a few weeks ago in my studio.

 

A vintage box or tray that has several compartments always provides an enticing challenge for a multi-panel piece, even more so because no two are alike.  My choice of imagery follows the same idea of strong horizontal or vertical elements to link that panels, and also needs to visually mesh perfectly with that vehicle (for more on this, see my earlier post: https://scheeleart.wordpress.com/2013/02/18/vintage-boxes-slates-and-siftersthe-occasional-found-object/).

Winter in 6,

Winter in 6, 2013. (Private Collection.)

 

"Smoke in Four",  a distressed, compartmentalized box that was a lucky find. (Sold by ANG)

“Smoke in Four”, 2007. (Private Collection.)

 

Recently I did a commissioned piece in two trays from a vintage  fishing tackle box. Many of the  images are from places of significance for the couple, and I worked with a combination of diptychs and single panel pieces, which created an interesting challenge while finalizing placement. The view of Opus 40 on the upper right was the only panel that didn’t get moved around repeatedly in the process.

Commissioned piece in two trays, 2014.

Commissioned piece in two trays, 2014.

 

 With multi-image paintings, concept and execution are both complex. They generally are thematic, and I always find that these pieces are a wonderful balance to the more open minimalism that I normally work with.

 Finally, my Affinity Series, oil on linen with frayed/distressed edges on board overlaid with graphite gridding—about which I will write a separate post another day—can be expressed in the diptych and triptych format as well. In this series I have incorporated gridding into the image itself.

Affinity/Duo/Palms, 2 paintings of 16"x8"/ea.

Affinity/Duo/Palms, 2 paintings of 16″x8″/ea.

 

Recently, I had a vision for a different type of multiple image piece, now almost finished (and also headed for my Boston show). But that, too, I’ll describe in another blog post—exploring how a new idea is conceived and executed.

 I choose to do a multiple panel painting for several reasons. Most importantly, I like variety in the studio, so today’s choice of format, color, and type of imagery is likely to be different from the piece I just finished. That is also why I feel the need to come up with new series from time to time (see my post on this subject:  https://scheeleart.wordpress.com/2014/03/20/staying-fresh/).

And then there is the reference to the grid, an association that is interwoven through my own history as an artist and is, much like with food, my
“comfort art”.


The Marker Piece

I have been puzzling over what makes a piece a standout within my body of work. It is not a question of “better”, nor of “favorite”. There is consensus around these pieces, and the five I have selected (more in future posts!) have also withstood the test of time—they date from 1993 to 2008.

A major attribute that makes these paintings stand out is that they all push a particular direction to the furthest point along my spectrum. There are a number of avenues of exploration that have held my interest over the course of years, allowing for many subtle permutations along the way. These five paintings epitomize the categories that they represent—signposts, in their way, whether they came early or later .

Dark Castille, 42″x60″, 1992. (Private collection.)

My plan for this piece was to do a scene of Castille, complete with red soil and olive trees. (I much later did the image with additional detail as a pastel, which I also consider a marker piece, as discussed below.) This was all before I started working on the dark ground  that has long been part of my technique, so I created an underpainting with black oil to create the mass of the the large landform and used a light grey in the sky. I carefully scumbled the top line  to embed the tree shapes and hill into the sky.

When I returned to my studio ready to work back into the now dry first layer, I was struck by how powerful the piece was in just black and white, and so decided to find a way to honor that simplicity. Brushing a little thin almost white into the sky created a soft vibration there, and setting the piece on the floor, I added a wash of deep green, leaving the edges of the piece black.

This piece went so far in the direction of a totally abstract, minimalist color field painting that once it was finished, I felt thoroughly satisfied and never again felt the need to take another piece quite so far in that direction. With “Dark Castille”, I managed to wed landscape imagery with the open feel of  a Rothko.

Red Fields, 20″X24″, pastel on paper, 2005. (Private collection.)

“Red Fields”, hewing more closely to the original reference, pushes my palette in exactly the opposite direction as “Dark Castille”. It is not only one of my brightest pieces ever, but also has a larger range than most—quite bright blue in the sky. resounding reds, then into rusts and greens, both olive and sage. The matte surface of pastel on paper is ideal for creating a brighter and more inclusive palette that feels rich rather than jarring. Like the first version above, the treeline at the top of the hillside is the kind of focal point that I find absolutely delicious to paint. The detail and rich color in “Red Fields” makes me profoundly happy.

Rainy Road/Fireflies, 3 panels of 12″X12″/ea., 2008. (Private collection.)

“Fireflies” is simply the blurriest painting I have done to date. The softness captures the resonant beauty of a rainy summer day in the Catskills, tonalist greens and blues deepened by the low light. Since I have been doing paintings incorporating approaching headlights, I have been astounded at how different the points of light can be, depending on atmospherics. Here, they are oh-so-soft, and yet they buzz around the picture plane with a great deal of energy.

This effect is achieved because this triptych is, rather than one image divided into three panels, actually three different paintings. As I was working on them separately, I repeatedly brought them together to check on how they were interacting, establishing variation in placement of headlights, horizon, roadway, and other elements. The eye is thus invited to travel around laterally  between the panels, complimenting the implied movement of the headlights moving toward the viewer..

Divided Fields, 24″X72″, 2008. (Private collection.)

“Divided Fields” sparks two of my favorite discussions. One is about the summer palette of blue sky and green field or grass, and the other is about minimalism and color field painting.

This piece explores flatness and abstraction in a manner different from “Dark Castille” . The picture plane is divided up into long, horizontal wedges within the hillside, and the sky functions partly as one horizontal shape, and partly as clouds/blue sky. The upward direction of the clouds brings the eye back down to the horizon, while their diagonal directionality creates a rhythm  that helps the eye sweep along the expanse of the entire piece, almost like reading—left to right. The flatness is far from absolute, with lots of soft scumbling and hue variation to create vibration within the planes of color.

All of my pieces create mood, though I do not aim to create narrow, specific emotions so much as broad, subtle and complex resonance. Moody, tonalistic paintings are second nature to me, loving as I do weather and dense atmospherics.After some years of that exploration, however, I wanted to be able to also capture the sheer joy of a sunny summer day. The open, abstract nature of “Divided Fields” pairs strong blues and greens with the assertive lines of the field divisions to walk exactly the line that I am after—a duality of  delight in time/place/season along with the pure pleasure that planes of composed color can provide.

Dark Cloud, 40″x50″, 2006. (Private Collection.)

“Dark Cloud” also  has a reductive, color field affect, but departs from the pieces discussed so far in the dynamic of the cloud. There are only three shapes in the whole piece, including the negative space of the sky, and the cloud is the most assertive of them.

Clouds can be, and be painted, in countless ways. In this painting I pushed the cloud into the most dominant position of any piece that I have done, partly by creating just a single cloud, and partly by its size and color. I worked the subtle variations within and at the edges the way I do with any cloud, so that they are embedded in the sky rather than seeming to float on top of it. Yet, this cloud is clearly read as a shape that dialogues aggressively with the wedge of hillside below. The landform holds its own, in turn, by being totally black and having a tree lifting into the sky in such a way that the cloud seems halted by it. With this strong play of elements, “Dark Cloud” contains an edge of tension resulting from both narrative and formal elements.