Saturday, February 13, 2010

Winter Wonderland

Secrets of Painting Snow

It feels luxurious to be nestled in our cozy ranch house enjoying a cup of rich, black mocha java, sitting next to our fireplace glowing with orange and red flames, while we watch the latest winter storm visit our mountain home. The wind howls through the trees like a locomotive as it steams into the train station. Gusts of wind 50 mile per hour shake the snow-laden branches of the oak and dogwood trees freeing them of the heavy snow that entombs them. Bursts of snow from these branches fall to the ground adding to the 6 feet of snow that has already fallen over the past 3 days at the Grand View Ranch. More of this fantastic gift from nature is sure to come. The power lines, burdened with heavy ice and snow, lie along the road. The poles have snapped into two because of the weight of the snow, and the electricity has been off for days. We spend our nights reading by candle light and waiting for the snow to stop so we can plow our way out. The search and rescue helicopters race up and down our hill searching for homeowners in trouble. Although I feel frustrated that we are snowbound and unable to get out of the house, I am a lover of landscapes and painter of nature, and I am present to the opportunities of the moment. The assets of this wonderful spectacle inspire me, and I take the opportunity to paint the snow-covered Dogwood tree from my studio window.

Secrets of Painting Snow

Painting winter snow can be tricky when an artist has so many values of white to work with. The key is not to think about the color of the snow. Instead, think about the temperature of the color (warm or cool) and the values in the snowy landscape (from light to dark). Accurate reflection of temperature and values are essential aspects of a painting. Snow scenes have white with cool colors like blue, green and violet added to the white that contrast with white with warm colors such as yellow, orange and red added. When painting the highlights or brightest areas of snow, always add a little orange to your lightest value. This will give the viewer the feeling of sunlight. The shadow colors of snow are always darker and cooler than you think, especially when contrasted with lighter highlights. I always mix a neutral grey using blue, red, and yellow. This mixture along with white will make many different values to paint the shadows. When painting snow, use lots of paint to sculpt and create texture in the highlights and shadows. Paint as if you are a millionaire with a storeroom of paints to use at your whim and freely enjoy the luxury of abundance.

I have devoted my life to touch, move and inspire others to see and appreciate the beauty of art and its relationship to nature. And, as we travel through this great land with our 1970 Silver Streak trailer following behind our truck, I passionately desire to share the power and beauty of nature and art with others. For a FREE book on everything I know about painting go to