Thursday, January 10, 2013

The Many Colors of Snow, Part 1

Off Road Tracks, pastel, 10x8
This week, and for the next three weeks, I'm having my pastel classes paint snow scenes. Each year around this time, I visit a beautiful rural area of Minnesota where I visit family, and return stockpiled with new reference photos of snow scenes. On this most recent visit, I was also lucky enough to paint there on location in the snow several times. It's well worth the many layers of clothing to do this, since there's no other way to accurately observe what snow really looks like under various lighting conditions. Even the best photos can't capture this correctly.

Since I don't get to paint snowy landscapes on location very often, I wanted to be able to share my firsthand observations with my classes while they were fresh in my mind. So snow scenes it is for the next three weeks!

This week our subject matter was under sunny conditions, with bright warm highlights and juicy, bright blue and purple shadows. Below are a few shots from Wednesday's demonstration...

For my underpainting, I used a dark blue Nupastel to lightly sketch in just the light/dark shapes. I wanted to keep things real loose in this part. But admittedly, once I wet this one down with the alcohol wash, it got away from me a bit. I explained to my class that the shadows in the snow were not as dark as the darks of the foreground trees, and I wanted to set that up from the start in this underpainting. Didn't happen here. So I had to be sure to make that right as I proceeded.

As I blocked in each area as a large shape, I determined the color temperature I needed.

The sun was hitting the light areas of the snow directly, so that would need to be warm, but with cools mixed in to give the snow it's reflective quality.

From here, I looked for opportunities to harmonize the colors used throughout, along with putting in some of the finer details such as the grass, thin branches and snow on the trees.

"Off Road Tracks" was painted on Uart 320 mounted to acid free foam board.


  1. You are so generous to provide the demo for this magical piece. Thank you once again!

    1. Thanks, Susan! It's actually helpful to me as well to be able to look back at past demos that I've recorded and see what methods worked better than others. I appreciate the feedback!

  2. Thanks so much for a very helpful demo, Barbara. I appreciate seeing all the steps you took to make this lovely painting!

  3. Thanks for sharing the "how-to" with us.