Wednesday, January 16, 2013

The Many Colors of Snow, Part 2

Heading Somewhere Warm, pastel, 8x10

We're into the second week of our snow series in the classes at my studio. This week we addressed overcast, flat lighting. This is a challenge on the eyes, especially working from a photo taken with my phone. I did have the advantage of having painted this same scene briefly on location, which helped to explain some of the small value and color shifts not readily noticeable in the photo.

The best way I found to approach this type of lighting situation, especially when working from a photo, is to use what you already know about values and color temperature to further define what's not evident in the photo. For example, your values should diminish (lighten) as they recede...more so in very overcast, moist conditions. Photos (especially bad photos) won't always give a true representation of this. The snow will be warmest where light is hitting it directly, but also sometimes has a tinge of warmth in the distance. And even with the flat light of the overcast conditions, the snow still has reflective qualities that call for combining warms with cools.

There are indeed value shifts in the snow here, but very minor ones...the hard part is keeping the overall high contrast look of the trees against the snow and sky, with only very subtle value changes in the snow. Lots of hunting through your pastel box is normally required for just the right combination of values here!

Below are some demo shots of how this one came together...

I used four Nupastels in different values to block in the major shapes and values. Since high contrast values were important here, I wanted to get that started in the underpainting. I used a warm pink and lavender in the snow, since I would be overlaying much of that area with cools. I would be able to use the warms of the underpainting to peek through and provide some nice contrast of color temperature.

Alcohol wash to set the base underpainting in place.

Heading Somewhere Warm was painted on mounted Uart 320.


  1. Thank you so much, Barbara. Snow almost always stumps me. I end up flailing about hoping for salvation. This demo provides a wonderful framework.