|Wintry Dusk II, pastel, 8x10|
Wintry Dusk II is my demo from my Thursday morning class. This week our snowy subject matter had low light conditions, which presents us with several challenges, especially when working from a photo.
First, without direct sunlight, there's very little definition of values or color in the snow. Add to that what the camera obscures. Even with the low light, the scene is basically back lit, which throws the trees into darkness, causing them to appear very flat and darker than they are. If you paint them like that, they'll appear cut out and pasted onto your painting. The camera will also usually exaggerate the contrast under this type of lighting, not only darkening the upright objects (trees) but overexposing the whites (snow) which tends to eliminate what little definition in the snow there may have been. So my first job is to see what adjustments I can make in Photoshop to correct these problems...
Above is an uncorrected photo. I forgot to save the original version of my actual reference photo, but this is from the same general area. (You get the idea.)
Above is my reference photo after I made some adjustments in Photoshop. I'm no expert in Photoshop, and there are probably a variety of ways to make this adjustment, but you basically want to decrease the amount of contrast, which will bring the values of the darks and lights a little closer together (i.e., lighter trees and darker snow) sometimes allowing you to see just a bit more definition in both of these areas.
With very little definition to begin with in the snow, I used a mix of warms and cools in the correct value, which needed to be darker than one would think, since most of the snow was in shadow. The small amount of snow just beyond the foreground trees reflects more light from the sky overhead, making it appear lighter in value.
Besides the exercise in painting snow, this one was also quite the workout for creating skinny tree branches. When leafless trees are further in the distance, you generally mass in the tiny branches with the appropriate value, without depicting every little branch. But when they're in the foreground, you do need to render many of them. Practice with the various edges of your pastels is key here...whether rolling a round, crisp edge to form a wispy branch or dragging a pastel stick lightly across the surface, knowing how to handle the application of the pastel simply takes practice. I suggest to my students practicing on a piece of scrap paper until you can find the right edge and "touch" to create the mark that depicts the size and shape you need.
Below are some progression shots of this one...
|Block in with Nupastels.|
|Placed in only the largest tree at this point.|
|Added the thinner trees once the areas behind were in place.|
|Wintry Dusk II (completed)|
|Wintry Dusk I|