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Watercolor Painting Tips, Issue #001 -- Snowy Landscape
January 26, 2008

A Snowy Landscape

More than Blue Shadows on White Paper

See the Complete Article with Illustrations Here
It is winter here in Ohio, and I realize that I haven’t painted one snowy landscape yet. Perhaps, because we haven’t had much snow until now. Mother Nature is late this year.

So as I look out on the silent beauty of new fallen snow, I think about painting.

Unfortunately, I'm recovering from thumb surgery as I write this so I'm having some difficulty putting visual examples together for this issue.  I will update this article with them as soon as I can.

There are dramatic snowy landscapes and then there are the dull ones. To just paint shadows against the subject does not give the viewer a warm and cozy feeling. More people have said to me, that snow makes them feel cold. So many years ago, I set out to find a way to make them feel warm.

If you take a look out the window on a winter landscape early in the morning, you will see that the snow is pink….not white!  In fact, it is never white, but made up of the snow crystals that are like little prisms of color, which appears to be white.

Late afternoon usually brings a more golden glow to the snow. Of course, I am speaking of those winter days when the sun actually shines!

A first step to your painting

Give a mood to the paper before you get into the subject:

  • In some small bowls make washes of your favorite gold, pink and blue. (not together, but in separate bowls!) If you wish to have some tiny sparkle to the snow in certain areas you can spatter liquid masking with a toothbrush in that area before you begin to paint. I use Winsor & Newton Colorless Art Masking Fluid.

  • Wet the paper, and apply a thin wash of the golden color. I use Quinacridone Gold.
  • Then while the wash is still very wet, glaze the pink into it. (I use Opera). They blend into a beautiful hue. You need not rub the brush over and over the paper. Just let the water carry the paint. The wash does not need to be a solid color. It can be more pink or more golden in areas of the paper.
  • Allow this to dry. Then you can begin the painting of the subject matter. You may also draw on top of this wash if need be. If you will be using colors that may bleed if another wash is applied over them (like reds and browns), you might want to put your dramatic shadows in first.

Let's Think About Shadows for a moment

The further away a shadow gets from the object that is casting it, the softer the edges are. Likewise, the closer it is to the object, the most distinct the edges are. Many times all the shadows have soft edges, so the best way to accomplish this is to dampen the paper with a very soft brush so as not to disturb the previous washes.

Allow the paper to lose its shine, then apply the shadow color. The result should be lovely soft shadows. If the paper has not lost its shine and you go into the wash with a brush loaded with water and a thin color, you will produce “blooms” in the wash.

The excess water pushes the previous colors to the edge of the puddle. Now, in certain circumstances, you may want this to happen, but I would suggest waiting for those certain circumstances rather than in the snow scene. I will discuss these blooms in another newsletter.

Many times I complete a landscape with all its detail...and realize that it just doesn’t grab my interest when I look at the scene. This is the time that you mix your shadow color (be sure it is not too gray…but a beautiful blend of red, yellow and blue…heavier on the blue).

Then take a large wash brush, a deep breath, and load the brush with the color and swipe it across the page to create what should appear as a shadow cast by something off to the side….or a cloud above. This leaves a white area near the middleground which forces the viewer into the painting and to the focal point. Voila! You should find it more interesting.

If in this process some of your foreground detail bleeds a bit, just touch it up if it needs to be sharpened. But remember that your sharpest edges, and the lightest light and darkest dark make up the focal point.

PostScript: I hope that you will offer your suggestions on my website concerning techniques that you use...even (and especially) if you work in a different style...abstract or other. And please upload an image to illustrate your point. All of this information will help the struggling artist out there, and give them encouragement to try new things.

Look for the Newsletter section of my website to see all of my back-issued newsletters. Subsequent newsletters will have the link built in. Some mail clients display the formatting differently than others, so it could look much different on my site.

I hope you enjoyed my first issue. Much more to come....

Artistically Yours,

Mary Ann Boysen

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