I certainly would never have thought that I’d ever celebrate winter, but here I am, doing exactly that this morning. We live in the “Heart of America” — about forty miles from Kansas City — and winters here can be brutal. Recently the temperatures have hovered around 10 degrees Fahrenheit with wind chills of -20. Even though winter is officially only a few weeks old, we’ve already had ice, sleet, and snow. On the bright side, however, the snow that’s fallen has been light, only a few inches, unlike some of the winter storms that leave us with as much as a foot or two of the white stuff.
This year my husband and I can both enjoy winter a bit more than usual because he’s now retired. He doesn’t have to get up and drive nearly an hour into the city for work. I don’t have to worry about him being out on the roads in the early mornings or wonder if he’ll be able to make it home safely at the end of the day.
So now, with those concerns removed from my mind, I can look out the window as snow falls and think about how truly lovely winter scenes really are. I’ve chosen “Winter Landscapes” as a sort of theme for my watercolor painting time, so today I’m sharing another of my snowy scenes. It’s one that started out as a watercolor and then… well, it changed.
As with other landscape watercolors I’ve done recently, I’ve left a white border around this, and it does make it look better. I haven’t yet found an easy way to “mat and frame” paintings with any free photo editors. If you know of an online program that’s simple to use, please let me know.
That said, I don’t count this as one of my best winter landscape scenes. Snow is difficult to paint. While I’ve learned to create snow and snowy effects with oils, it’s proved to be a much greater challenge with watercolor.
That’s how I began, but I wasn’t getting what I wanted from my watercolors. I had chosen a very specific color palette — a pale blue and a light pink. After a little frustration, I set the watercolors aside and reached for two Dina Wakley Media Acrylic Paints — Sky Blue and Magenta.
I liked the colors, but again, I couldn’t get quite the effects I wanted with the brush I was using. I grabbed a sponge, applied a bit of “sky blue” acrylic to the edge and “dabbed in” snowy branches.
My snowy branches don’t look like snowy branches. I do like parts of the background where I used a bit more water to soften the colors, so even though this painting didn’t work out for me, it’s given me a few ideas on where to go from here and how I might be better able to create snowy scenes in the future.
I did have a few other ideas. I considered adding white gouache or even white acrylic gesso with my sponge. That might have actually worked. At that point, though, I decided enough was enough for one morning. I wasn’t happy with the trees I’d drawn in (using a Crayola watercolor pencil) and I had other things to do, so I set this painting aside to appreciate the things I do like about it.
Now, where does this leave me in my watercolor studies? Where do I go from here? Good questions. I know how important it is for me to learn on my own and to learn by doing, yet I know, too, that sometimes I’m going to need a bit of advice. So, my next “stopping point” on this winter watercolor journey is American Watercolor, specifically to a feature by artist Sandra L. Strohschein:
Artists’ Network also has helpful information on painting snow with watercolor and acrylics.
Matt Fussell, the “Virtual Instructor” also offers an easy winter watercolor landscape lesson on his YouTube channel.
So, even while I continue my “hands on” learning, I have to recognize and accept that there will be times when I need a bit of advice, a little helpful “how-to” for different techniques. I’ll take the information I learn and incorporate it into my own “trial and error” painting method. Hopefully it will lead to better winter scenes with more realistic snow — in both my watercolor paintings and my oil landscapes.
Wherever you are, stay safe and warm!