Monday, January 25, 2010

A Bit of Snow

Recently we painted for a day in the dwindling snow.  From a vantage point behind a slim bush, protecting me from the wind, I looked out on a scene in which the light and sky were changing quickly.  The western sky was dark, cold, and gloomy.  Towards the south the sun was coming through.  So, what colour was the snow?

White it wasn't.  Can't use the paper to portray it.  Besides it was at least two tone - one in the sun, one in the cloud shade.

If you look closely at the snow it consists of small mirror like ice particles.  That is why it takes on the colour from its surroundings.  That is why it can be lighter that the light source of the sky - all those mirror surfaces lining up.  Now, if you open your eyes and use a colour isolator (small hole in a mid value gray card) you will see that the snow is comprised of a number of colours.  In addition, the edges of snow shadows are even more interesting.

Runaround, 10x12, Oil on Board

This painting shows few shadows but two toned snow, part in the sun and part in cloud cover.  There are a number of tones in both patches of the snow.  However, it is about the barn.  The decisions about the snow treatment have to recognize what the painting is about.

The painting was done with a large (#14) flat bristle brush for the direct colour underpainting work, and a #10 flat bristle and a palette knife.  By direct painting I mean that I used the colours I saw (not some gray or earth tone that is later painted over) in the value I saw to paint first the main focus, and then the rest of the scene - always comparing the new areas being painted to the ones last painted.  I find this direct painting to give both more vibrant colour and fast paint application (handy painting where the light changes or the cold bites).

The palette consisted of  a set of primaries - Ultramarine, Cadmium Yellow light, Alizarin, plus Viridian along with Titanium White.  The Ultramarine is a cold blue leaning red, the Alizarin is a cold red leaning blue Cadmium yellow light leans towards green and therefore is cool.  The Viridian is a cold green.  It is weak in mixtures.  Viridian and Alizarin make great violets and cold grays.  Viridian and yellow make great grays.  Ultramarine and Alizarin make great violets and mauves.  I can warm up the cools and cool the warms with this palette.  It is simple and minimizes the decision making process.

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