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Tuesday, January 24, 2012

The Challenge of Sketching and Painting Snow

The challenge of sketching snow in a journal is an ongoing dilemma, as it tends to show up flat and non-descript unless there are some lively contrasts around it. Living in Western Colorado, I have a lot of opportunities to try my hand at winter scenes (way too many!). Today we woke to about 4 new inches of snow on the ground. The landscape was magical--everything turned into a Winter Wonderland, sparkling white. A hush enveloped the land. The sky and ground were essentially the same color (white-ish) and the snow-laden trees, grasses, and cattails were coated with mounds of pure white fluff. This was the view from my front window this morning, looking out across our acre, our neighbor's log home, and the fields beyond. But I was so overcome with the beauty of it all, I had to sketch it during my morning tea.

I was lucky enough that the next page in my journal happened to be tan (I bind my own journals and sometimes mix papers in them), and I knew it would make the snow stand out against the dark background. I whipped out my portable gouache palette and used a Derwent Blue-Grey colored pencil to sketch the basic shapes in, then laid in swashes of white gouache. The gouache covered the tan paper, but an interesting contrast of tones developed from different areas where the background showed through. (The paper was Rives BFK 104 lb. tan) I liked the effect. And of course, the more you look, the more you see the different shades of grey, blue, green, brown, and other colors reflected in the snow. I used the blue-grey pencil and a dark brown one to add details and shading. My very peaceful, pristine scene was captured in the journal without much fuss, thanks mostly to white gouache, that versatile paint that can be applied thickly or watered down easily. Now what will I do on the next page, which is white?


  1. Thank you Maria! Your painting is wonderful. I shall be looking for that paper as I have so many photos of the snow and ice storm that hit here last week. I never thought to change the paper color. Duh! I know I am still thawing out.

  2. It's lovely, Maria! And I was JUST thinking about you this morning, hoping to hear from you!

  3. I too probably wouldn't have thought of painting snow on colored paper. I'm going to have to give it a try! This painting is excellent inspiration. Well done.

  4. Thanks, all, for your comments. This has given me a good idea that perhaps next winter I'll make a journal to use in all toned papers!


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