The Color of Fresh Snow: Winter Landscape Painting

My winter may be very different from your winter, depending on your climate, but I think there’s one thing we have in common–when the season comes to mind, so does the magic and beauty of snow. Janet Nunn, featured in Watercolor Artist magazine, says that because she lives on a mountain where snow is not a stranger, she has seen this winter staple in many phases. “When you live around snow, you notice things about it that most people don’t, and that’s what makes it so fun for me to paint,” she says. “The challenge is to resist the urge to paint the snow itself. I’ve learned to leave the white of the paper for the brightest part of the snow and then create all of the other elements as if they’re coming out of it. Most of the time, I start with the structure of the painting (the sky, trees and grasses) and then move to the shadows to make the snow–and the scene–come alive.” Read below to learn Nunn’s landscape painting process.

Landscape painting techniques by Janet Nunn

“Pin” Roots and Stems (watercolor on paper, 21×29) by Janet Nunn

“Working with Dr. Ph. Martin’s Hydrus fine art liquid watercolors, I mix the color directly on the paper to meld the shadows and landscape elements and create a bold effect. My palette changes as the amount of snow in the painting changes. For example, the deeper the snow, the less the landscape pokes through, so my palette consists of more blues, magentas and violets. The lighter the snow, the more the landscape colors shine, so I turn to a brighter palette: more yellows, golds, oranges and brighter blues.

How to paint snow, landscape painting by Janet Nunn

Winter Solstice (watercolor on paper, 21×15) by Janet Nunn

“Before I painted Roots and Stems  (above), I created a number of small studies, then worked to incorporate the various elements of the painting into one piece. To create the grasses, I mixed Hansa yellow light, gamboge and quinacridone magenta on the paper and blew air through a straw to disperse the color. While the paint was still wet, I used cobalt violet to paint the roots. The trunks of the aspen trees were painted around the grasses in the background. For the finishing touch, I added the shadows cast over the roots, using a combination of phthalo blue and ultramarine, distributed with a straw in the same fashion as the grasses.

“For Winter Solstice  (right), I painted the layers of shadow using a different technique. To start, I used masking to save the paper for my brightest whites. I then covered the entire paper with a wash of phthalo blue, which provided a base for the next layer of shadow. I painted the second layer with ultramarine to add a medium tone. For the final layer of shadow, I added a dark tone with a concentrated application of ultramarine. After I removed the mask, I painted in the trunks, grasses and branches. My final step was to add a bit of shading under the whitest areas of the snow-laden branches, using a light wash of phthalo blue.”

Find a wintry mix of landscape paintings in Watercolor Artist, which is included in North Light Shop’s holiday sale(use promo code LIGHTS30 to save 30% throughout the store today only). You’ll find more resources on landscape painting and much more. Whether or not you have snow out your window, I hope your day is filled with holiday magic.

Wishing you a warm and happy holiday,
Cherie

Cherie Haas, online editor
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