Creativity Workshop: It’s Snow Time

The Crossing Guard (watercolor on paper, 29×22) by Debi Watson

When I began painting more than 20 years ago, I wanted to capture precise realism with glowing colors. It was quite a struggle with many teachers telling me along the way, “That’s not how you paint with watercolors.” Finally, I turned to books, magazines and videos, plotting my own course of study.

My biggest difficulty was in judging values, as watercolor dries so much lighter than it looks when wet. Once I began to separate my images into areas of light, medium and dark, painting became fun instead of frustrating. After saving my whites, I put on a light wash that allows the paint to mix freely and sets the tone for the whole picture.

Next, I put in at least one area of the darkest value. With the extremes established, I can build my medium values until they fit perfectly between the light and the dark. The finishing details are the frosting on the cake. 

It may seem paradoxical that the best way to achieve this level of realism is by starting loosely, but painting isn’t about staying in the lines, especially when your subject is a snowy landscape. Painting snow is a lot like sledding down a hill: it’s an exciting trip that can lead to a smooth landing or a muddy mess. 

DEBI WATSON ( is an artist and teacher living in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. To read the full text of this column, download your copy of the December 2010 issue of Watercolor Artist.

Try This At Home
Use a loose application of paint to set the tone for your watercolor painting of a winter landscape. Begin by establishing your values so that you’re free to let it snow. Send a JPEG (with a resolution of 72 dpi) of your painting to us at and tell us about your process. The “editor’s choice” will receive a six-month subscription to online video workshops, plus $50 worth of North Light ?ne art books. The deadline for entry is December 13, 2010. Happy painting!


Watch art workshops on demand at ArtistsNetwork.TV

Online seminars for fine artists

Instantly download fine art magazines, books, videos & more

Sign up for your Artist’s Network email newsletter & receive a FREE ebook

You may also like these articles: