During this season of the year, many landscape painters find themselves motivationally challenged. The daylight of winter is short, depriving the stimulation of much needed light which is the most frequently mentioned inspiration by painters. The air outside can be freezing, making it difficult if not impossible to paint for any extended period of time. The palette winter presents commonly lacks the luscious colors present in other seasons, providing little visual stimulation.
Adding to the situation is the busyness associated with the holidays: friends and family visiting, festive meals that need to be arranged, gifts for exchange and those that must be returned. Once that subsides, the end of the year tasks of bookkeeping and taxes begin. What’s an artist to do? I say: Wish for snow!
I feel fortunate as a landscape painter to live in an area that represents a wide range of scenic variation as well as all of the seasonal changes. The Southern Oregon valley I call home is surrounded by easily accessible mountain ranges that are snow-covered many months of the year. Even when it is too cold outside to paint for an extended time period, I can quickly leave the grayness of the valley and spend time in quiet observation. Snow is interesting in that it covers the majority of inherent object texture that it lies upon. This blanket of crystalline water heightens the indication of surface planes and reflects the color temperature of the sunlight and sky. Typically, sunlit areas will appear warmer and shadow areas will reflect the cooler temperatures of the open sky. This warm and cool play of color is far from the pure white that is often associated with snow.
During winter in Oregon and most of the United States, the sun is positioned low in the southern sky. This creates long shadows and beautiful reflective color effects during the entire day. These interactions provide much needed inspiration and allow me to be a more sensitive painter of winter scenery when confined to the studio, which is filled with artificial daylight and heat! For more inspiration on painting snow, check out the December issue of The Pastel Journal featuring an article by master landscape painter Lorenzo Chavez.
While the winter landscape is capable of poetic inspiration for some, with its bare trees and earth toned color palette, whenever I find myself suffering from what I’ve termed, “Seasonal Artistic Disorder”, or S.A.D., I find some snow. Beyond the surface beauty and color effects that snow provides as subject matter, I am drawn to its poetic quality of stillness. The landscape is embraced within its protective blanket, soon to be reborn with the arrival of spring.
May the Holiday Season be filled with inspiration and I wish everyone the best of painting adventures for 2012. ‘Tis the Season for Snow!
Editor’s Note: We at Pastel Journal want to extend Richard a huge thank you for another year of great pointers in this blog! Look for new Pastel Pointer posts from Richard beginning January 9. Until then, enjoy the season!
Get more expert advice from Richard McKinley in his instructional videos. Watch a free preview here!
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