Last Night’s Snow

I love the look of freshly fallen snow, especially before anyone has walked on it.

Painting snow scenes in watercolor presents it’s own challenge, since snow is white.  But the snow is actually different subtle colors in the sun and shadows, and making that believable takes planning.

Last Night's Snow - value sketch, pencil
Last Night’s Snow – value sketch, pencil

This picture started with a pencil sketch to determine where I wanted to place objects.  I kept in mind that if I wanted snow on the top of the fence to stand out, there needed to be something darker behind it – maybe a tree off the picture plane casting a shadow.  The sky and mountains behind the barn would show off the layer of snow on the roof. The snow on the ground behind the evergreen on the left had to be slightly darker so the snow on the branches would show up.

Last Night's Snow #1
Last Night’s Snow #1

I made a sketch on my watercolor paper and then applied masking fluid to save the white of the paper for snow on the trees and the fence posts.  The barn’s roof and the field were big enough that I would be able to paint around those spots.  I painted in a sky and lifted out some wispy clouds.  I painted in some snow-capped mountains and the shadowed side of the evergreen trees.  To get an idea of how the darks would look, I painted in the shadowed side of the barn.

Painting evergreen trees with snow on them is backwards from the way I want to paint them.  I want to paint the trunk, then the branches, and then put snow on them.  Instead, I have to save the white of the snowy areas, paint in some shadows, then the branches, and then the darken some areas to create deeper spots in the tree.  After taking the masking fluid off, I can correct the shapes and add shadows to the snow.  Softening some edges also helps make the shapes look like they all belong to the same tree.

Last Night's Snow, watercolor, 10" x 14"
Last Night’s Snow, watercolor, 10″ x 14″

Adding shadows to the snow field gives it some slight hills. And although my value study called for a drive going to the barn, I liked the unbroken snow so much that I changed my mind and left it out. The sun shining on the side of the barn, the weeds, and the fence in the foreground adds some warmth to this snowy winter picture.

Today we have sleet and freezing rain coming down and this artist is ready for winter to end!

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