My intention is to do a landscape workshop in all four seasons, so you may wish to choose your favourite view and paint a version of it in each season.
Below are my notes for painting the landscape in winter, which I hope will be of interest to you, together with a list of recommended equipment to bring with you on the day. Feel free to print out my notes and add your own notes and observations.
Things to bring with you on the day:-
- Lots of paper, plus strips for testing.
- Paints, palette, water jars
- Brushes, sponges
- Pencil, rubber, ruler
- Reference photos of your favourite views and skies. If you have a tablet it might be handy to connect up to my wi-fi so we can share images on the day.
- Something to cover your table
- Masking fluid and applicators
- Masking tape to edge your pictures with
- Salt, wax, a piece of cling film, a piece of plastic (credit) card and spay bottle for textural effects
- White paint if you wish to splatter “snow”
- Your lunch
COMPOSITION - The horizon line placement for emphasis.
Crop your view or reference picture to decide on a format. Do thumbnail sketches to explore compositions, tonal contrasts and colour combinations. Keep them simple. Look for areas of the same tone and abstract them into light and dark. Using the paper as the lightest tone put in the mid-tones and then the darkest tones. Do no detail at this stage.
SIMPLIFICATION Simplification presents a challenge to reduce a composition to the most essential elements that support the visual statement. Unlike photography painters can move elements, enlarge them, reduce them or leave them out altogether.
FOCAL POINT - placement for emphasis.
Decide what will be your focal point. There should only be one, place this and other main divisional lines in accordance with the Golden Section (or Rule of Thirds).
LINES AND LEAD-INS - to direct the viewer's eye to the focal point and around the painting.
Think about lead-ins and lines that will lead the viewers’ eye in and around the picture. This can be achieved with lines whether real or implied, or with repeating colours or shapes.
PERSPECTIVE Perspective is created by dividing your picture into background, middle ground and foreground and treating each section accordingly (see below). Tone, colour, edges, and perspective (both linear and aerial) contribute to a sense of distance and scale in your paintings.
Background - Light tones and cool colours (blues, greens and violets) recede into the distance, no details should be visible and edges are soft. Shapes in the landscape are small – even mountains! Simplify areas using variegated washes to add interest.
Middle ground – Tones are slightly darker (mid-toned) and colours slightly warmer but in winter browns may still appear cool. Edges appear less soft and start to become important in describing what an object in the landscape is. Shapes become larger.
Foreground – There is greater contrast in tones in the foreground. Reserve your lightest light and darkest dark for the area surrounding your focal point to draw attention to it. Colours are warmer, particularly when compared to background colours. Edges in the foreground can be a combination of hard and soft, as well as lost and found. If the edges at the focal point are hard it will help it to stand out. The foreground (particularly the focal point) is the place for detail. Plan counter change – light against dark (but remember to put light areas into darker ones and dark areas into lighter ones). Think about what the main colour of your subject matter is and what the main colour temperature is. Keep the colours you use to as few as possible. Try contrasting intense colours (bright) against colours of lower intensity (muted) or contrasting warm/cool colours, using predominantly one with accents of the other.
FORM, LIGHT AND SHADOWS Everything has form, with a light side and a dark side, but this is often overlooked. Notice that the cast shadow is darker than the side of the object that is in shadow. What effect is the light having on your subject? Is it giving hard or soft edges, detail or no detail? Shadows are softer edged in less sunny conditions and will be softer the further away they are from the sun. Look for and emphasise hidden colours especially in shadows. Shadows on snow can be a variety of colours as it reflects the sky. All this is much more apparent when working from life rather than from photographs so if you are working from a photograph you may need to use your imagination. Shadows also follow perspective so careful observation is needed.
COLOUR - The seasonal colours are warm-cool blues and browns. By mixing primary colours to produce secondary and tertiary colours and using these to mix the muted hues found at this time of year.
WHITES AND HIGHLIGHTS Decide how to reserve the white or lightest parts of your picture.
Whilst painting don’t forget to keep standing away from your picture to assess whether adjustments are needed to the tones, colours and focal point.
Graded wash of one colour. Skies can be grey with a low, watery sun. Way to achieve this are; lift-out, paint around, and/or soften edges.
Variegated wash - sometimes the first wash used over the whole landscape to create unity and establish an atmosphere.
Variegated graded wash - more difficult (but realistic) skies. Colours are influenced by the time of day ~ try warm to cool blues, or blues to Raw Sienna, or blues to Permanent Rose. Cool to warm = evening sky at sunset.
SKIES - use sky practice for trees and foreground practice.
CLOUDS:- Follow perspective
Techniques for clouds - Lift out, wet-into-wet, wet-on-dry and softening edges as you paint, and negative painting.
TREES and other foliage.
There are mainly bare trees/bushes/hedges at this time of year, although there are some evergreens.
Observe the overall shape of the different species - how much of the trunk shows at the bottom? Break the shapes down into one of the 3 basic shapes, and use tone to make them look 3D.
Paint detail only at the edges, where there will be more contrast in tone.
Blend the trunk and branches together so they don’t look stuck on.
Soften the base of the trunk into the landscape, again so it does not look stuck on.
Trunks and branches are not always brown. Carefully observe the colour - they can often be muted greens and greys.
Techniques for painting foliage -
Wet-into-wet - variegated washes
Wet-on-dry - different ways to use a brush ie dry or splayed
Use a rigger to paint fine branches
Negative painting - in the case of Silver Birch trunks
Fields are either fresh green shoots of spring barley or brown earth/plough.
Banks of white snowdrops and yellow aconites can be seen from around January.
There doesn’t have to be detail in the foreground, especially if it detracts from your chosen focal point. Use textures and dropped-in colours in an otherwise dull foreground.
Splatter (water or paint)
Brush marks/dry brush
OTHER EFFECTS…Weather conditions:-
Cloudy skies, blue in the sunshine - but still cold.
Stormy skies - try a Burnt Sienna and French Ultramarine mix.