You're Gonna Need a Pair of Boots

First Snow by Nancy Bush, 2008, oil painting, 28 x 30, Courtesy Nedra Matteucci Fine Art, Santa Fe, New Mexico.
First Snow by Nancy Bush, 2008, oil painting, 28 x 30,
Courtesy Nedra Matteucci Fine Art, Santa Fe, New Mexico.

Painting outdoors in winter can be an extreme sport. The snow, the wind, the cold—it takes a certain kind of artist to paint a winter landscape while in a winter landscape. The first time I attempted outdoor painting in the winter this was a couple of years ago when I was living in Connecticut. Two feet of snow had fallen the day before, but when I looked out my window the scene was so inviting. I didn’t go far and didn’t stay out long, but I had fun trying to capture the light effects and reflective surface of the snow during daylight.
 
Looking back, I wish I’d done a little research first on winter landscape painting. Painting snow is hard! I thought snow was just plain old white, but that doesn’t really work unless you are purposefully flattening your image. Snow is like a patchwork quilt, with different areas infused with different colors or textures depending on the surface underneath, the area exposed to wind, or the object casting light onto it.

To create a sense of dimensionality I loaded up my brush and jabbed and swirled it around to get the paint on the surface the way I wanted. Color is an exciting part of painting snow as well, and I've become sensitive to how “plain old white” is actually full of blues, yellows, and reds. My favorite challenge is getting that crisp blue-gray color of shadows falling on snow that can darken a scene in an eerily beautiful way.

Winter Moon by Nancy Bush, 2008, oil painting 30 x 40. Courtesy Astoria Fine Art, Jackson Hole, Wyoming.
Winter Moon by Nancy Bush, 2008, oil painting
30 x 40. Courtesy Astoria Fine Art,
Jackson Hole, Wyoming.

I also wish I’d had access to Liz Haywood Sullivan’s DVDs Painting Snow and Pastel Plein Air Landscape before braving the cold. Sullivan is an expert at landscape painting instruction in pastel and captures really beautiful places in her work while painting the diverse scenes she encounters. Her experiences as a landscape painter offer valuable outdoor painting lessons for those of us who are eager to try plein air landscape painting but don’t quite know where to begin. She gives great tips on how to paint snow, which could come in handy in the winter weeks still ahead of us. If you get out there, upload pictures of what inspires you and what you end up painting into the Artist Daily Member Gallery!

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Courtney Jordan

About Courtney Jordan

  Courtney is the editor of Artist Daily. For her, art is one of life’s essentials and a career mainstay. She’s pursued academic studies of the Old Masters of Spain and Italy as well as museum curatorial experience, writing and reporting on arts and culture as a magazine staffer, and acquiring and editing architecture and cultural history books. She hopes to recommit herself to more studio time, too, working in mixed media.   

2 thoughts on “You're Gonna Need a Pair of Boots

  1. I’ve heard that the American Impressionist painter John Twachtman used to paint his snow scenes while standing in a wooden box filled with sawdust, so his feet wouldn’t freeze. The one time I braved the snow, I put chemical hand-warmers in my boots, pockets, gloves, and hat, and wore many layers. The only things exposed to the cold were my nose, my eyes, and my fingertips (I word fingerless gloves.) It was quite exhilarating! But since the temperature was 15° F, and there was a 20-mph wind, I still couldn’t be out there long. My painting didn’t turn out too well, but I’m glad to say I did it!

  2. Courtney, is the Nancy Bush who painted the works in your post the same Nancy Bush who is the wonderful knit designer? (You can tell I spend more time at Knitting Daily than at Artist Daily!)

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