Oil Painting: Josh Elliott's Tips for Painting Snow

15 Jan 2007

Josh Elliott, one of the artists featured in the February 2007 issue of American Artist, has painted snow in Montana quite a bit, but excitement still creeps into his voice when he discusses snow’s beauty and challenge. Here he offers some tips on painting snow.

by Bob Bahr

Josh Elliott has painted snow in Montana quite a bit, but excitement still creeps into his voice when he discusses snow’s beauty and challenge. Here he offers some tips on painting snow:

Look for reflections. Snow reflects what is around it, be it the sky, the wall of a barn, or other patches of snow in sunlight. Larger masses of snow will most likely reflect the sky—so if the sky is gray, your snow will be gray.

Shadows in the snow are full of light, probably due to the snow’s reflective quality. Look for light and variety in your shadows.

Be aware of the planes. Look for what catches the light directly, what’s in shadow, and what reflects the light. You will see a variety of values and colors in snow, but you will almost never see pure white.

Reserve your lightest values for your highlights. We are limited by the pigments we use, and we cannot paint light! Some of your values may therefore need a little tweaking for the highlights to appear really bright.

Look for subtleties. The beauty is in the subtleties—subtle value and color changes, especially yellows, pinks, and blues.

Keep it clean!
White is a tough color to keep clean, so remember to keep it from getting contaminated by the other colors in your painting.

Read the feature article on this artist.

To read more features like this, check out the February 2007 issue of American Artist.


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