Watercolours are the perfect medium for painting snow. The subtleness of watercolour tones and then the intenseness of watercolour tones can work dynamically together to create an impression of snow. This painting was completed in 2015 as a classroom exercise. I instructed the class to use a chromatic black that they had mixed to their own formula. Chromatic black is a mix of ultramarine blue and burnt umber, equal amounts. But the beauty of this colour is that you can adjust it to your requirements very easily by either adding one or two other colours or indeed varying the proportions of the basic mix. You can see from my painting I biased the mix with brown but later on in the painting adjusted so in some areas I could introduce a blue bias colour and a yellow ochre biased chromatic black.
Once the mix is made up, make plenty of it, you can always use again if you do not use the whole mix for this painting, have your brushes ready, chisel, hake, round headed, small round headed, have your paper taped or clipped to a board, have plenty of pots of water at your disposal, and ensure your palettes are large enough to mix up washes that you need in their most dilute form.
Have the paper flat on a surface and wet thoroughly with your largest brush, I use a hake as the goat hair holds so much water. Let the water soak into the paper. Once the sheen has gone off the paper the water has generally soaked in, rewet. You really want this paper wet and damp throughout the first painting stages. Let that soak in and have your weakness wash of your chromatic black ready. Use a medium sized round headed brush and start applying the mix to the very back of the painting. You will note there is no need to draw any of this composition. It is based on brush strokes. If you paper is nice and wet you will see the paint bleeding slightly which is just what is required to give the impression of distant shapes through snowy weather conditions. You are relying here on not only design skills but also the painterly way of using negative space against positive, so all your brush strokes give one overall clear impression that the negative space is snow. Add stronger tones of your chromatic black as you work. Be guided by the pattern of shapes in my painting. This was a photograph I took a few years ago – it is in Essex, we drove out to the Essex countryside to see a relative and it started snowing and on our way back were presented with this charming scene.
As you work towards the fence posts keep your brush strokes round and small/medium. A rickety fence does not have to be perfect, but be mindful of the spaces between the posts and how they tilt, very simplistic way to make a fence that is adorned with snow. Paint in your dark tone of chromatic black for the down posts first, leaving some white gaps, take your time with this and then paint in the horizontal posts, again strong dark tone. The hardness of the wood and the softness of the snow make good companions in a snow scene.
Once I had got thus far, I went back to the back of the painting and added my blue bias and yellow bias round headed brush strokes to introduce a cold and a warm colour. I painted the shadows in the foreground last. With a snow scene less is more, do not think that using lots of gouache white will make a good watercolour snow scene. Use your wet on wet skills to the maximum and you will have a wonderful snow scene to display.
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