'Painting snow should be easy, right?' says Steve Strode. 'It’s just a case of reaching for that tube of white. Well, that’s sort of correct, but snow is rarely pure white. When I first thought about painting snow I constantly read that close observation would reveal the multitude of colours it contained.

'Seeing snow on a dull and overcast day, however, and trying to register anything other than greys and white, left me convinced I was trying to see colours that weren’t really there.

'It soon became apparent that while snow is basically white, that white is relative and dependent on other factors. Snow is essentially reflective so it can look different depending on the weather conditions, the time of day, the light source and its temperature, and the objects around it.'

Liverpool paint No.106: St James’ Gardens, acrylic on card, (15x20cm)

Here the warm orange yellow glow from the house windows plays against the coldness of the blue grey snow outside.

'Your snow paintings will improve with practice, but if you rarely see the stuff where you live, I’d recommend you begin by looking at a few painters who have tackled the same subject, and learn the basics from them. Studying seasoned painters, such as Peter Brown, Edward Seago or Richard Schmid will help familiarise you with handling the colours and tones of snow for when you have a chance to try things out for real.'

When the snow arrives

'In the spirit of such investigation, why not try the simple demonstration below and pick up a few valuable tips for when the snow arrives?

Apart from the obvious advice to dress warmly, here are a few more tips might help you on your way:

  • Wear walking boots and thick socks, which will lengthen the time you can stand in comfort.
  • Standing on a piece of cardboard insulates you from the cold and stops you slipping around.
  • Wear a cap; snow reflections are quite strong.
  • Cover the seats and paint from the warmth of your car. Aside from offering protection from the elements the acrylics stay wet longer as there’s no wind.

Grytvitken Harbour, South Georgia, after Edward Seago, acrylic on paper, (23x30cm)

'Exploring paintings of snow and having a go for yourself, either from copies or life, will see you developing your own approach, but late afternoon sun holds more interest for me than grey and uninspiring scenes. Late afternoon light can offer pinks, oranges and vibrant blue shadows. Not only do I find value contrasts, but the light and shadow usually means there’s a temperature contrast between the warm and cool colours, too.

'Even if you’re not painting, observe other paintings or snow in situ at different times of the day. Make notes, colour studies or sketches, and all these resources will feed into your own work and give you confidence to meet the challenges ahead.'

Demonstration: Liverpool Painting No. 104: St James’ Gardens

Liverpool Painting No.104: St James’ Gardens, acrylic on card, (15x20cm)