Few subjects inspire me in quite the same way as a crisp snow-laden landscape. There is something about the stark tonal contrasts that snow highlights so well. This is a scene that I’ve both sketched and painted plein air on numerous occasions, in all medium, and in all seasons.
This demonstration was painted in the studio, but it’s so much more exciting to be painting at the scene if you can. Obviously, you have to work rapidly in the winter months, but the results in many cases are often worth it.
As we all know, snow is never pure white, it reflects the surroundings. Try to pick up some of the local colours that are around, using these to vary the snow colour. The sky and time of day will be an influencing factor also. For your snowy highlights, add a touch of yellow ochre to your white – never, or rarely, use pure white. If you do, limit it to just one or two simple strokes to emphasise your focal point. Don’t scatter them all over the place, that becomes confusing and a distraction.
My intention is to keep detail to a minimum, I’m looking to capture something of the ambience and atmosphere of this rural scene, not a laboured photographic interpretation.
Yew Tree Farm at Sandon, oil on board, (16 x 20in)