Snow scene in watercolour

Alwyn Crawshaw analyses the development of a watercolour snow scene for us in five illustrated stages and describes his working procedure.

I enjoy painting snow, particularly with watercolour. I love the challenge of leaving the paper unpainted to represent sunlit snow, and I find tremendous freedom when I am working the areas of foreground snow, since I am not preoccupied with creating an array of different colours and shapes. The snow can be worked very simply; in fact, look at Stage 3, where the snowfields and foreground are created from unpainted paper only, yet the impression is of a landscape covered in a new fall of snow. Remember this one simple rule when you are using the paper to give the illusion of snow: it’s not what you paint on the paper, it’s what you don’t paint.

The one obvious problem with snow scenes is getting out to paint from nature. Either the snow is too deep to get to a painting spot or it is too cold to sit and work. Last winter I intended to go out to paint a snow scene for a new video – and there was no snow all winter! It serves me right for living in Devon. For these reasons I paint most of my snow scenes indoors from quick pencil sketches, notes and, of course, memory.

The painting I did for this exercise was worked from a pencil sketch and painted in my studio; not because I couldn’t find the snow, but to enable the photographer to record each stage as I worked. One final word: I painted this snow scene this summer, when the temperature was nearly 90°C. There must be a hidden meaning there somewhere!