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Painting Technique: Capturing the Glow of Winter

Rolling Hills County Park in Ypsilanti, Michigan maintains 3 miles of groomed cross-country skiing trails. I've enjoyed skiing and gaining inspiration for paintings in this peaceful winter setting.

Last weekend I skied at Rolling Hills and captured this photo. I must have appeared rather goofy skiing along with a 35mm Canon Digital SLR camera hanging from my neck.

Here is the reference photo. Note how the brights of the snow are washed out (I did not have an opportunity to adjust exposure settings while skiing, so I simply left my camera setting on automatic). We will need to adjust the washed-out look when creating the painting.

I have favored the technique of toning pastel paper with orange pastel washed with alcohol as an underpainting for snowy landscapes. As the complementary color of orange, blue (shady) snow tends to "pop" in winter scenes. Here is a sketch of the scene, first created with vine charcoal and sprayed with fixative, on Uart sanded paper.

I applied an orange hard pastel and spread it across the paper, then applied a hard dark blue for the darkest values in the scene. A paint brush with rubbing alcohol applied helped spread the colors across the canvas.

I applied a similar technique to "Ski Jump" and " Frost Rising," below:

Ski Jump

Frost Rising

For the next steps, I block in the clear blue sky and begin to apply the major values and colors in the scene. I find that a hard pastel such as this brown NuPastel is quite useful to block in the darker values in the scene. By applying the pastel horizontally, much of the paper can be covered.

Similarly, lighter value hard pastels are helpful to build depth by adding the lighter highlights atop the darker base of the foliage.

Notice the feathery look of the warmer mauve/orange added to the top edges of the darker planes of foliage. I begin to apply snow across the canvas, preferring blues and purples to capture the shaded areas of snow.

My large Mount vision pastels help to cover a lot of area with a few strokes. Here, this mid-value blue pastel helps build the shady snow areas.

Now it is time to start covering the balance of the landscape of snow. Here I apply a similarly hard pastel with a high-value pink shade (I don't know which brand it is, having lost its paper cover years ago)!

What's neat about ski tracks in the sun, are the deep blue valleys that form as shady areas within the individual ski tracks. The clear sky helped to enhance the contrast visible within the ski tracks.

Here is the current version of the painting:

I will continue to work the various snow values and further details, as well as the ski tracks. One fascinating touch to the landscape is the small tree on the right and how it creates a blue shadow across the track. It's fun to discover such nuances of the landscape!

For available paintings for sale, visit my webpage here. I also have two original paintings and two prints on auction at Daily Paintworks.

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