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Fresh off the Easel: Good Morning Starshine

The first heavy snow in Southeast Michigan fell overnight. The next morning, the clear sky created an aura of intense sunlight that cascaded down and bounced along the small drifts of snow that rippled along the downhill slope of my backyard.

"Good Morning Starshine" was inspired by this December morning vista. Named after the 1969 hit song by Oliver and featured in the movie "Hair," Good Morning Starshine is a 9x12 pastel on Uart sanded paper.

Artists have fun painting snow. We know that snow is not typically white. It reflects the sky and the light of the adjacent environment. On an overcast day, snow is laden with greys and blues. On a sunny day, pinks, yellows and oranges prevail. Shaded areas are blue, purple, and dark pink. Deep green-blues can be seen. On a bright day, snow adjacent to a red building will look red. The snow will reflect the local color correlated to the intensity of the sunlight. While outdoors viewing snow, take a piece of white paper and hold it up against the view to see the variety of colors in the snow.

Values represent the "lights" and "darks" of a painting. A light area of blue can have light values of multiple colors. Same with dark. In the above pastel, I have applied a variety of pinks, orange, blue, yellow and (yes) white in the lightest values. Adding yellow can be tricky near a predominantly blue snow patch, risking a yellow-green hue as opposed to a more appropriate green-blue. Dark values favor deep blues and purples.

Take a walk through the woods in the snow. You may get lucky to see a cardinal or blue jay (why do they tend to hang around in winter while the other birds leave)? Shadows from trees and impressions from boot steps add variety and dimension to the landscape. Snow grasping tree boughs convey the value of their local environment: white in direct sunlight and a mid-value blue in the shade.

Look for a blanket of snow that drapes the top of a log: bumps of cool blue snow alternate with mossy green and deep brown and orange blemishes. On the ground, snow vaguely covers a patch of green grass, creating a light, muted, almost unattractive white-green carpet, corrupting the pure colors in the snow.

After an intense overnight snow storm, the landscape is nearly silent. Head out at 5 am while it is still dark. Notice the quiet: no cars, no wind, no birds, no snow blowers. You feel guilty walking through the smooth, pristine snowy landscape, disrupting the solid plane of frozen flakes and agitating the crystal reflections of the street lights. You might find rabbit or deer tracks. If the night was windy, snow drifts will alter the familiar features of the landscape, changing your perspective and interpretation of what you are viewing. If the moon is bright, you may be followed by a moon shadow.

Take the time to view art. A painting's impression will awaken thoughts, questions, yield revelations, and provide the viewer a fresh perspective on the subject matter. Feelings of warmth, awe, and vitality will emerge when spending time observing a piece of art. Yesterday, I learned that an art collector of mine periodically relocates a particular painting to a different room, in order to enjoy the feelings that the painting presents at different times of the day and from a different perspective. It is refreshing to observe a painting alone, by itself, not cluttered with other wall hangings or other pieces of art. Each piece tells its own story, speaks its own language and conveys its own message to each of us.

So take time to enjoy nature, and embrace winter!

This pastel and several others are available for purchase on this site. A framed option is offered and email if you are interested in a different frame.

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