Monday, January 23, 2012

How to Paint Falling Snow with Pastels

'Evening Snow' 11x14 pastel on board ©Karen Margulis  sold
I've been painting up a storm! This week I have been working on my own home made surfaces and painting some winter landscapes. One of the things I have been wanting to paint is the effect of falling snow. Painting individual snowflakes doesn't work very well. Anytime you try to be too literal with landscape elements you don't leave much to the viewer's imagination. Painting every snow flake would be like trying to paint every leaf on a tree. I find it better to suggest rather than spell it all out. I wanted to find a way to suggest falling snow. I discovered a couple of techniques that work for me.

Snow Making Kit for pastels
  • The first method is a twist on a technique I learned from Terry Ludwig. I attended a plein air workshop a few years ago and Terry demonstrated this technique for adding spray to whitewater. To make snow all you do is shave some white or very light value soft pastel into a cup or lid, add a few drops of water to make a paste. You are actually returning the pastel into is wet, pasty stage. Now take a stiff brush or toothbrush, rub it into the liquid pastel. To create the snow, hold the brush over your painting and either flick or run a finger over the bristles to spatter the pastel 'snow'. You might have to play around with the consistency of the paste to get the effect you want. Don't worry about the wet spatters. They will dry and most of the pastel snow will stick. Instant snow!
Palette Knife Technique
  • Another snow making technique is to shave some soft pastel on the area of your painting where you want the snow. Press these shaved pieces into the paper with a palette knife. This works for adding small specks as well as for larger areas such as snow covered branches. I love using iridescent white pastels with this technique.
This photo shows both techniques and how they appear on your surface. I have fun with this technique and I have ideas for using it in other landscapes that I can't wait to try. Do you have techniques for painting falling snow? I'd love to hear your thoughts!
P.S. I just read Richard McKinley's Pastel Pointer blog post which is on this technique called 'Dusting'. He explains it in detail in his post.

4 comments:

Mariela said...

Hello, I use the toothbrush with acrylic white. I also use thiw technique for sand with different shades of ochre yellow, white, raw sienna and blue.
Interesting post, thank you a lot!

Karen said...

Hi Mariela,
Thanks for the tip on using it for sand! I bet that looks wonderful!

Cindy Michaud said...

I love saving my chips and bits of colored pastel for the palette knife technique....fun, no? thanks for the idea of "liquidifying" the pastel for the old splatter method!
(remember using a screen for this in kindergarten?)

Karen said...

Oh yes I remember using a screen. Now that would be fun to try too. I haven't done much with the palette knife but I have some good ideas.
Thanks for commenting Cindy!