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Saturday, February 09, 2013

Painting Shadows & Light in Snow ...Part I

'Winter Stream Study'           8x10          pastel        ©Karen Margulis
Snow Week continues in my studio.  I love painting winter landscapes but I am snow challenged here in the south. We haven't had a good snow in Marietta in a long time.   So I have to rely on photos for my winter scenes. Working from photos always presents challenges but especially with snow photos.

Our ordinary point and shoot photos of snow just don't do a good job of capturing the colors we see with our eyes.  The light snow often looks pure white and the shadows look black.


Color in Snow. Bottom shows how many poor photos capture snow.Top photo shows color in snow and shadows.

When we paint what we see in the photos we end up with boring and flat looking snow.  We have to introduce and exaggerate the colors to make our winter/snow paintings more authentic and interesting.

So how do we know what colors to put in our snow and shadows?  Living in the south I can't even observe snow so I have to rely on other artists and instructors.  One of my favorite resources for information on painting snow is Doug Dawson's excellent book 'Capturing Light & Color with Pastel'.  Doug has a chapter on painting snow and I'd like to share a few of my favorite bits of advice from his book.

Let's begin with Shadows on snow. (since I usually paint the shadows first) Both the light areas of the snow and the shadows have color. Snow reflects the color of the light in the 'white' areas and the color of the sky in the shadows.

Snow Shadow Colors ...Great American Artworks Pastels

  • Shadows in snow reflect the color of the sky. They are usually cool ...blue-green, blue-violet or blue.
  • The color in the shadows get cooler as they go into the distance. (They follow the principles of aerial perspective) 
  • Shadow colors shift from blue-green to blue-violet to blue as space recedes. This is because yellow is first filtered out of the light, then oranges and then reds.  See the photo above for some of the pastel colors I use for snow shadows starting with blue-greens on the right to blue-violets to blues.
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW:  Snow is not white and shadows are not black. Snow is the color of the light and shadows are the color of the sky. Shadows are cool colors and shift and get even cooler as they recede.

In tomorrow's post I will share tips for painting the light on the snow so be sure to come back!  I'd love for you to sign up for blog updates. Sign up on the right!

1 comment:

pattisjarrett said...

Your snow is pretty with all those blues layered into it. Hard to imagine you rarely see snow, yet manage to paint it beautifully.