|'Winter Magic' 11x14 pastel ©Karen Margulis|
"Take that pure white pastel out of the box!"
That was advice I got a few years ago. So I did and I rarely use white in my paintings. Oh, I will use an occasional spot of pure white for a highlight but most of the time I can't even find my pure white in my box.
Instead I use very light values of many colors in my lightest or white objects. I try to create the illusion of white with my light values and by surrounding them with darker colors.
To paint the white in snow it helps to remember that white snow is reflective. It reflects the color of the light so if the light is warm, the snow will have a warmth to the white such as a pale pink, peach or yellow. If the light is cool the snow will reflect this coolness. Doug Dawson explains it so well in his book 'Capturing Light & Color in Pastel'.
- At sunrise or sunset the light reflected by the snow is pink or orange.
- Shortly after sunrise it turns yellow-orange.
- Later in the morning is becomes yellow.
- It starts to cool off around noon and becomes yellow-green.
- From noon to sunset the process reverses itself.
It is important to remember that these colors also become cooler into the distance due to the effects of aerial or atmospheric perspective. And sometimes it is hard to see these shifts but we do need to address them and often exaggerate them. This is what helps me:
- The snow in light is brightest and warmest in the foreground.
- As it recedes into the distance it becomes cooler and duller....yellow then orange then red is filtered out.
- The snow in the distance tends to be duller often a dull greyed pink.
There are always exceptions to this idea but it is a good starting point. You need to pay attention to the light and the color of the light and snow. I saw an excellent post on Facebook by Liz Haywood-Sullivan. She suggested that artists observe the snow at different times of day and under different lighting conditions and keep a Snow Diary with color swatches and notes. I think this is an excellent idea for those of you who live in areas that get snow!