Winter Landscape Painting – Snow is Not White

by Neadeen Masters on November 9, 2013

Landscape Painting in Winter – Snow is anything but white!

When we hear landscape artists refer to the colors of ‘winter white’ this might seem a little strange to the non-painter, but when painting landscapes in winter, we have a chance to use the whole spectrum of color just the same as we do in summer, spring and autumn. We soon learn that snow is anything but white. As a beginning artist, we have to be made aware of the quality of our winter light source. If winter landscape painting is on your horizon…then you need to look for the following…How so you might ask?

Color - Winter is Not White

Observe the type of light when you paint winter landscapes

The sunlight in a winter landscape  is often different from that in summer or spring landscape…we know it’s all relative to where we live and to the weather. In the northern hemisphere the sun is lower in the sky during winter than it is in summer. As a result the quality of light is also different. Pay attention to this phenomenon for the best and most realistic results. Success also depends on the elevation of where you live and time of day…For example, the city where I live is in the north…British Columbia, Canada to be exact. It is  situated in a deep mountain valley, our winter days are often gray, while 25 minutes away, our local ski village sits high up a mountain top and is above the clouds. The sunlight at that elevation is strong and colors are seen as vivid and very saturated (yellow examples shown below) compared to the toned and often grayed colors found in the valley. Observe the toned and dull colors seen in the landscape graphic above.

color theory - Art Apprentice Online - Intensity

Painting realistic snow scenes can and will present the beginning artist with color challenges, as snow reflects sunlight and the colors of surrounding objects. One must learn how to judge the color of snow, snow covered objects and distant objects such as mountains, trees and fields based on value, intensity and color temperature. One important thing to remember…the overall sky color will also determine the color of the snow and what colors you see reflected in the shadows. Pay close attention to this on the next snowy winter day…or study other winter painting to look for these characteristics…

In the painted example shown above,  a few color swatches were pulled from the sky and the snow to show the close relationship between them and how warm they appear on this obviously cold winter day. White isn’t always white but a range of toned grays and other spectrum colors. In landscape painting, we must always refer to the light (sun) prior to starting…what angle, how high in the sky, the effect it is having overall, the weather of the day and time of the day…all these facets must be factored into the color you mix that day!

For more information on painting landscapes and other subjects such as color theory…check out our wide range of online painting lessons offered at the Art Apprentice Online

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Patricia August 9, 2014 at 8:31 am

Thank you, nice condensed explaination. I am glad I came on this site.

Kind regards,
Patricia

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Neadeen Masters April 4, 2015 at 7:50 pm

Thank you, hope to see you back again,
Neadeen Masters

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