I am going to do a series of posts on winter landscape painting. Before I get to the equipment and the other adaptations needed to paint outside in the winter, I want to talk why you would want to do it in the first place.
Here's a painting by Aldro t. Hibbard* as an example of why. There are great pictures to be made outside in the winter. The potential for designs is enormous. Those big areas of "white" are just great for making arrangements. Pretty much everything in the landscape is darker and sits silhouetted against that white field. Also the snow is woven throughout the whole scene generally so it often unifies a picture. Like white velvet painting!
There is another thing that happens in the winter too, all of that green goes away. That makes the deep woods into a fine place to paint when in the summer it is way to closed in. Big views appear that are only there when you can see through the trees . Village scenes are unified because of the snow on rooftops is common to all the houses and driveways and other ugly ephemera disappear or can easily be made to. In the winter you can stand in the middle of a stream and look up its length like a country road. Below is my old friend Stefan Pastuvov painting along a frozen stream in Maine.
I would rather paint outside in January than July. In July everything is green except for the sky which is blue (with a little yellow in it) in January there are dozens of colors, and they are sophisticated 500 dollar suit colors too. There are heathers and ochers, browns and russets. The pines are green but its not the acidic green of summer and the snow is prismatic. Its not white, it is opalescent. It is very interesting to paint. When you want it lower in value than your pure white pigment, you will have to add color to it to get it there. What color? generally all three. Or you will paint it purple and shoot yellow into it. Or paint it green and lay purple over that, or pink and then, well you see what I mean. The color of snow in the light and in the shadow is vibratory. It is my favorite thing to paint.
Here I am painting in the snow up near Bethel, Maine. There is another good reason to paint outside in the winter though. If you want to be a plein air painter and are only painting outside in the warm months you are only working PART TIME.
You are also missing out on a lot of learning. The structure of the trees is evident in the winter and that's when you learn that. You wouldn't imagine you could learn to be a figure draftsman only drawing the clothed figure. Well, the trees model nude in the winter! A lot of landscape painting is tree painting. They are the figures on the landscape painters stage. In order to learn to draw those figures you need to be out there in the winter studying their anatomy.
There are a lot of what I call inominate colors out in the winter landscape. An inominate color is one that you can't easily name. That is, its not red, or blue, or yellow but a combination of all of the colors. They are everywhere in the winter and learning to make them is fun and teaches a sophisticated range of grays and browns and heathers etc. That puts more arrows in your color quiver.I will be back and tell you more about winter painting tomorrow.
* Aldro from the book Aldro Hibbard artist in two Worlds available through the Rockport Art Association