“Winter Road” – 8 x 10 acrylic on canvas board
Today’s painting has an unusual origin. I wanted to do another snowscape – perhaps a winding road type of picture as I’ve done of some fall and spring scenes. But I lacked a photo reference to work from and there’s no snow close by. So I took another picture of a summer scene and imagined what it might look like after a blanket of snow. This is the result. The thinking through process meant that I had to invent what was behind the foreground trees – because I couldn’t see through their summer garb. The real terrain was actually rather flat and I wanted to see more billowing drifted snow, which meant modeling mounds, thinking about lights and darks created by those mounds, and the color of the shadows. The cast shadows of the trees also helped describe the terrain. I decided that I would have the sun coming from the left, so I’ve touched a little warm color into the snowdrifts on the sunward side. A rural mailbox was added to clarify that this is a road, not a frozen river
An exercise like this causes me to think more about what I am painting rather than just copying it. How many cast shadows do I want to include? What color? What shape? Where do they fall? What is my pattern of darks and lights? What colors do I want to introduce for variety? Most importantly, what is the mood that I want to create?
One of my goals for the new year is to try to be even more observant about nature, wherever I may be. That means looking more closely at some of the details I’ve mentioned. It means noticing the effects of atmosphere on different days. It means looking at the structure of trees and shrubs and carefully noting their peculiar growth habits. I think that this practice will help a great deal with plein air painting as well.
I know that a lot of the US is laboring to clear away heavy snow left by blizzard conditions. In California we tend to romanticize and glamorize snow because we get so little of it. So this is my way of enjoying a white Christmas when the real thing is still a faraway dream.