Winter Atmosphere

posted in: Blog, Uncategorized | 1

Among Painters who enjoyed winter we have examples from Pieter Bruegel to Claude Monet to Winslow Homer.   Homer’s windy studio on Prouts Neck, Maine was so cold the ice in his water bucket froze if it sat more than 4 feet from his wood stove.  He enjoyed the solitude and atmosphere of winter.  His studio painting in fog presents a silhouetted mystery of air and light (example 1).  His winter slope with crashing waves gives us another chance to experience atmospheric recession although, this was not the central theme of his image (example 2, 1890). Homer’s predecessor, the Hudson River painting star, Frederic Church also painted the Maine coast with atmospheric effects (example 3, 1860).

Example 1. Homer’s Studio in Fog,

Example 2. Winslow Homer, Winter Coast,

Example 3. Frederic Church, Coast Scene at Mount Desert Island (Acadia),

Each of these paintings gives an image rich with the edge dissolving effects of fog and atmosphere. Homer’s “Winter Coast” begins with sharp edges of flora and rocks against a diagonal pattern of snow shapes.  Notice the waves recede into a more formless and paler cloud in the distance and present them with greater clarity in the foreground.  Homer’s studio building (example 1) clearly dissolves edges within the fogbound shape.  The feeling of atmosphere permeates these works and gives the impression  of  foggy mystery.   Church’s painting also sacrifices edge acuity as we recede into the distance.  A mysterious atmosphere envelopes his scene as well.

Returning to the same Acadian coast of Frederic Church’s painting, I found wafting fogbanks.  My example 4 uses a hotter palette with yellows, reds, and oranges in the foreground then cools the temperature down in the distance with grayed violets and tinted yellows (color complements looking to energize each other). My second example of these same foggy cliffs presents a cooler effect with blue and violet grays against foreground rocks.  Here they have much less red and orange than in the previous example.   Example 5 is my first step. Example 6 is the second step is even chillier with its bluer palette.  In step one (example 5) I found the two pronounced wedges atop the cliff to be suspiciously similar. Example 6 presents my solution.

Example 4.   “Coast Scene, Acadia”, near Church’s location. Hot foreground with cooler background,

Example 5.  “Coast Scene, Acadia, II”, Step one with suspicious pair of rock wedges,

Example 6. “Coast Scene, Acadia IIa” Step two, with single wedge and reworking to reduce the temperature,

Further experiments with a hotter and sharper foreground vs. a cooler and foggier background can be seen in examples 7 and 8 of “Winter Stream”.  Example 7 illustrates the first step with this image. Example 8 presents the current state of the painting.

Example 7.  Step one of “Winter Stream” oil on white enameled laminated aluminum,

Example 8. Step two, “Winter Stream “in its current state.

I invite you to my lecture “Visual Thinking, Deeper, Broader and More Inventive” on Sunday 4:30-6:00 PM February 25th at Silvermine Arts Center in New Canaan, Ct. call 203 966 6668 ext 2 or visit

Join me this spring at the Huntsville Museum of Art (Huntsville Alabama) for a Master Workshop there, Natural Elements: Painting with the masters, Old & New Techniques with David Dunlop”.  The workshop is part of the Museum Academy program. Thursday May 3rd – Sunday May 6; 9:00 am to 4:30 pm. Register on line at or call 256 535 4350 ext 215.




Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *