Winter Effects

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Have you seen Pieter Bruegel’s painting of winter, “Hunters in the Snow” from 1565? It’s an early European depiction of winter. Persian and Chinese landscape painters had pictured winter even earlier. By the late 19th century Impressionists from Claude Monet to Americans like John Henry Twachtman painted to evoke the sensations of a winter landscape with its mists, and fog filtered sunlight.
Here are three examples of the feeling of mist diffusing color and soft, sunlight infused winter landscapes. All were painted in the 1890s. These artists gave a special emphasis to the obscuring effects of winter mist in sunlight. Edges were dissolved in favor of blurry atmospherics. Values are close. Chromatic harmonies are emphasized.
Example 1. Claude Monet’s “Stacks of Wheat, Sun in the Mist”.
Example 2. Claude Monet’s “Stacks of Wheat, Winter Effect”.
Example 3. John Henry Twachtman’s, “November Haze”,
Twachtman balances bright close values with delicate chromatic complements like lavender and yellow/green. Monet pushes for more lively color contrasts in his works with yellow/oranges vs. violets and blue grays.
I will present wintry photos of a meadow in a river valley, coincidentally the same type of location used by Monet for his winter works. Next, I follow with the step by step development of a painting based on that experience and art historical precedents like those seen in the preceding examples.
But first, my beginning takes me to back to my classroom where I gave a small (12×12”) demonstration of the subject in question. As usual I began with a diagrammed design drawn in black Sharpie. That inked design was lost under the mixed colors of a separate palette but, though lost it helped consolidate my sense of design, confidence and direction. The quick demonstration can be seen in example 4.
Example 4. Demonstration, only 12×12”.
What follows are step by step developments in building the painting. These include some of the photos I used as points of departure for the painting (examples 5 and 6). This is how they appeared as I snapped them.
Example 5. Photo #1.
Example 6. Photo #2.
The step-by-step painting sequence begins blurry and atmospherically. Slowly the image acquires an aggregation of interweaving shapes. The image sustains its blurry atmospheric condition in the upper area while slowly acquiring more edge information and value contrast in the lower areas. Lastly, I introduced an area of color contrast by applying ultramarine blue suggestive of water in the bottom area (just above the ground plane).
Example 7. Beginning with an abstract mixed color atmosphere, 24×24,
Example 8. The curtain of atmosphere receives texturing and some vague forms are introduced.
Example 9. More edge information (twigs, branches and tree trunks) are provided as well as the hollowing out of forms in preparation for later red berries. They are designed to arc across the image as well as to subtly advance and retreat in space. The intensity of the reds will depend upon the white substrate spots.
Example 10. I am almost there but, I feel the need for complementary color contrast which you will see in the next example 11.
Example 11. Here is the introduction of Ultramarine blue (code for water) hiding in the shadows.
I invite you to register for my winter semester classes at the Silvermine School of Art in New Canaan, Connecticut (203 966 6668 ext2) on Wednesday December 19th. Office hours begin at 9 AM. The School will also be taking registrations for my week long and later 3 day intensive studio workshops offered in the first weeks of April. I hope you can join me this winter for more adventures in painting.

3 Responses

  1. Patricia Scanlan

    Thank you for this step by step illustration. Your final painting is spectacular. Have a wonderful holiday and I look forward to all the ideas you will bring back with you and share.

  2. Vesna Matthies

    I am regularly inspired and amazed at your painting..with this last, although I am completely amazed by the work, I am disturbed by, for me , too much red behind the berries,as though it is a crime scene with blood….sorry that I am so honest, but I simply feel afraid while looking at this painting.
    Kind regards, all my best, and I continue with joy to watch and read your Blog.
    Sincerely, Vesna Matthies

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