1565 found Pieter Bruegel in his studio painting one of the earliest snow landscapes recorded in Europe (example 1). He was painting each of the seasons, a topical idea at the time. A century later Poussin would repeat the theme with his own version of winter. Bruegel’s landscape featured disappointed hunters and their tired, emaciated dogs returning with only a rabbit. The white snow helps to define the dark contrasting shapes. The white shapes clue the viewer to the season just as they help push the painting toward a graphic starkness.
Example 1. Pieter Bruegel, 1565, oil on panel,
With snow comes graphic opportunity. Snow’s vivid contrast offers opportunities to easily assign meaning to starkly outlined shapes. In my own examples I begin with a cell phone snapshot from a car window (example 2). This image is cropped, colored and further adjusted with Photoshop. The painting’s design derives from part of the snapshot but, it is further manipulated in the painting process where any thoughts of overtly imitating the photo were dismissed as I laid down a vertical mass of textured color (example 3). Example 4 presents a second step in the painting process. Here paint has been deleted to find a foundation graphic design. This step shows further refinement of the design by revealing more of the light areas. Example 5 presents a few exacting strips of brighter colored reeds as well as the seed bowls of former flowers. With just a scattering of a few articulated and colored lines and shapes we can guess the image into its full winter impression.
Example 2. The cell phone snapshot,
Example 3. Step one, initial lay-in of paint,
Example 4. Step two, further design refinement and texturing,
Example 5. Step three is oil on aluminum; more specific suggestions are added,
Example 5 presented a relationship of flora to snow while my next examples 6 through 7 provide a tableau for rocks and their eccentric shapes to be outlined by light. The trees above are absorbed and dissolved by a backlit winter fog. The palette is cooler and greener at the bottom but, acquires a soft redness as image ascends. Subtly we continue to introduce complementary color relationship like reds vs. greens.
Example 6 . Step one, the initial lay-in of dark color overall.
Example 7. Step two, mossy rocks in snow, oil on aluminum,