Painting Snow Scenes in Gouache
Painting Snow Scenes in Gouache
James Gurney shares tips for painting plein air winter landscapes in watermedia
James Gurney

If it’s above freezing, you can paint in watermedia.

I paint this scene on a day when it’s above 50 degrees Fahrenheit and there’s no danger of the paint freezing. I haven’t had much luck using watermedia when the temperature goes below freezing. I have tried using vodka or whisky in place of the water, but those haven’t worked for me. But in the Hudson Valley of New York state, there are many days in the winter when there’s snow on the ground, but the temperature is above freezing. If I want to paint when it’s colder, I sketch from inside a car—or switch to oil paint.

Look for winter landscapes in common places.

If you live in a snowy climate, you don’t need to travel far to find interesting snowscapes. Snow transforms common places into magical realms. Some of my favorite subjects are the huge snow piles in the parking lots of big-box stores and supermarkets. In this case I’m interested in the way the sunlight and shadow reveals a variety of textures.

Be aware of the quality of the light.

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December - January 2020