White Goes Back!

As promised, here is another quick post to go along with my recent Winter workshop. For my second demo on day two, I picked a photograph of Pleasant Valley Road in Jeffersonville Vermont. This is a spot that never ceases to amaze my senses. The late afternoon light will make Mount Mansfield glow. I've never been able to get something down on the canvas that late in the day that I've been completely happy with. Here is Pleasant Valley a bit earlier in the afternoon with Mount Mansfield in the background looking as majestic as always.

Notice that there is a lot of White in this painting. By white I mean, a white house, white trim on the barn and lots of white snow. White that is right out of the tube is always a big no-no for winter painting because snow is always absorbing the color of the bright sun or reflecting sky color or other colors from objects in the landscape. Because snow is wet, it tends to absorb and reflect at the same time. This is especially true of snow that is on the ground plane.

We know that dark objects will get lighter, greyer and bluer as they recede. This is an important observation of atmospheric perspective. Middle value objects tend to stay about the same, but light objects tend to get darker as they recede into the distance.

Snow that is in sunlight will get slightly darker and warmer as it recedes. If you look at the pictures I've posted of the snow in sunlight on the mountain, you can see this transition taking place. If we want the white to go back, we know that we can't make it lighter than white and it stands to reason that if it goes back blue, we won't get the feeling that the snow is being lit by sunlight if both snow in light and snow in shadow goes to blue. So...warmer and greyer makes sense here. In theory, this is a simple concept but to really make it happen on the canvas in a convincing manner is something altogether different. Practice makes perfect!

My next post will be about my 'composition' workshop that I've just finished up with a great group of students.