How to create a snowscape

The east coast is in for some nasty weather this weekend. It’s time to bundle up and stay inside—or, if you’re a painter, a great time to experiment with wintertime landscapes. Painting snow is tricky because light acts differently in snowscapes than in other landscapes. We think of snow as being white, but because it is refractive, it is actually whiter than white, and not white at the same time. There are many values and hue present in a snowy landscape. Realistically rendering snow is tricky. Here are some tips for achieving realistic snow—these pointers are geared towards oil and acrylic landscape painting, but many of the same concepts apply to other forms of painting and dry media as well! (Pictured above: "Sea of Mud," Alexei Savrasov, oil painting, 1894.)

(1.) Find Your View and Stay Warm

Most people prefer to paint a snowy landscape from a window, or reference photos. You can also paint outside, but winter plein air is not for the faint of heart! Always check the forecast before you go out to paint. If it’s below freezing, it might be impossible to paint quickly enough, especially with paints like watercolors. Wear real gloves or latex gloves if you can, and take breaks to w...

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