For some reason, winter is just in my head and in my paint brush these days. Probably I like it so much because I don’t have to deal with its less lovely elements, such as shoveling snow to commute on icy roads. Rather, I would be walking through the countryside for hours as I did when I was a kid back east, enjoying the cold air and the silence and the gentle falling of flakes.
Where I live there isn’t a very big likelihood of snow. At higher elevations, yes, but here in coastal California, 800 feet isn’t gonna get it.
So, I dream.
I’ve lived in some places with stunning countryside, such as rural Illinois, upstate New York, in the Rockies of Colorado. Snow was beautiful and thrilling. As a kid, it’s a wonderland, but I remember my mother would always kvetch about all the little mittens, the snowsuits, the boots, the scarves, the this and that to get a herd of kids dressed to play – and then ten minutes later, they are all back in the house.
For some reason the winter and snow scenes of Maurice Utrillo were wandering through my mind when I was painting this. Yes, he painted urban winter scenes, but I don’t think that really matters. What I saw here was the brushwork, a scumbling to blend colors, which I think of when I see his paintings.
Initially my idea was to attempt a pointillistic painting, but the subject matter really doesn’t lend itself to dots. What I did was to lay down dots, as in pointillism, and then work them into each other for color gradation, textures, and mood.
If I am to be honest, I am really pleased with this painting! I hope you enjoy it, too.
Another winter day . . . snow, sunrise, warm and cold. Pointillism once more.
This time I laid in the background color, such as the blue of the sky merging into the gold of the horizon, blending them together with white. the same with the diagonal hedgerow and foreground snow. After that, I used a tiny, tiny brush, soft to the touch, and filled it with gouache paint I thinned down a lot.
The time to complete this painting was easily 2-3 hours (with time out for lunch and a nap, of course!). I think the color gradation, especially in the sky, has worked well with the usage of small points of color. I also tried to make the middle ground snow cooler and greyer than the foreground snow.
Ahhhh! It feels so good to paint!
How many times I have driven through the wild country of the US, stopped on the roadside just to gaze at the land around me? When I lived in Colorado, I did this whenever I could. I do it here, too, in California, and whenever we take a driving trip through wild and lonesome country. Life here can be harsh and isolated, but can you imagine yourself on horseback (I do!) and slowly traversing these wild and open places?
More winter, more gouache. A limited palette of white, phthalo blue and green, ultramarine blue, a bit of red, and black and purple.
The last time it snowed where I live was like never. Up in the mountains it does snow – it did a year ago – but of late is relentless blue skies. Today and yesterday we have had clouds and chilly winds, so it feels like Christmas and winter, and even tomorrow, more of the same.
I rather like it!
Still, I think of those magical winter days when sun and snow and sky and trees all play together, your breath rises, and you keep walking to see all the miraculous beauty of the land.
And here is a tribute to those memories. Gouache, sort of pointillstic, sort of not. I did the underpainting with casein and acrylic gouache, to lay down a foundation which would not dissolve when re-wet. I think it worked out pretty well. Overall, I think this is my best original painting to date. It feels “like me” if that makes any sense at all.
Merry Christmas and a No Covid New Year!
Still dreaming of snow and winter, but honestly glad not to be in the northeast! More snow dumped in 24 hours than was dumped all of last year. That is a lot of snow! Nothing like snow up to the roof, no electricity, and wondering how you are going to stay warm. When I was a kid, we burned oil for fuel, so heating the house wasn’t an issue as far as I can remember, but I do remember a few times when my youngest brother was in diapers, and there was no electricity to heat water. Frozen pipes, too, but that is usually easily solved by letting the water run gently through open taps.
I am continuing using gouache and Pointillism. Something in me just loves this, and I have started looking beyond Paul Signac and into contemporary artists. The graphic quality of Pointillism and the colors keep drawing my eye. Also, I am getting more “aware” (for want of a better word) of color interplay by using dots and mushing colors together.
Meanwhile, today in California it was a chilly 68F and I had to wear socks in the house.
Our cold winter thus far has hit a low of 64F or so in the past several weeks. No snow, certainly; sadly, no rain, either. Perfect for the next fire season, which is becoming a longer and longer annual event.
So, I dream of snow, and pull up memories of living in upstate New York, hiking for miles across woodlands and farms in the early morning or early evening. The light slants, the air mists, and a winter wonderland becomes a magical world filled with rivers and creeks, trees, and trails left behind by others.
California is filled with open space and ranchlands; in fact, according to the US Department of Agriculture:
Over a third of the country’s vegetables and two-thirds of the country’s fruits and nuts are grown in California. California is the leading US state for cash farm receipts, accounting for over 13 percent of the nation’s total agricultural value.
So, California is far more than rich people, Los Angeles, and movie stars. Where I live, agriculture is a major industry. It is around little towns and large suburban areas that you find ranches, for flowers, avocados, citrus, strawberries, and vegetables. Here, a view of a ranch in Santa Paula, taken from a train ride several years ago. The original photo is below.
Here, I used a medium blue paper and tried out different techniques, such as circular blending with the pastel itself, a torchon, fingers. I used vine charcoal and charcoal pencils for some of the finer lines.
The snow on the trees was an interesting challenge. To accomplish it, I scribbled some pure white pastel onto it, and then used the tip of the torchon to blend around it.
Compositionally, I think there is something missing here . . . I also think the midground could be a bit different to convey a sense of depth.
For a second bout with pastels, I can say I am enjoying what I am doing, even though I have to dress like a hazmat worker! (I wear a mask to keep the dust down.)