Painting a snowy landscape offers colour mixing challenges for students in that the subject matter is inherently white as opposed to a definite hue. However the art teacher may use strategies to help art students paint convincing snow.
How the Color Wheel Chart Helps Snow Colors
Painting snow is a great painting exercise for practicing the colour theory, as unlikely colours as well as pales and neutrals can be found in snow, including blues, crimsons, violets and yellows. Darkening the colour of snow can also be achieved by mixing two complimentary colours as opposed to using black. The teacher may have explained the color theory in a previous art lesson, but remind students that complimentary colors lie on opposite segments of the color wheel. Blue, therefore is the opposite of orange; yellow is the opposite of violet and red is the opposite of green.
Art Lesson on Color Mixing
The following important items are required along with the usual art materials for painting snowy landscapes:
1. Good photographic resources, which may feature snow-capped mountains, a snowbound village or an icy lake..
2. Artist pigments including the primary colors. In the case of oil paints, cadmium yellow (pale), permanent rose and pthalo blue would be ideal.
3. Additional art mediums for enhancing snow effects. This might be impasto medium for expressive paintings or linseed oil for smooth glazes.
The following oil painting pigments will prove useful when rendering the colors found in snow but students may add others. Care must be taken not to include too many pigments, or the colors may end up looking dirty:
• Titanium white
• Permanent rose
• Cadmium red
• French ultramarine
• Pthalo blue
• Burnt sienna
Tonal Values of Snow
Students may experience difficulty in judging the tonal values of colours when placed on a white background, particularly a white color on white. To counter this, the teacher may suggest a preparation of the painting surface with a neutral glaze of either brown or grey prior to the lesson. This mid-tone provides a useful benchmark from which to compare lights and darks when applied.
Painting Exercise on Snow Paintings
Sensitive observation is the key to recording accurate colors of snow. Some students may feel tempted to darken snow colors with black or dark grey. But this may result in heavy darks that lack depth.
Instead, students may be assigned to look for hues in shadows. Blue for instance can often be seen in show on clear days. Such shadows can be darkened further by the addition of blue’s complimentary color, red, or permanent rose. Similarly, the highlights in snow are often not merely white, but can be pink, cream, beige or eggshell. Looking for colors in dark and pale tones is a good exercise for raising awareness of colors in white objects.
Snow Painting Tutorial
Able students may explore special oil painting techniques, such as palette knives or impasto for implying thick layers of snow. Other students may have a go at simple blending techniques to make snow appear three-dimensional. This might involve blending a cream colour mix into a pale blue mix to illustrate a snow drift.
Ideas for Art School
Painting snow is often a difficult subject matter for beginners, as it is white. However, by practicing the keen observation of color and tonal values, a realistic snow painting can be achieved. The application of a neutral color on the painting surface prior to painting snow will make judging the tonal values of snow easier. Darkening the color of snow is possible by mixing complimentary colors together rather than adding black. Similarly, hues can be found in highlights. Snow is also the ideal subject matter for exploring oil painting techniques such impasto and glazing with oil paints.