Archive for February 2012

Monday’s Art Class: Attridge Tracks

February 27, 2012

Today, I painted another winter scene from Silverstar Ski Resort.

Normally I’m not so repetitive, and after a few “safe” easy paintings, I’ll usually pick something difficult to challenge myself.

But life’s been difficult enough lately.  I don’t need any more challenges.   Instead, I just want to paint what I’m passionate about, and right now, that happens to be skiing in British Columbia.

So bear with me while I post another ski painting.

Here’s the scene I picked.  It’s from the part of the ski hill known as Attridge.

I choose this scene because I like the blue and white contrast, and the horizon tilting towards the middle.  The ski tracks are off-center and seem to go right into the painting, giving a sense of depth.  The trees are scraggly and irregular and also off-center.   Overall I found the composition of this photo pleasing.

And here’s the actual painting:

The color palette was almost the same as last weeks’.   Mostly cerulean blue for the sky and the snow shadows.  The trees were Van Dyke brown, mixed with sap green, cobalt blue and Paynes grey.

I deliberately didn’t paint all the trees in the middle, because it would have looked like mud.

I also left out ski tracks on the bottom, because I wanted to emphasize the ski tracks going into the painting, and not the “busy” foreground.

To break up the dark green true hues, I followed my art teachers’ advice, and added a touch of alizarin crimson to the mix, to give a hint of reddish-brown.

One thing about painting snow, is to not be afraid to mix in a few colors.   Here, you can see I added violet to the blue, as well as cadmium yellow to warm things up.

Another hint, to make things really jump out of the painting, is to make sharp edges on abrupt color changes.

For example, with the snow clumps:

As well as the edge of the tree-line:

Just when I thought I was finished, my teacher noticed the ski tracks stood out too much.  They were overpowering the whole painting.

Soften one of the edges, he suggested.

So I used a wet brush to blur out the right-hand side, so that the blue and white were more blended together.  I left the left hand side of each ski track as it was, with a sharp contrast between the blue and white.

The whole thing took me about 60 seconds to do, and it made all the difference in the world.

It’s amazing what these small changes can do.

And that’s one more trick I’ll be remembering for next time.



Monday’s Art Class: Moonrise over the Monashees.

February 20, 2012

Here’s a photo from a couple of weeks ago,  taken at SilverStar, BC.     I couldnt’ resist the full moon rising over the Monashees in the distance.


Of course, I knew I had to paint this.  It was on my short list, and I finished it tonight.  Here’s the result:


The first thing I did was use a dime to trace a circle for the moon, and cover it with masking compound.   I made sure to put the moon off-center, about one third from the right

I set the horizon about one third from the bottom, leaving two-thirds sky.    When in doubt, always use the one-third/two-third rule.   That makes for good composition that’s pleasing to the eye.   Dunno why, but people like it.

Next, I made a wet-on-wet wash for the sky.  With cadmium yellow/orange on the bottom, cerulean blue in the middle, and violet/cerulean blue on the top.

I painted in the mountains in the background, leaving some white spots, using a mixture of brown, blue and purples.   It really didnt’ matter what the background was…it was  just filler for the trees in the background.   I added just a hint of light pink for the snow-capped mountains.

The icing on the cake was painting the trees.   I used a combination of sap green, Van Dyke brown, Paynes Gray and Cobalt Blue.  I chose the dark pigments to make the trees stand out from the lighter background.

I was holding my breath when I painted the thin branches at the tree tops.   You do one of these wrong, you make the line too thick, you can ruin the whole painting.

Spruce trees are really fun to paint with a rigger brush, which has long and narrow bristles.   They wobbles and bend as you paint, giving the branches a loose, spontaneous look.

The secret is not to overdo things.   Paint what you need to, and get out.     These trees probably only took ~15 minutes.

The final touch was removing the masking compound, leaving a pure white disk of the moon.   That was too harsh against the violet background, so I wetted the paper, and just barely dabbed a touch of yellow onto it.

I did this twice, and it gave the moon just enough of a yellow shade to soften its look.  It looks a bit mottled, which is what I wanted.

Thirteen Days of Silverstar

February 15, 2012


January 27th.


January 28th.a


January 29th.


January 30th.


February 2nd.


February 3rd


February 4th


February 5th


February 6th


February 7th


February 8th


February 10th


February 11th

Ghostly Trees

February 1, 2012

Skiing  in Western Canada is beautiful,  not only because of the mountains,  but because of the trees.

Especially at the higher altitudes,  when the trees are often in the clouds.    Under the right conditions,  the snow and hoar frost accumulates  on the branches and  covers everything in white. 

The trees take on weird shapes, and form  “snow ghosts”.

I especially like snow ghosts on clear days, where the brilliant white contracts the azure sky, to the point that it almost hurts to look at.

I never get tired of  watching the trees on these days.    The color and lighting changes by the hour,  and you never see the same  scene twice. 

I’ll  take dozens of photos in a single day.    And some of those photos will become  watercolor paintings in the near future.

Oh yes, they will.



On a