One thing I love about painting is that I am always learning from the process—I am continually surprised by what happens on the canvas. If I had been asked a few weeks ago what colours I think of as the seasonal colours of winter, I might have replied: the white of snow or the dark grey skies of the early winter sunsets here in the northern hemisphere. I might have thought of cool colours, like a bright icy blue, that reflects the cold I experienced growing up in Canada.
In addition, the winter season recalls bright lights strung along rooftops and wound around trees during the holidays: the ruby red and shiny gold of Christmas ornaments against the forest green of a tree’s needles comes to mind. Indeed, jewel tones of deep reds, greens, and purples, tend to be at the heart of winter fashion and a crimson or burgundy lipstick is especially nice to wear in winter—the colour of a spicy mulled wine. As I write this, my faux-fur white and green wrap is keeping me cozy on a cold January day.
Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve been busy working on a new forest scene based on a photograph taken during a walk I took late December 2020. As usual, I was walking when I saw a scene that struck me as full of painting potential. I was particularly interested in the especially long and especially thin path that came into view on my right. It was mid-morning, and the sun was shinning brilliantly onto the path. The trees were bare and dark against the light blue-grey sky. While it was the sunny path that drew my attention, as I looked at the ground and trees more closely, I noticed beautiful shades of mauve, even lilac, and a range of browns, some of which were rust-gold. I couldn’t wait to paint this scene. Here’s a look at the main colours in my winter painting colour palette:
As I’ve outlined in other blog posts (here and here), I like to use photographs for an initial composition and then allow the creative process and experimentation with colour to take over and unfold. Due to the dark areas on the ground near the path, I’ve been using a lot of purples. I like to use a deep purple for trees rather than black, as various shades of purple mixes well with highlights of various browns, greens, blues, and reds—all of which can be found in different bark, in different light. I wanted the trees to be distinguishable from the dark purple of the ground and so opted for a dark blue, with purples and browns, for the trees.
I’ve been having fun playing with this colour palette and building up layers with a wide variety of colour, which allows for textured transitions between shadow and light. I am pleasantly surprised by the delicacy of the light mauves and golden browns and the warmth that this palette is creating not only with darker colours but with these lighter ones as well. At the time of writing I am about three-quarters finished this work. Here are some details of my work in progress painting (size 60 x 60 cm, title to follow):
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