Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Snow Strategies

2/6/17 ink, colored pencil, brush pen, graphite,
gel pen, toned paper
Under almost any daylight circumstance, the sky is the lightest part of an outdoor scene. Even if it’s overcast, the ground, rooftops and trees are darker. The one exception is when it’s snowing (at least here in Seattle): the sky is slate gray while the landscape is white.

As I watched the snow come down yesterday morning, I contemplated the dilemma of sketching all that white against a gray sky. Unlike Shari Blaukopf, Marc Holmes, Nina Johansson and other sketchers who have plenty of long, white winters to practice snow sketching, I don’t get many opportunities in Seattle. In fact, the last time it snowed enough during daylight hours to attempt a sketch was almost exactly three years ago. What would my strategy be?

Looking through the livingroom window, I used an orange Field Notes notebook to warm up with a sketch of our neighbor’s tiny palm tree across the street. (It’s funny to think of a palm covered with snow!) The white colored pencil really popped against the red paper – and that gave me an idea.

After lunch the temperature climbed above 32. If I hesitated, it might melt away, so I knew it was now or never. I pulled on my boots and down jacket, of course, but I was also prepared in one other way: I brought along a sheet of gray toned paper.

2/6/17 brush pen, white colored pencil
I didn’t have to walk far from my door to see a scene I wanted to capture. Fir trees are such a common sight in these parts – especially these two that I pass literally every day – yet when they’re covered in snow, they magically transform. The snow was still coming down on me and my gray paper, so I had to work fast. Nothing I tried – fountain pen, brush pen, graphite, colored pencil, gel pen – seemed to be working well on wet paper, but I did my best. After the paper dried, I went back over the snowy parts with a white colored pencil, and that helped a bit. If I have another opportunity to sketch snow this season, I’m going to wait until it stops snowing before I head out!

How about you? What kinds of strategies do you use to sketch snow?

The scene from our upstairs deck: gray sky, white landscape


  1. Super job on the two trees on the toned paper. I usually either sketch snow from inside my apartment, inside my car, once I sketched it from inside my open garage, or else I wait until the snow stops. It is too hard to work on wet paper!

    1. Thanks, Joan! It was a fun adventure, despite the wet paper! I guess I should be happy I don't have many opportunities to sketch snow!

  2. My strategy for sketching snow is to avoid it at all costs, though I confess that some piles of the stuff pop up regularly in the 'extreme sketches' I've been doing this winter.


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