Winter Wonderland Paintings

To Everything there is a Season

Being an Artist holds many challenges, one of which is that every season seems to demand a response from the artist.  In spring we have blossoms, birds everywhere, rain showers, sun breaks, baby animals, rainbows.  In summer, there are ocean side picnics, sand castles on the beach, sunsets over the ocean, children playing in the sprinkler, lazy afternoons under the tree in the yard.  Then fall bursts onto the scene with its fiery colors, school buses full of children heading back to school, spooky skeletons, orange pumpkins, turkeys and pumpkin pie by the fire.  Right around the corner from fall, comes winter, with its frozen ponds, snow blanketing the ground, Christmas lights, children building snowmen, dark skies, and colorfully decorated trees.

For the artist who wishes to sell their work, we must work at least one season ahead, so that our delightful scenes of blossoming branches and baby birds become available when people are just getting excited about spring and wanting to celebrate it.  That means we have to remove ourselves mentally from the current season, and look to the next.  In late winter we need to finish up our springtime paintings if we hope to sell them soon, rather than storing them for  year before selling.  Similarly, in summer when what we want to paint is the delightful scene of the beach in front of us, we also need to already be thinking about pumpkins, ghosts, brightly colored leaves, and the like.  And while everyone else is celebrating the cool fall season, we need to think ahead to the snowy winter. Of course, we can also do our share of painting the current season, knowing that we most likely won’t sell that work for about a year, but that we can enjoy making it.

I tend to a mix of both, painting the scenes in front of me, while also trying to work in a few paintings that look ahead to the coming season.  That means that this fall, I’ve done my share of fall images, but I’ve also been working on some winter scenes.  I have two that I recently finished, which I feel would make lovely holiday gifts.  They are so recently finished that I haven’t titled each of them yet, but I am calling the series my “Winter Wonderland” series.  Not very original, but classic nonetheless.

Take a Walk in My Winter Wonderland

I invite you to enjoy these winter wonderland paintings for yourself.  For the first one, I’ll just show you the finished product.  Then for the next, I’ll let you see it unfold through photos the creation process.  In this way, it will as if you are walking with through the painting as it progresses!  I haven’t done a lot of winter scenes before this, so I started with a small painting, and after getting a better idea of what methods produced the results I wanted I started a second, larger painting.

Here is the first scene, it is a small painting, on 5 inches tall and 7 inches wide.  I haven’t listed it in my etsy shop yet, but if anyone wants them right away, they are welcome to contact me.  Sometime in the next few days, I will post the paintings on etsy.

Two little bunnies play in the snow near two outdoor Christmas trees, while a lone skater glides over the pond in the distance. 5x7 acrylic on canvas by V.J.Maheu
Two little bunnies play in the snow near two outdoor Christmas trees, while a lone skater glides over the pond in the distance. 5×7 acrylic on canvas by V.J.Maheu

 

The next work is similar, but I used a bigger canvas because I wanted to put in more detail.  I didn’t just want to recreate the same scene larger though, I wanted to make a completely different scene, just using similar methods to accomplish it.

First, I painted in the sky, making loose brushstrokes, and graduating from a lot of white in one area, but getting more and more blue as I worked away from that area. Then I added trees, first a background layer of very light, faintly visible trees, then two more layers of trees getting progressively darker and more green. All of this was done wet on wet, which can be accomplished with acrylics by adding retarder medium to the paint and by working quickly.

Creating some atmospheric perspective by having the trees start out very pale in the background, and become increasingly darker and more visible as they get closer.
Creating some atmospheric perspective by having the trees start out very pale in the background, and become increasingly darker and more visible as they get closer.

 

After that backdrop was done, I let it dry.  Up until this point I had been working wet on wet, so that the layers mixed slightly and didn’t have a lot definition, but at this point I wanted to let this backdrop dry, so that my next layer on the canvas could be more defined.

You can see that in this layer I added a much more clearly defined layer of trees, with clearly visible snow on the branches. I also added hints of snow in some of the trees from previous layers. Then, decided I needed a little cabin sitting among mounds of snowdrifts. I also began the outline of what would be a little river running through my painting.
You can see that in this layer I added a much more clearly defined layer of trees, with clearly visible snow on the branches. I also added hints of snow in some of the trees from previous layers, I added in some underbrush in the background as well.  Then, decided I needed a little cabin sitting among mounds of snowdrifts. I also began the outline of what would be a little river running through my painting.

 

At this point I once again allowed everything to dry, and then moved on to the next stage.

Here I worked on shading the snowdrifts a little more, and I added in some texture, highlights and and darker areas in the river.
Here I worked on shading the snowdrifts a little more, and I added in some texture, highlights and darker areas in the river.

 

The painting looked like it was nearing completion at this point, but I still had in mind the most detailed and upfront part of the scene.

I added more detail on the far bank of the river, painting in some exposed mud at the point where the water and snow meet, and I added in more background brush on the left side of the canvas. Built up the snow near snowbank, and added in the foreground tree with snow sticking all over its bark. Then I added the shadowy reflection of the tree on the surface of the water, and added in some more highlights opposite the shadow.
I added more detail on the far bank of the river, painting in some exposed mud at the point where the water and snow meet, and I added in more background brush on the left side of the canvas. Built up the snow near snow bank, and added in the foreground tree with snow sticking all over its bark. Then I added the shadowy reflection of the tree on the surface of the water, and added in some more highlights opposite the shadow.  I also added in the light coming out of the windows of the little cabin.

At this point the painting was almost done, but I felt it needed more.  Something to make the river stand out more from the background.  I decided to use just a tiny amount of iridescent pearl on my painting, to add a bit of actual reflection to the water.  Of course, in a photograph or a print, you lose some of that effect, but it makes the original even more special.  You can still see some of the effect, even in a photo.  I also worked on the snow a little more to make it look more “fluffy”, and added a few stars to the dusky sky.

Here you can see the finished painting. A bare snow covered tree on the bank of a river at dusk in the middle of winter. On the other side of the bank, a quaint little cabin offers a cozy refuge from the cold. The first stars are just becoming visible in the darkening sky.
Here you can see the finished painting. A bare snow-covered tree on the bank of a river at dusk in the middle of winter. On the other side of the bank, a quaint little cabin offers a cozy refuge from the cold.
The first stars are just becoming visible in the darkening sky.