Kathleen Dunphy painting in Carson Pass under an umbrella that blocks the glaring sun

Californian Kathleen Dunphy has an informative blog in which she offers advice about painting on location. She recently posted some great recommendations for painting snowy landscapes. Here’s an excerpt and a link.

“Fresh Powder,” by Kathleen Dunphy, oil, 8 x 10 in.

“Fire and Ice,” by Kathleen Dunphy, oil, 8 x 16 in.

“A good winter storm can turn even the most mundane scene into something spectacular to paint,” writes Kathleen Dunphy. “But the first time I bundled up and hauled my gear out in winter conditions, I learned just how challenging painting in the snow can be. It’s always tempting to just take a few photos and use those as reference to paint from in my warm, comfortable studio, but one thing’s for certain: You have to get cold to paint snow convincingly. Almost more than any other subject matter, snow requires direct observation to help the artist convey its subtle beauty. After years of trial and error, I’ve developed a system for painting in the snow that minimizes my personal discomfort and allows me to paint outside in the winter. Here are a few tips for your next snow day:

  1. Layer up! It almost goes without saying, but always start out a little too warm to begin with. Leave your vanity behind and dress like the Michelin Man!
  2. Make sure to keep your feet warm. The best way I know to do this is to stand on a mat or a bare section of ground instead of standing directly on the snow. I take a bath mat with me and stand on that — it gives me traction and provides an extra barrier between me and the snow.
  3. Use more sunscreen than you think you’ll need. Light reflecting up off the snow means you’ll get twice the exposure and sun coming in from all different angles.
  4. Avoid glare. All that light reflecting off the snow can literally be blinding and make painting very uncomfortable.
  5. Keep your paint warm. I usually keep my plein air gear in my car, but I always bring my paint inside the night before a snow-painting day to make sure it’s not too cold and stiff to use the next morning. White paint seems to take forever to dry in cold weather, so I’ll sometimes use a white alkyd or Gamblin Fastmatte to speed up the drying time.
  6. Take advantage of the early and late snows. Late April is a beautiful time to paint snow in the Sierras — the days are warm, the grasses are starting to grow, and the rivers are thawed and flowing … a wonderful time to gather source material for next winter’s studio paintings!”


Dunphy’s dog, Angus, posing near her easel

For more information, visit www.kathleendunphy.com.


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