Debra Joyce Dawson dresses for the weather during a recent paint-out sponsored by the Ohio Plein Air Society.

20 degrees? No problem for these Midwestern painters. Debra Joyce Dawson and the Ohio Plein Air Society offer three tips for winter painting — and some crucial encouragement.

“Sunny Days of Winter,” by Debra Joyce Dawson

When a paint-out day happens to have below-zero temperatures, a plein air association might expect cancellations. The Ohio Plein Air Society instead saw eight painters — Carol Cosgrove, Debra Joyce Dawson, Edie Dean, Jody Hall, Susi Havens-Bezaire, Robin Roberts, Sue Seiple Sabo and Bill Sabo — trot out to a snowy orchard near Dawson’s house for some nice snow scenes. “Some really like snow, and others come along because they think it will be fun,” says Dawson. “And it is fun, because you’re suffering together. Then the painting takes over. You just have to be careful about your fingers and toes.”

Jody Hall finds a picturesque barn to paint.

Dawson reports that she painted less than two hours outside, and it helped that the wind was mild. “Wind is the worst,” she comments. “Wind will just kill you.” It was the seventh year that Dawson took a group to Lynd’s Fruit Farm in Pataskala, Ohio. If there’s one thing she has learned, it is to heed the Boy Scouts motto: Be prepared.

“Crisp and Clear,” by Robin Roberts

Prepare your easel at home. “Do it either the night before, or just before going out to paint,” she says. “Fresh paint is more flexible to start, and as your paint stiffens, soften it with a little solvent.”

Susi Havens-Bezaire is ready for some cold-weather painting.

“Red Barn,” by Edie Dean

If your car is with you, use it. Edie Dean took warm-up breaks in her car, and both she and Carol Cosgrove used floor mats from their cars to stand on. In addition to floor mats, carpet squares or pieces of cardboard also work well to insulate your feet from the cold ground. “I think this made the biggest difference in my feet not being cold,” says Dean. Dawson says, “You can also use your car as a windbreak or as a substitute for an umbrella.”

It’s that cold. Acrylic painter Jody Hall’s paintbrush attracted ice crystals that formed in her painting water.

Embrace the adversity in watermedia. Robin Roberts said, “I keep my water from freezing by making sure I keep the water moving. It is interesting to see how the ice crystals affect the painting, though. The ice crystals form and then dry, providing really interesting textures.” Jody Hall, who worked in acrylic, reported having trouble with paint sticking to her panel. “The water on her brush was crystallizing, and her wash water had chunks of ice in it, but she still got a great painting,” reports Dawson.

Robin Roberts utilizes the hatchback as a windbreak and a taboret.

The group from the Ohio Plein Air Society, from left to right: Debra Joyce Dawson, Edie Dean, Susi Havens-Bezaire, Sue Sabo, Carol Cosgrove

Dawson and company emerged from the painting session undaunted. “One thing we all agreed upon was that painting when it’s cold makes you paint simpler and faster, and you quit before you might feel you’re finished,” says Dawson. “As for me, I’ve never forgotten the words I heard in a 2004 workshop I took with Frank LaLumia: ‘I never miss the opportunity to paint white because it’s a laboratory of light.’ Maybe it’s that laboratory of light that took Monet and the artists of today out to paint snow effects.”


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