‘In the bleak midwinter, frosty wind made moan
Earth stood hard as iron, water like a stone
Snow had fallen, snow on snow, snow on snow
In the bleak midwinter, long ago’
It was a rare bleak midwinter day here in Pouzolles. Snow is rare so when it arrives you need to grab your camera and dog and get out for a walk. I took some reference photos throughout the afternoon then printed them out, back in the studio and from these I drafted out the scene in pencil.
Here you can see the various stages. An initial pencil sketch followed by a flat Payne’s grey wash for the sky and some light tone on the ground. It’s a strong one-point perspective composition, so I’ve emphasised this with diagonal lines and areas of tone.
Once dry, I started adding distant detail in strengthening washes of grey. After that I moved on to the foreground hedgerows and trees with the stronger tones working with a finer brush eventually adding a few snow flakes with white gouache.
Below: the final painting with extra contrast. I confess that I scanned the painting in to my computer and did some digital retouching in Photoshop just to play with the levels. As you can see, I’ve added a dark gradation from the top and the bottom plus a shaft of hazy winter sun peeking through the branches. Yes, I know, I should have done that at the painting stage but It’s just as a demonstration. Next time I’ll make sure I build in some ‘spotlight’ effect during the painting!
As the snow melted over the following days, the following scene opened up and I’ve done my best to capture it. It’s been done before I know, but I still think it’s a good exercise to paint the same view several times throughout the year.
Initial pencil sketch followed by loose washes of colour setting the mood. Once that stage was dry, I added more details and finally the real darks and lights to finish.