Anatomy of a Painting….

As I have said many times, I am very intrigued by that stark white piece of watercolor paper, knowing I can transform it into something unique and of my own creation.  I love the process and relish the final step of painting my signature. 

I am currently working on a ski painting commission so it is the perfect opportunity to share some of the watercolor techniques I use when painting snow scenes.
In the beginning… 

a piece of 300# d’Arches watercolor paper (this image will be 15 x 22”).

I gather and review my reference photos…

and make a fairly complete sketch the size of the final painting.

Because this painting has been commissioned I emailed a photo of the sketch to my customer for his review, and after a few changes were made (he wanted the 2 smaller boys to be “skiing more aggressively!”) I did the sketch on the watercolor paper.  

Because I never use white paint (unless it’s to show snow falling in a snowstorm) I protect the white of the paper by using a masking fluid. Prior to doing so I always brush water over the entire paper to remove the sizing and wait until the paper is completely dry. Then I dab my brush on a bar of soap (makes it much easier to clean later), dip it into the art masking liquid (Winsor & Newton brand) and paint the areas that I want to protect so that they appear white (snow on trees, fine detail, etc.). 

After the masking liquid is dry I begin painting.  I prefer Winsor & Newton tube paints and my favorite colors for snow are Winsor Blue (red shade) mixed with a little brown madder.  I couldn’t paint a snow scene without these two colors!  Colorado skies are usually Cerulean blue with a little Cobalt blue.

Using a rubber cement pick-up I lift off the masking liquid and now have the wonderful white of the paper.  

I can then paint light colors next to dark ones and add the soft blue shading of the snow and other details.

My favorite part of any painting is the detail work.  It was so fun painting the three young boys (good skiers according to their proud Dad!) and Grandpa.  The challenge was trying to indicate the distance perspective of Grandma and the little guy waving in the background!

Last steps were adding the final touches, painting my signature and removing the masking tape.

My customer has decided he wants prints and notecards made for other members in the family so now the painting is being scanned and then I will ship to him.  The painting is going to be a surprise gift to his in-laws. I hope they all will be pleased.

-Here are a few other ski paintings I’ve done over the years…