Sunday, January 21, 2018

Snowbank in Reflected Light

I painted a gouache study of a snowbank catching reflected light off the side of the house.

I posted it on my Facebook and Instagram channels. (Link to video on Facebook). People had good questions, so here they are in the form of a Q and A.  

How do you choose the color for an underpainting? 
I chose the underpainting color because it’s the average color of snow in shadow on a sunny day (unless the shadow is varied by reflected light, as happens here).

How long did this actually take? 
The painting took about 45 minutes. The light was changing fast, so I had to work quickly.

How did you shoot the time lapse?
Both the live video and the time lapse are shot with a a Canon EOS M6 mirrorless camera. The time lapse is set for 1 second intervals, so it compresses a minute into a second. The nice thing about that camera is that it has a built in intervalometer, so all you have to do is press record and it compiles the shot into an MP4 file for you.

How do your keep your hands warm? Don't your hands start to stiffen at some point?
It wasn't too cold--Just about 36 degrees or so, a little above freezing, and I wasn't out there too long.

A little above freezing? What is your "uniform" for this weather?
I had long underwear, both top and bottom, wool socks, and an insulated canvas vest over my "Department of Art" uniform shirt, plus a knitted hat. I was wishing for my Filson insulated hat with earflaps and a brim. The brim helps when painting contre-jour.

What is more likely to cause gouache to crack, if the underlying layer is too absorbent or if it's less absorbent.. sometimes it feels like a mystery to me. also some colors tend to crack way more than other in the same brand?
I haven't had issues with gouache cracking, but maybe that's because I'm using it relatively thinly.

Yeah, you are right. when thinking about it, it never happens with semitransparent layers, only when working opaque/thick. Problem for me is that when doing concept work it's very hard for me to predict the final shade of a transparent layer. Interesting thing to note, colors that cracked/peeled has always been a transparent or synthetic modern pigment. I never had a problem with cadmium/cobalt/chrome/iron(earth) based pigments. Maybe it has to do with opacifiers?
Yes, it could be the opacifiers, as they tend to be chalky and brittle. Two things might help: 1) Work on a panel or illustration board if you're not already. 2) Also you can strengthen the emulsion (the glue-like material in the paint) by mixing in some gum arabic binder into your mixtures, especially when you're using it thickly. Experiment by making test impastos of different composition and see which one holds up the best.

What kind of sketchbook are you using?
It's a Pentalic watercolor journal. The paper is heavyweight cotton rag, which you can use for drawing, but it also works for watercolor, gouache, acrylic or casein, as long as you don't use them too thickly.

How did you learn landscape painting?
I alternate between studying work of the past and trying out ideas in front of nature. A lot of my methods are unconventional and non-traditional. When I study the art of the past, I'm at least as interested in their thought process and their philosophy as in their practical techniques and materials.

Do you have questions? Ask away in the comments!
Previous post on Gouache Materials List


Susan Krzywicki said...

love the color of the trees - they seem to glow.

Unknown said...

A way of simple learning

Tom Hart said...

Another gem of a painting and demo. The split screen is a great feature, allowing the side-by-side with the subject. I'd love to see more of that, although I know there's a trade-off with the image size.

Juha Peuhkuri said...

Hi, James! I have a question regarding snow painting: Painting snow on a sunny day is quite straight forward but what about overcast days? I struggle with this subject because it is very hard to discern variations of hue on snow on a cloudy day. Sometimes I tend to paint the half tones and shadows ever so slightly warmer than the lights. Sometimes I do the opposite. I'm guessing that whichever works as long as the hue doesn't change drastically. What do you think? And thanks for you advice!

Best regards,

James Gurney said...

Juha, on overcast days, these effects are more subtle, and it's harder to say where the light side ends and the shadow begins, because the source of light (the cloud-covered sky) is so broad and diffuse. If large objects ground are strongly colored and adjacent to the down-facing planes of snow you might see some color spill, but not as dramatically as in sunny conditions.

Juha Peuhkuri said...

Thanks, James!