Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Winter Painting Tips

Now that winter is here, only the crazy people go out to paint.

I learned how to survive winter painting from one of my crazy friends, Jim Cramer. He’s far more intrepid than I am. He does all his paintings outdoors, year round. You’ll find him out there in the teeth of a gale or beside a frozen river down to about ten degrees above zero.

I wimp out below about 25 or 30 degrees Fahrenheit or about minus 4 degrees Celsius. But I love painting snow because the colors of light and shadow are much more obvious, especially around the “golden hour.”

Here are a few tips, mainly on what not to do:

--Fingerless gloves keep your hands warm without losing your grip on the brush. Put your non-painting hand in a warmer glove.

--Don’t use a metal mahlstick like I’m doing here. A wooden one is much better.

--The glare of full sun on snow makes it hard to judge color. Try painting late in the day when the shadows lengthen.

--If you’re painting in watercolor in subfreezing temperatures, don’t replace the water with white wine, because that freezes, too. Use vodka instead.

--That white umbrella on the C-Stand is meant to cut direct sunlight from behind. If the wind picks up, the C-Stand should be weighted with a sandbag.

--Your feet and your fingers are the first to freeze. Wear insulated boots, and try standing on a carpet sample instead of directly on the snow.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for those tips. Last night I was out painting with my fingerless gloves on. By the end my fingertips became so cold they began to get numb. This is my biggest problem in cold weather; my fingertips get so cold that I lose movement in them right when it comes time to paint the delicate details.

I wonder how neutral colored sunglasses would work in bright snow scenes.

Victor said...

Is this "crazy Jim Cramer" the same Jim Cramer who does Mad Money for MSNBC (probably not, but it would be hilarious if it was)?

Watercolor painting with Vodka? Awesome!

Unknown said...

Vodka!? I've never heard of that. It works? I suppose I'll have to try it out for myself.

Anonymous said...

As some one who wimps out and goes looking for the comfort of snapshot reference in a heated studio at around 50 degrees Farenheit, I award you and Jim the Edward Redfield/Fern Coppedge award for dedication to plein air painting.

I'm very glad to see the Journey didn't end with the book tour, and look forward to many more fascinating and instructive posts.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, blogging is too fun--can't quit now. Besides, I have plenty more posts in the works--a whole lot about color especially, and a lot more museum visits coming up.

The Jim Cramer I know is very different from the Mad Money guy. You can see the work of the real James Cramer (the artist) at http://www.sherryfrenchgallery.com/cramer.html

Anonymous said...

i tried painting with vodka once, haha, it ended up with me being drunk and yelling at cars as they drove by, luckly my girlfriend picked me up and drove me home...

for those of you without self control i'm going to have to say stay away from vodkacolor painting...

Anonymous said...

james the smithsonian exhibit back in 2006 (or 2005?) was awsome! will we see any smithsonian musem exhibits in the future?


K_tigress said...

hummm interesting, but I think I'll stick to painting winter scenery indoors by hanging around the large windows of the house. The view is limited but it works. For a change of view I can always go to other parts of my city and do the same. Lots of great places to do paint outdoor scenes indoors with out people bothering you. Well, usually.

K. W. Broad said...

Awesome tips! I never thought to mix vodka with watercolor. I'll have to give that a shot (No pun intended). Thanks for the advice!

jeff said...

One big problem with painting out doors below 25F is that the oil paint will stop handling well.

At 10 to 0 oil paint will be impossible to work with at this temperature and just become a stiff mass of paint that drags a lot.

Jared Shear said...

Vodka.....good thinking.

I've found that hand warmers taped to the underneath side of a glass palette will help to keep the oils "workable" when it gets cold.

Unknown said...

i'd like to try a watercolour w/ vodka. it will be about 0 farenheit.

can i mix water w/ it? or straight alcohol.

what about rubbing alcolhol? isn't that cheaper?


James Gurney said...

Mara, I'm not too sure on this. I think you'll have to do some R&D and get back to us.