I was going stir crazy with a bit of cabin fever, so I decided to go out and do some plein air painting today. It was cold, but not all that bad. 

I drove around for a while wanting to stop and ask permission to paint someone’s barn, but I couldn’t work up the gumption, so I drove to Walborn Reservoir where I knew I could paint outside without permission, or fear of getting shot for trespassing.

I walked around for a bit, and found a spot that I thought would make a decent composition. This is a spot at the corner of the path looking out over the water.

The Reservoir was completely frozen over (there were a pair of guys ice fishing when I got there.) I liked the way the white snow on the water creates a boundary between the foreground and the background, and the way it mirrored the sky. 

I started by sketching the biggest shapes I saw, and then started painting. I was worried the water would freeze on my palette, but it turned out to be warm enough that it wasn’t a problem. (My brush did get pretty stiff, though dipping it in the water seemed to keep it from freezing over.)

I intentionally only brought five colors, because I wanted to keep things really light. I also intentionally left my phone at home so I wouldn’t be tempted to take a photo and paint from that.

After sketching, I painted the sky in a very light wash of Prussian blue. I had to work between the trees because I didn’t bring any masking fluid. (I figured I wouldn’t want to wait for it to dry.)

After painting the sky, I mixed some nickel azo yellow, and anthraquinoid red, undersea green, and the Prussian Blue, and watered it down a lot to paint the distant trees. I painted them while the sky was still wet so they would blend and give me soft edges. I figured the lack of detail would make them recede and contribute to a sense of depth. I think that worked out ok. Then, I dabbed in some yellows and reds to try to get some color variance.

Once that was done I had to wait a bit for it to dry, and then I painted the trees with the brown I made by mixing all the pigments. I dabbed a little blue here on the shadowed side – I wanted the trees on the right to be darkest, so I shadowed them with blue. The trees on the middle I used green for shadows, and red for shadows on the trees on the left. I like the way that made it feel like the light was coming from the left.

Once that was done, I painted the shadows on the foreground, trying to give some shape to the snow. There is a path there that I was trying to bring out by shaping the shadows.

Then, I splashed some pigment at the tree tops to try to give the impression of twigs and leaves that were there.

Then, I added deeper shadows to the trees, and lake using neutral tint and purple (by mixing blue and red.) I used that to darken the shadows on some of the trees, and the lake on the right.

Then I painted in some of the small twigs in the foreground, and dabbed in orange for the leaves that were clinging to the branches under the trees.

I added some light grey trees in the back, and then it was cold, so I left.


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