Winter’s coming soon. I can feel it already. It’s 28 degrees this evening. And it was colder two days ago. Four men came to work on our furnace over the last four days; think they’ve got it resolved now.
When winter comes, most plein air artists hibernate, move to Florida or fly to some warm, exotic country. But I’ve been known to bundle up and paint outdoors when a winter scene just had to be painted. Removing my gloves, risking freezing fingers to facilitate brushwork, I find the brisk weather motivates a fluid and rapid watercolor.
Some winter days I work in soft pastel–sticks often mistaken for chalk but actually made of pure pigment with a bit of binder offering luscious color possibilities. In winter, a warmer choice might be pastels rather than watercolor.
One late November day a number of years ago, I painted at Genesis Farms, an organic co-op farm in New Jersey where I went for organic veggies in summer. I sat on the cold ground and with pastels painted the old barn, capturing strong winter shadows and icy sky.
Another day I painted snow scenes of our woodsy property and huge frozen waterfall seen from my kitchen windows in our 1700s home in the tiny village of Shawnee-on-Delaware, Pennsylvania. I enjoyed painting our two Adirondack chairs nestled in the snow, suggesting Spring would return.
I’ve not yet ventured out in Maine’s winter to paint. I’ve been content to work from the many images I’ve photographed or drawn.
Winters here also conjure up meaningful abstracts–ideas that pull me to create large oil canvases. The solitude and quiet of winter aids such thoughtful work. I always look forward to where I’ll be led.
Winter can be an artist’s muse. I wonder where it will take me this year.
Artwork: Genesis Farm, framed pastel, 39″ x 33 1/2″, $975. When I look at this painting hanging in my gallery, I almost feel the cold winter’s day when I painted it. Soft pastels (nothing like school-grade oil pastels), though referred to as paintings, are actually drawn, applied by overlapping and blending hues of rich pigment. A good set of soft pastels such as Sennelier, made in France, can set back an artist 300 bucks. But quality materials produce quality work (at least in the hands of one who knows what he or she is doing) and nothing less is acceptable. Professional matting and framing is also necessary to properly keep a pastel. But what a pleasing and radiant work is a fine pastel. Look at Degas, Renoir, or Cassatt.